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Components of a Successful Personal Statement for Admission as an International Student

An outline of the components and tips that will help international students write successful personal statements that get them admissions and funding.

A personal statement/statement of purpose (SOP)/application essay is a vital part of your school application. It paints a picture of who you are, and this helps the application committee get to know you and assess you better. It is crucial to tell a coherent story from start to finish to allow the admissions committee to link your passion to your academic and professional experiences and your future plans. It should include aspects of your life relevant to your intended course of study. Keep in mind, the goal is to give the application committee a clear picture of you.

Some key things to keep in mind

  1. You are competing globally so ensure terminologies and words you use are straightforward and clearly understood.

  2. Avoid grammatical errors.

  3. Ensure paragraphs flow and connect meaningfully to tell a coherent story.

  4. As much as you want your personal statement to “wow” your evaluators, do not include information you cannot defend.

  5. Make sure you clearly state the research interest/concentration in your statement.

  6. A personal statement is not judged by its length but its quality and message.

  7. There is no need to have a heading for your personal statement; it is already uploaded under that category in the application.

  8. Connect your degree or professional experience with the intended course and concentration of study.

  9. Schools usually have specific requirements for personal statements, adhere to them strictly.

Components of a Personal Statement

Introduction:

This is the first paragraph of a personal statement. The goal of this paragraph is to draw your reader in and clearly state the purpose of your statement and application. You can start with a personal experience, something that inspires you, or an important aspect of your life that connects to the choice of your academic path.

Academic experience:

This includes your academic activities, achievements, and milestones that have fuelled your interest in furthering your application. This part of your essay could also include internships, volunteer activities, clubs, societies, research work, conferences, and seminars in school.

Professional experience:

This includes any paid or unpaid job relevant to your chosen program. If the job is not wholly relevant to the intended program, highlight aspects of it that have or will positively influence your path as a student.

Reason for choosing school and program:

In this part of your essay, you need to convince the admissions committee of your reason for choosing the school and program. For graduate school applicants, you can talk about faculty members within the program or university that will serve as great mentors or advisors.

Research interest:

This is a vital part of graduate applications if you’re applying to a Science Technological Engineering Maths (STEM) program or any program that has a significant research component. You have to clearly outline your research interest and make sure it aligns with what is attainable in the program or university. It also appeals to the admission committee when you identify faculty members within the university/program that aligns with your research area of interest.

Short and long-term goals:

In this part of your statement, you state the benefit of the knowledge and skills you hope to obtain during and after completing the program. Also, you identify and describe how getting this degree will contribute to your plans and career ambitions.

Extracurricular activities:

Since you need to paint a picture of yourself as a whole human being, you could dedicate a few lines to describe who you are outside of your academics and professional life. As with other aspects of your statement, you have to align it with your overall goal of studying at your chosen program or university.


Writing Tips

1.    List out the aspects of your life relevant to your application.

2.    Begin to expatiate on them by outlining actual experiences and how they connect.

3.    Group these into paragraphs based on similarities, make sure it flows.

4.    Read, re-read, edit and give other parties to read and criticize. 

Writing a personal statement can be overwhelming, but a personal hack is to start by writing the part of your life that you find the easiest to describe. Gradually, you will be able to write more parts, and then you can arrange them to paint a clear picture.

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