Writing a personal statement can be a daunting task. Depending on how you look at it, you either have just one page to list all of the reasons your university of choice should accept you – or you have one whole page in which you have to talk about yourself.
It’s no real wonder that some students choose to scour the internet to find ‘templates’ of personal statements to try and find a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, not only is plagiarism a big no-no, but a blanket personal statement means that your university doesn’t get to learn about you.
Telling universities about yourself is all good and well, but what if what you say is not what they want to hear? Come to think of it, what do universities want to see in a personal statement?
SOAS Admissions Officers tell us in this blog what they want to see from applicants wanting to study at SOAS.
“When applicants ask me what I look for in a good statement, I generally ask them to answer 3-4 key questions: Why have they chosen their particular course, or area of interest? Why have they chosen a particular institution, what makes them a suitable applicant, and what are they hoping to do with their degree afterwards?”
“Generic statements are a no-no – and making everything as relevant as possible helps. Bluntly put, I tell applicants to ask themselves…’So what? Why am I telling the Admissions Officer or Tutor this information?'”
“I don’t expect a concrete life plan, but it’s generally a good idea to show that you’ve put serious and genuine thought into what you want to study, and what led you to that decision – with an idea of where it might take you afterwards.”
“I would say I want to see the applicant’s interest in the chosen field – that could be readings they have done in their spare time, or current affairs and events they keep up with. It’s good if it’s clear and concise – paragraphing helps. I also like to see why they have chosen to apply for the degree and what they want to get out of it – perhaps alluding to future career goals. A strong statement has a balance between being informative and personable.”
“We always want to hear why a student is interested in their course, but I also like to hear about a student’s reasons for wanting to come to SOAS. It’s always good to hear what they like about SOAS, how a student feels they’ll fit in here, what it is about the university that attracted them, the changes they want to make in the world after they’ve achieved their degree.”
“I like a well-edited and structured personal statement – one with a strong opening, a powerful conclusion, and its points supported with evidence. I’d advise students to check if their language is too informal or repetitive; while they should also double-check for typos and grammatical errors.”
“Anyone applying to multiple universities should make sure to not write the name of a university in the statement. There’s nothing worse than reading a statement telling me that a student is desperate to go to another university!”
“Language applicants should talk about their exposure to the language – either in classes or holidays, or volunteer work done in the country where the language is spoken. I want to know what they enjoyed about it, what was challenging – and of course, any experience of learning other languages.”
“For combined degrees, applicants need to demonstrate why they are interested in both subjects. Often, I see applicants mention only one of the subjects and not the other. I also look for their thoughts on how and/or why they think the subjects complement one another for a combined degree.”