A personal statement is the chance to display your achievements and personality. We’re here to share some tricks on how to make a great first impression!

Universities abroad receive large volumes of international applications and that means it takes more than academic grades to set yourself apart. From that standpoint, a personal statement becomes an essential prerequisite! This is because it gives the university a closer look as to why you deserve that spot on your dream course. We understand that talking about yourself isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve listed some quick tips to help you make a lasting first impression!

We have outlined the areas you should remember to cover in each paragraph of your statement. You will likely have a word count of 500 words, so keep it short and sweet. Don’t beat around the bush, be direct and highlight any key facts or dates as you want your statement to come across as authentic and realistic.


Section 1: The Elevator Pitch

Begin with an elevator pitch with your very own signature-style introduction. It’s a brief but compelling pitch that highlights your strengths and unique personality. For instance, my name is Smith and I’m an all-round creative marketing graduate and carry great panache for digital marketing and communications. This is your chance to capture the interest of the admissions officer and make them curious to know more about you. Discuss which course you’re interested in pursuing and most importantly give an explanation as to why it interests you. Avoid cliche statements like, “Ever since I’ve joined high school, I have been passionate about software engineering”. Be specific in what gears you towards pursuing that discipline and why you’ve chosen that particular course. A good example is; since I have spent many years travelling different countries, cultural differences interest me! And these differences stimulate my curiosity to learn languages, which is why I’m interested in your Linguistics course.

Paragraph 2: Academic Pursuits

In this part, speak about your academic background. Mention important details like what you studied and when. Explain how your previous course equipped you with the right skills, and how having those skills handy will help you advance in your future course or degree. This is your chance to prove how your previous academic background will pave the way for an easy transition into your higher education. This especially becomes important if you’re planning on changing majors or shifting to a totally new field

Paragraph 3: Work, Work, Work

Emphasize the jobs you’ve taken up so far and the responsibilities you’ve held as part of your role. Anything and everything from an internship to opening up your own business venture can be added. Don’t forget to mention how taking on these roles along the career ladder gives you an edge. It also makes complete sense to join the dots on how staying equipped with skills learnt from your work experience will help you manage the workload of your intended course. Going forward, also briefly explain how your work exposure has developed your interest to pursue the degree you intend to.


Paragraph 4: Beyond the Basics

Apart from your work and academic achievements make sure to speak about who you are as an individual. Whether it is your hobbies, interests, volunteer activities or any additional courses you have completed along the way. Anything from working part-time as gym-instructor, freelancing as a writer, to volunteering for animal shelters or non-profit organizations, this is the time to portray your unique personality, and stand out from the crowd. Make sure to show how these interests will help you adapt to the new course and environment.

Paragraph 5: Towards the Future

This one should emphasize on the next step you plan to take in the future. Talk more in detail about how graduating with the new degree will prep and help you excel in your future career path. Put forth a strong conclusion on how earning this degree will get you closer to realising your ambition, and how important it is for you to fuel your ambition. Make sure to do your research on the university you are applying to by listing strong cases on why it tops your list of preferred schools. International students applying abroad should make sure to give practical reasons as to why that particular country suits them for studying abroad as opposed to other locations. This can be brought up in terms of opportunities exclusively available to your chosen country of study. Maybe that specific country is a pioneer in the field you are ambitious about. for example, Silicon Valley can open doors to a bright future in technology industry for aspiring computer science students. Speak about how immersing yourself in a pool of diverse cultures can help you be part of an experience of a lifetime. No matter what your life journey has been like, this is your time to shine and bring out your best on the paper, so give it your best shot!

Have you sights set on America? Check out our How to Apply to a US university as an International Student blog for more application tips!

About the Author: Tessa Cunliffe is a South African based digital copywriter and marketer, with a passion for travel and learning. Yoga-inspired and coffee-fuelled. Always planning the next adventure.

Co-author: Mustafa Sutarwala, originally from Mumbai, India lives in the UAE and studied marketing in Dubai. He currently works as the creative Ninja for SchoolApply's content team.