Updated: Feb 13
A statement of purpose or a personal statement is an essential part of University applications alongside your grades in determining whether you get a place in your school of choice or not. It is a short essay which you write explaining why you’re the perfect candidate for the school you’re applying to and it is read by the admissions department at the universities you apply to, who will then decide whether you’re offered a place or not. In this article, we have outlined seven tips that would make your statement of purpose stand out.
The first thing you need to do before you start writing a personal statement should be to research the courses you want to apply for. Schools post the course content, program specifications, entry requirements, course structure, the modules you’ll be taking as well as the assessment methods on their sites. You need to familiarize yourself with this information and should be able to integrate it into your personal statement. For example, you can say you applied for a Masters in artificial intelligence because your school of choice offers a module in Music Analysis and Synthesis which you’re really interested in. This will show the reader that you’ve made an effort to learn about the school.
2. Plan Your Work
It is only after you’ve familiarized yourself with the school, the course content and its structure that you can make a plan for your statement. A personal statement is not something you write off the top of your head. Planning cannot be overestimated as if you don’t, it will probably come out as rubbish. You can start with some notes which answer the questions of what you want to study, why you chose to study it, what makes you best suited for the course as well as what your interests and skills are. These points when answered are what will form the spine of your statement. Getting these answers isn’t always an easy task so it is important to make notes over time. Also, the importance of starting very early cannot be overemphasized as a personal statement isn’t something you leave to the last minute.
3. Sell Yourself
The personal statement is the perfect opportunity for you to sell yourself and should reflect who you truly are. You should write about your experiences, knowledge, and qualifications. Do not waste characters telling the reader how good your grades are. What the reader is most interested in knowing is what makes you stand out because there are other people who also have good grades if not better. If you have some work experience related to your course of study, you should talk about this and explain what you did during that time. If you do not have any direct work experience, you should cast your net wider and talk about extra-curricular activities which you’ve been involved in be it debating societies, after-school clubs, whether you take online courses in your spare time or whether you run a blog or vlog. Although no activity is useless, you should also keep in mind that you’re looking for an experience that shows why you want to study your chosen course. Do not be timid about your achievements as this is the perfect time to unleash your inner Muhammed Ali and get all “I am the greatest”. However, you do need to keep it focused, accurate and keep your language as simple and professional as possible. You are trying to sell yourself as a great fit for the school and you need to prove to the reader why this is true.
4. Show Evidence of Your Claims
Selling yourself by showing the school the skills you possess which you think would be relevant to your choice is great but most importantly, you need to show evidence of your claims. Anyone can say they possess great communication skills, or they are good public speakers. But you would need to explain further as to why you think this is true and this may be because you were active in your literary and debating society or you were an executive in the student union. You might also say you work very well as part of a group because you’ve noticed that there’s a lot of group work involved in media studies. However, it is important to back this claim up with proof by showing where you’ve done group work and explain how you’ve overcome challenges when working in one.
5. Be Creative with Your Introduction and Avoid General Statements
We’ve all seen personal statements with cliché opening lines like ‘for as long as I can remember I have…’, ‘throughout my life I have always enjoyed…’, ‘from a young age I have always been fascinated by…’ or one of the most common ones ‘I have always wanted to pursue a career in…’ These opening lines are a total turn off for the reader because they are not interested in your formative years but what you’ve been doing recently which are in line with your course. Also, general statements such as ‘ever since I was young, I loved film’ (I mean, who doesn’t) or ‘in my free time I like socializing and hanging out with my friends’ should be avoided and not good things to add to your personal statement because they don’t tell the reader anything unique about you and a personal statement, as the name implies is meant to be personal.
6. Add Your Future Plans
Adding your long-term goals will go a long way in showing the reader that you know exactly what you want and how to work towards it. Just simply saying you want to be an architect isn’t going to stand you out from the crowd because obviously most people applying for architecture want to be architects. However, if you’re not sure as to what your future plans are yet, you can simply add what you’re looking forward to at the university and what you want to gain from the course or the university life in general.
This final stage comes into play when you’re done writing your personal statement. You need to check there are no grammar and spelling mistakes as this will irritate the reader. You can proofread your grammar and spelling by using Grammarly. You need to get other people who know you well to read it; whether it’s your parents, family, friends etc. so they can make sure that the statement truly represents you and they may also help you add things you forgot to mention. Also, if they read the statement and it doesn’t seem like a true reflection of you, then you’d need to start again. There’s no right and wrong when writing personal statements because its simply trying to get down a genuine articulation of what you’re about, where you’re going and why you’re applying.
This article was written by Malik Alli