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How to write a personal statement

Whether it’s for the Common Application in the USA, UCAS in the UK, SOP for Australia, or a letter of motivation for universities in The Netherlands, writing a personal statement for university abroad is a daunting task. Our friends at Durham University shared some pointers in Issue 2 of University Speaking.

Remember, you’ve only got 4 000 characters, including spaces, to convince us we should choose you, so make every word count. These “dos and don’ts” should help you along the way.

  • DO stay focused and relevant.
  • DO be authentic, enthusiastic and persuasive.
  • DO try for a memorable, strong opening, an engaging middle, and tie up the key points you want to make at the end.
  • DO think about what you’re saying and what it says about you. Sell yourself!
  • DO be specific; use examples and give evidence.
  • DO avoid generic and obvious statements.
  • DO ask someone you trust for ideas and feedback – they might think of something you don’t!
  • DO read your personal statement out loud or ask friends and family to read it for you.
  • DO check your spelling and grammar and make sure you proofread.
  • DO draft your personal statement separately. Once you are satisfied with it, copy and paste into the application.
  • DON’T repeat yourself, and avoid repeating words close together.
  • DON’T write a chronological history – instead think about the structure and what you want to feature at the start.
  • DON’T waste characters! You only have 4 000 so don’t include things like lists of your qualifications – we can see those in the qualifications section of your application already.
  • DON’T use ‘I’ all the time.
  • DON’T use clichés.
  • DON’T copy. UCAS has software that will detect if your personal statement has been copied from someone else, and they’ll let all the universities you’ve applied to know.
  • DON’T expect to get it right the first time. You’ll need several drafts before you’re happy with it.

More resources: 

This article was brought to you by Durham University featured in our second issue of University Speaking.

Click here to read Issue No #2

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