Full Personal Statement Review: Stats, Facts and Format Outline

Just What Is a Personal Statement?

When you apply to college, university or even for postgraduate training you will often be asked to provide a personal statement as part of your application pack, whether it is a statement for an art program or computer science personal statement. Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee just who you are and why you want to study with them in your own unique words. Written well it can help you to really stand out, after all much of the rest of your application is just a list of your grades and qualifications which are often going to be very similar to many of the other applicants.

The personal statement is very important, especially when you consider that colleges such as Stanford or Harvard will only accept just 5% to 6% of those applying. You also have to think about the sheer volume of statements that will have been read. UCAS in the UK, for instance, places over half a million students each year into higher education, with each student being able to apply to up to 5 different universities.

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Even in areas such as postgraduate training such as for medical residencies, there are more than 41 thousand residents processed through the National Resident Matching Program. Each one having to supply a well written personal statement if they want to have any chance of being selected for a place.

Your personal statement will usually be of limited length, after all the committee is not going to want to read hundreds of statements that are several pages in length. While different institutions and application portals will put different requirements on your personal statement length they will typically be 1 or 2 pages in length or 500 to 800 words. UCAS in the UK requires 47 lines and a maximum of 4000 characters. Some may even expect several different statements all focused on a specific prompt.

The aim of your personal statement is to make it clear to the reader that you have a real interest in the subject area that you are applying to study as well as having all of the skills that they are looking for. It is not something however that you should be written to a simple template. It needs to be capable of getting the reader’s attention and making you memorable. Our review of personal statement writing will help you to better understand exactly what is expected of you.

IB Personal Statement Review     Medical School Personal Statement Review    Computer Science Personal Statement Review

10 Tips for Writing an Effective Personal Statement

If your personal statement is still too small you can learn 5 ideas to extend a personal statement. extend a personal statementOur personal statement tips will help you to better understand what areas you will need to cover within your statement and how to do so effectively:

  1. Show that you have a real interest in the subject area. The committee will want to see that you have a long-standing interest in the subject area that you want to study rather than you applying to their program on a whim at the last minute. Explain how and why you became interested in this subject.
  2. Show that you are qualified to follow their program of study. This does not mean list out the relevant exams that you have taken. Demonstrate that you have the specific skills and qualities that they are looking for within the students that they accept.
  3. Show that you have skills that you have developed outside of the classroom. Most programs will be looking for well-rounded students that have more to offer than simply academic skills. Many skills such as team working and leadership can be better learnt through extracurricular activities, sports, and even through employment.
  4. Why are your skills and experiences relevant to the program. The reader will want to see that you understand the reason why the skills and experience that you have highlighted are important to your studies.
  5. How are your skills and experience relevant to your future career. The aim of education is not just to enrich your knowledge in your chosen area of study. It is also to prepare you for your future career. Explain how your skills and experience provide a firm foundation for your future.
  6. Show that your skills are transferable. It is rare that you will have learned specific skills within your chosen subject area; however you will have learned many others through other subjects, work and even sports that can be adapted to fit the needs of your chosen path.
  7. Highlight the most important of your skills. As with any part of your application the better that your personal statement reflects the specific requirements of the program the better. Always select the skills that they are specifically looking for and expand on them within your statement.
  8. Show the ability to think critically. Education at a higher level requires far more than an ability to simply repeat facts and figures. You will need to demonstrate that you have the ability to review and comprehend information to reach reasoned conclusions based on the facts available to you.
  9. What are your 5 year, 10 year or longer goals? The admissions committee will be wanting to accept those students that are going to benefit the most from their program. This means providing them with a clear idea of where you expect to go with regards to future education and your career.
  10. Remain positive throughout. Far too often students and those pursuing post graduate education fall into the trap of talking negatively about some aspect of their education or their life. This should be avoided at all times. The committee wants to see just why you want to study within their program and why you are going to be an asset to them.

perfect personal statement

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The Top 10 Personal Statement Mistakes That You Must Avoid

The committee members may have hundreds of different personal statements review lists to go through and many of them are going to be very similar and filled with the same issues over and over. Once the reader sees these often repeated mistakes they will quickly lose interest in what you have to say and will just be looking for more issues rather than listening to how wonderful you are. Many students will follow the same personal statement structure and will produce something that is uninspiring and frankly boring. The following are some important areas to avoid when writing your own personal statement:

  1. The use of clichés. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same tired clichés within your own writing rather than coming up with something original to say. “From a young age I have (always) been…” was the most popular opening line with university applicants last year, UCAS has revealed. Some 1,770 students (from over 700,000 who applied) started their personal statements that way; and most of these finished the sentence with ‘interested in’ or ‘fascinated by’.
  2. Redundancy in your writing. Your word count is very limited and as such you need to ensure that you write in a concise and to the point manner. Redundancy is using words that basically mean the same in the same sentence such as “concise” and “to the point.”
  3. Making grammatical and spelling errors. Few of us can write perfectly without making errors and typos of some sort. Seeing errors of any form within your personal statement will give the impression that you did not care enough about your application to check it to eliminate them.
  4. Using slang or profanities. While profanities are pretty obvious things not to include within your writing you must also avoid all forms of slang and even acronyms that the reader may not understand. Use every day but proper language that the reader will be able to follow.
  5. Do not use quotations. The admissions committee will want to hear your own voice within your personal statement and not those of another. As David Lombardino writing for DLA editors about the use of quotations in a statement says: personal statement advice
  6. Avoid hyperboles. You have probably been told a million times not to use hyperboles within your writing. Exaggeration to emphasize a point or even to make yourself look better within your own statement should be avoided.
  7. Never plagiarize. Your writing must always be your own, never for any reason simply copy what another has written no matter how good it may be. There is a good chance that your plagiarism will be spotted and that will be the end of your application. Even if it is not spotted your personal statement must be written about you.
  8. Never write about others. A personal statement as the name suggests is about you personally. The aim is to inform the reader about who you are and what makes you tick, not to discuss other people no matter how much they may have inspired you.
  9. Avoid negativity. Discussing things negatively within your statement is not going to help you. The reader does not want to know how bad your science tutor was or how you really wanted to study a different subject but you did not have the right grades. As Douglas Fehlen says writing for Study.com: expert personal statement tips
  10. Don’t treat the statement as your confessional. Stick to the purpose of your personal statement which is to sell yourself. It is not a place to tell the reader your problems or how badly you struggled with your studies.

Top 50 Phrases to Use or Avoid within Your Personal Statement

If you conduct a personal statement analysis of the many different samples that are available online and everything else that you can find you will see that there are many things that should be avoided when writing your personal statement and in turn better ways of presenting yourself. You also need to look at all of the paperwork and website related to the program that you are applying to so that you discover any specific personal statement keywords that they are looking for. The following is a list of 50 phrases that should be avoided when writing your own personal statement along with 50 suggestions as to what should be written instead.

Phrases to steer clear of:

  • From a young age I have always been interested in medicine…
  • For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a…
  • Nursing is a very challenging and demanding career…
  • XYZ is a profession that I have always looked upon with…
  • I am currently studying for a degree in…
  • I know that I will learn a huge amount if I am allowed to study with your program…
  • I am applying to XYZ university to study ABC at Masters degree level…
  • I am an excellent leader of people…
  • My oral and written skills are excellent…
  • I am a great team player and I am sure I would fit in…

Phrases to include:

  • When my Aunt became ill with cancer, I found myself accompanying my mother on weekly visits to the hospital…
  • I was 11 when I when I first became interested in…
  • I want to study nursing because…
  • I have found nothing but respect for the many XYZs that I have met and have always been impressed by…
  • I have been interested in XYZ ever since I was introduced to it by…
  • I am particularly interested in learning more about…
  • I wish to continue my studies in ABC because…
  • I have been the captain of our college Judo club for the last 2 years and have helped lead us to victory…
  • I have won several debating contests within my school and also write regularly for the school newspaper…
  • I am a member of our years debating team and have helped the team achieve…

You can check out the full list in a PDF file below.

list of personal statement keywords

The committee will review personal statement letters many times over so it is vital that your own is unique and totally original in every way. Avoiding the issues that are listed above and writing in an engaging manner will help your application to stand out.

If you want to be shortlisted for a place after the committee’s personal statement review just follow all that we have to say here.