How to Write a Personal Statement

Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Personal Statement | Comments Off on How to Write a Personal Statement

I know all of you study abroad aspirants in Pakistan must be wondering about how to write a personal statement for graduate school. Some of you may even be looking into writing a personal statement for Fulbright scholarship in Pakistan. Regardless, let me help you guys with some valuable information on how to write a personal statement for university admissions?

For those of you who don’t know, the personal statement is also known as the statement of purpose or statement of intent. It provides the means to the graduate school admissions committee to evaluate your knowledge, motivation, intellect and inspiration to pursue graduate education.

For all Pakistani students, the statement of purpose is a crucial component of the graduate school admissions process. Whether or not an application is accepted or rejected depends on the statement of purpose, irrespective of their past qualifications.

I have designed this document for those Pakistani students who do not know what to write in a personal statement. It outlines the 5 stages that a graduate school applicant should go through in order to write an impressive and successful statement of purpose.

Stage I: Do Scratch Work

Writing a personal statement requires thoroughly research the websites of the schools/departments/programs that you aim at applying to. Accumulate the relevant information relevant to your program/school and read it carefully. Note down the parts of the program that are appealing to you. Keep these in mind and use them when you begin writing your personal statement.

Read up on the research interests and projects of the faculty. Read publications from a faculty of interest. This is important if you want to apply for a financial assistance. When writing your personal statement do make reference to the respective faculty member(s) and express a desire of working with them. This will increase your chances of getting in since it reflects your maturity and a deeper desire to pursue this field.

Read in detail the case studies, articles, publications related to your research field of interest. Get a general understanding of what is going on. Identify the current problems and challenges of this field. Show them you know the field very well and that you have gone out of the way to know about this area.

Stage II: Brainstorm and Jot Down

Think back on your intellectual journey.

  • What motivated you to pursue this particular field in this particular university? Or in other words, for example, why did you chose University of Chicago for your masters program and why not any other university or department for that matter. Prove through thorough research of the university and the program/department that this particular place is best suited to your future aspirations.
  • What or who were the key influencers of your decision? Now I must warn you guys not to write something like “I did some courses in Pakistan and got motivated to pursue this masters program blab bla…” That’s crap. Write about the outstanding achievements or challenges you undertook just to go mad and crazy after this field – this shows you are super motivated for this field.

Why did you choose your research topic(s)/field/school?

Now again don’t make the egregious mistake of saying that “when I was a child I used to play with electric toys and when they got broken I used to repair them. And I was good and amazing at it. It was then and there that I decided to become an engineer.” This is very silly and don’t do this. You will agitate the admissions committee if they read something like this.

Make your case by stating the awesome internships, jobs, projects, research proposals, white papers, case studies etc etc etc you did to rip through this subject area.

Why did you choose your undergraduate major?

Same as above. Don’t be silly – be practical and mature. Give well thought out reasons for doing what you did at the undergraduate level.

Link your future aspirations with the university you are applying to. Tell them how this university will help you achieve the height of success in your life and fulfill your goals. As if all your future dreams are tied to them.

Stage III: Make an Outline of your Statement of Purpose

Main idea.

Start by determining a central theme or main idea that will be the center of your statement. This can be anything from research to job experience to a business or to something exceptional you did in life.

Support your main idea with concrete examples.

Then concentrate on this main idea and give specific examples that support it. Do not make things up! You can embellish things but don’t fake. That is tantamount to cheating.

If you think you are a loser and have never done anything extraordinary in life then you can discuss an idea in your Personal Statement. An idea about which you have in depth knowledge and you think it can make some difference or stand out from the crowd.

Do not forget to cover all of the following points in your outline:

  • Why are you applying to this program and university?
  • What are your academic and research interest?
  • What inspired you to pursue your current field?
  • How have you prepared yourself to face the challenges of graduate studies?
  • What do you want to do after graduation?

Stage IV: Always make several Draft of your Statement of Purpose

Whenever you are writing your personal statement for admission in university or at any level – graduate school, law school, medical school, engineering school or college, always remember to do the following:

  • Give detailed examples but don’t deviate from the main idea. Maturity is expected from an applicant applying to the graduate school. Don’t make false hypothetical stories that are absolutely not true or are dramatic. I always ask my students to identify an area of strength and only focus around that.
  • Ensure smoothness in your statement while it is being read. For this purpose connect your paragraphs with transition words and as I said before, revolve around a main theme. This will help you stay relevant.
  • Never use vocabulary that you are not sure of how to use. Use simple words to convey your thoughts – flowery language is not needed and I would warn you against using it even if you have a repertoire of good words.
  • Never repeat. A lot of my students ask this question “how can I write a personal statement when I do not have any solid achievements?” This causes a tendency for repeating the same stuff over and over again.
  • Try to come up with strong opening and closing paragraphs. Go directly to your main idea in the second paragraph.
  • Finally always thank the admissions committee for reading your personal statement. Be courteous.

Stage V: Ask someone for a feedback and review of your statement of purpose

Ideally I recommend that you must ask some expert to critically evaluate your personal statement at every stage of your draft.

So for instance if you wrote an initial draft, immediately ask someone to review it so that you can make changes then and there before adding more meat to your personal statement.

If you don’t get it reviewed often, you will risk making an error that will be reflected into your final statement draft. You will then have to discard all of your drafts and go back to the basics again to make a revised personal statement.

Good Luck!


Frequently Asked Questions


Q. I am applying to a top university in the U.S. and for that I need to write a personal statement for scholarship. Can you please give me some advice on how to write a personal statement?

A. Unless the scholarship statement of purpose has a separate topic or requirement, you can use these guidelines to write one for yourself. In case your scholarship requires you to cover some other areas as well, like your financial status or background etc. then you can discuss those needs with me.

Q. Can you provide some valuable tips on how to write a personal statement for University?

A. The personal statement for university is the same as the one I just described. For all graduate programs, the admissions committee is trying to judge the aforementioned qualities in a prospective applicant. Unless your prospective university requires you to write on a specific topic, you can use the above guidelines.

Q. Does the personal statement for college differ in any way than the one you have described above?

A. Statement of purpose is more or less on the same lines unless the college or school has special requirements. If that is not the case then you can use these guidelines.

Q. My university has not shared a format for the personal statement. How do I begin?

A. You can begin by introducing your educational and professional background. Once you do that I would suggest that you directly go to the main idea of your personal essay. Use the tips I have given in this post.

Q. Do you think it is a good practice to use some personal statement template to write one?

A. No. I strongly discourage using any one else’s personal statement or template for writing your own. Statement of purpose I an extremely personal document and you must write it on your own using your own thoughts.

Q. I am an economics major. Will my personal essay differ in any manner described above?

A. If your program or university gives you a separate topic to write on, you can include the guidelines given in this post.

Q. Is it compulsory to write a personal statement for admission to U.S.?

A. It is mandatory to submit a personal statement for an application to any university or program to U.S. You cannot exempt yourself from submitting it – otherwise your application will be considered incomplete.

Q. Can you give me any tips on how can I write personal statement?

A. All of the important tips and areas are covered in this post. If you have any specific questions or comments, you can ask me about them via email or post.

Q. Does the engineering personal statement differ somehow than the one you just described?

A. Generally the above mentioned strategies are required for all kinds of personal statements but if your program asks you to give something else then you have to follow that. Even the accounting and finance personal statement have to be written on the same pattern if they do not have a separate topic.

Q. How can I write a marketing personal statement?

A. You can use the helping points in this post to assist you in writing a statement of intent related to the field of marketing.

Q. Regarding what to write about in a personal statement, can I write about my personal interests?

A. No. Avoid writing any non-professional or non-academic information in your personal statement. It should only be used to write about your intentions related to your field of expertise.

Q. I need help with my personal statement. Do you provide any personal statement help services or can I get personal statements checked in Lahore or over the email by you?

A. Yes I do provide personal statement services. If you want help writing your personal statement you can contact me at any time.

Q. I have to write a personal statement for Fulbright Scholarship for Pakistan. Can I use the same guidelines as given by you above?

A. Definitely you can. Infact these are all the points you need to cover when writing a statement of purpose for Fulbright Pakistan. If you follow these points you will have higher chances of getting a Fulbright Scholarship.

Q. How do I start a personal statement? I am confused about where to begin.

A. A good personal statement always begins by introducing oneself professionally and academically. Once you do that, go straight to the main idea of your essay. Do not waste time and space writing about irrelevant stuff like your childhood or personal woes.

Q. Can you help me write a personal statement for management?

A. Yes I can. Please contact me if you want assistance in writing a business or managerial related personal statement.

Q. How does the personal statement for postgraduate application vary from the one you described?

A. Usually it does not. Post graduate statement of purpose has the exact same requirements. But just to make sure, I suggest you contact your prospective university directly and ask them what their requirements are.

Q. Are these all the personal statement ideas that you think should be included in a personal statement?

A. Yes. These are all the things you must include in your personal statement. I recommend not writing more than one and a half page long statement of purpose, especially if you are still early in your career. The length varies from program and university but generally I have seen one page long essays to be sufficient to depict yourself in a positive way.