Mistakes to Avoid in a Personal Statement

Written by Talha Omer

January 18, 2014

Okay so in my last few posts I tried to calm you down by explaining on how to tackle a low GPA in your personal statement (students in Pakistan usually face the low GPA problem frequently). Even after reading this post and other posts on writing personal statements, are you still unsure on how to write an essay with no mistakes or avoid unwanted things in your personal statement?

SEE ALSO: How to explain a low GPA in your personal statement?

I know you guys must be feeling frustrated and feeling stuck because you have so much to write about and you have so many ideas bouncing in your head. If this is happening to you then you must take a plain sheet of paper and write down all your ideas, experiences, feelings; anything that comes to mind.

After you write down everything then take a few minutes and try to find any patterns in what you wrote – did you notice anything that you are passionate about? I can guarantee you will find something. Use this as a theme for your personal statement and focus on this. Use as many examples as you can to make your point and prove your mettle.

Now that you have finally identified the main theme of your personal statement, here are a few things that you must avoid in your statement of purpose.

Avoid Grammar Mistakes

This is probably the single biggest mistake frequently found in personal statements written by applicants in Pakistan. This is understandable since English is not our mother language. However you must make sure that you do not allow any superficial errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation to creep into your writing. These are obvious and easily avoidable issues, so double check before submitting your application. Grammar and spelling mistakes can result in your immediate elimination especially if you are applying to a competitive program.

Moreover don’t use empty, vague and hackneyed words like ‘meaningful’, ‘beautiful’, ‘challenging’, ‘invaluable’ or ‘rewarding’. They constantly occur in hundreds of personal statements and don’t say a lot about your mind.

SEE ALSO: How to write a personal statement?

Avoid Long & Artificial Statements

You should remember that your personal statement is an opportunity for you to elaborate yourself and your career goals within the provided word limit. So avoid wasting precious words in a single wordy or a redundant sentence. Keep it concise and don’t use jargon. If several of your lines are long and only separated by commas, try to break them up with more full stops.

Frequent use of words or phrases like ‘fueled my desire’, ‘motivated me’ or ‘the greatest physicist of all time’ make you sound a bit fake and artificial. Effective use of vocabulary is one of the biggest skills of writing and you have to be a master at it in order to clarify yourself while using difficult words. Generally, you should try using simple but cogent language.

Don’t Emphasize the Negative

While a personal statement gives you a big opportunity to clarify your negative things, such as a low GPA, you shouldn’t start writing in a pessimistic and morose tone. Admission tutors want you to view it as an opportunity to showcase your enthusiasm for the subject rather than start complaining.

Avoid Overusing Quotes and Emotional Drama

The admission committee members don’t want to hear poetry of Shakespeare nor do they want to know how Einstein dropped out of high school. It’s your voice they want to hear. So don’t put a quote in unless you really want to make a very strong point.

SEE ALSO: Here is a Sample Personal Statement which has used quotes effectively.

Don’t complain or whine about the system or circumstances in your life like poverty etc. Similarly avoid sexism and stop hiding behind the veil of feminism. It is quite probable that one of the readers is a female who knows about the challenges faced by women in conservative societies like Pakistan. In order words, avoid the emotional catharsis and present your true capabilities.

Don’t Rehash your Resume or Other Parts of Application

Do not submit an expository resume; your GPA and GRE scores are already mentioned in your resume. Therefore, you don’t need to mention all the subjects and courses you took unless you really want to make a point. In other words, your personal statement must be many steps ahead of your resume.

Don’t list your accomplishments, books you’ve read, countries you’ve visited, internships you’ve done or positions you’ve held. Make interesting stories and explain how the experiences shaped up your career objectives and ambitions.

Don’t use a humdrum or monotonous tone. Avoid the use of over familiar cliches like ‘Allow me to introduce myself. My name is… ’ or ‘I would like to thank the admissions committee to consider my application’. Depict a positive energy and try to include interesting stories clarifying the experiences which galvanized you to aim for your career goals.

Do keep in mind that university committee members read hundreds of personal statements every year and there are a lot of things that they don’t want to see and a few things that they want to see. Remember the competition is tough and only a select few of you will eventually make it to the top programs. So you all must make a huge effort to stand out from the rest of the applicants out there.

Related Articles


  1. Avatar

    Dear Sir.

    Does it matter if a personal statement exceeds the requested length of words. I have complied mine one about 1500words (2 MS-Office pages) and I don’t really want it to be reduced further. Thanks


  2. Avatar

    Sir, how about writing a personal statement that includes sub-headings and other captions?

    • Talha Omer

      No not at all. You cannot add that stuff to a personal statement.

  3. Avatar

    While a personal statement gives you a big opportunity to clarify your negative things, such as a low GPA, however you shouldn’t start writing in a pessimistic and morose tone.

    Correct me if I am wrong but this sentence should either have While or However not both.

  4. Avatar

    Plz teach me how to write personal statement for undergraduate program in business?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap