Your personal statement (or admission essay) is your opportunity to show the admission officers why you would be a perfect fit at the university, how you would contribute to the student body, and why the university should accept you over other candidates.
The admission officers of top universities have shared their opinion on what common mistakes the students make when writing their personal statement.
- Repeating what is written in the application form. Your essay is your opportunity to tell the admission officers something that you could not include into your application form or delve into something you wrote there. There is no point in simply retelling your application or CV.
- Not writing to the specific university. Apart from telling about yourself, your statement should also demonstrate how you would fit in at the university you are applying to. Explain one or two things about the university that make it the best one for you. Make sure that you are not writing only the general things that can be true for any university.
- Having a boring introduction. It is not a good idea to start your essay by repeating the question asked or introducing yourself. Think about something to grab the attention of the admission committee. For example, you can start from conveying something that you really believe in or describing a situation which influenced your way of thinking.
- Trying to make too many points. It is better to focus on a single well thought-out point than briefly mentioning many different ones. Think about supporting your points with various examples.
- Not sharing something about yourself. When writing you should always ask yourself if your essay reveals something about your character. Your essay should be unique and personal.
- Forgetting to proofread. Not only proofreading helps to avoid spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors, but also gives you an opportunity to check if your essay does not accidentally contain the name of another university you are applying to.
- Forcing humour. Do not try to sound witty or funny if you are not. In any case if you include a joke into your essay, be sure to ask an adult or two to read it to see if they agree with you that it is funny.
- Trying to be someone else. Don’t try to seem like a perfect student who is committed to every subject area, has numerous talents, plays multiple sports and enjoys volunteering and extra-curricular activities if it is not who you are. Just be yourself and express your genuine thoughts and feelings.
- Not answering the question. Each application form includes brief instructions on the points you are asked to cover in your essay. Make sure that your essay addresses those particular issues.
- Writing your personal statement (essay) at the last moment. It is not wise to hurry up and writing your essay the night before it is due. Start writing well in advance, take some time to think about it and return to it later to polish.
Examples of successful personal statements (admission essays)
- Personal statement of a student applying to technological university
- Motivation letter of a student applying to Biology programme.
- Admission essay of a student applying to medical programme.
- Motivation letter of a student applying to Dutch technological university.
- Motivation letter, written by a student applying for the MSc Computer Science programme.
- Motivation letter of a student enrolling in the Master's Logistics programme at a Dutch university.
- The letter of motivation of a student applying for the Natural Science programme at a Dutch university.
- Admission essay of a student enrolling in the Bachelor's IBMS programme at a university of applied sciences in Holland.
- Motivation letter of a students applying for the Arts programme taught in the Netherlands and Austria.
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Easy writing makes hard reading.
As a graduate student taking fiction writing workshops many moons ago, I recall what was most motivating to me as a creative writer. It wasn’t the reading of published or award-winning work, and it wasn’t the classroom critique given on high from the professor nor the scribble from my classmates on my manuscripts. All these things were helpful and valuable, but nothing motivated me more than comparing my fiction to the work of my peers. As I read their work carefully, both objectively and subjectively, I found myself thinking at times that I was sure I could write better than the others around me at the seminar table—then I’d read an artful, poignant story that made me wonder whether I could ever even compete.
Perhaps somewhere between these two attitudes is the most profitable approach when studying the work of your peers. In critiquing the work of others who essentially represent your competition, you should take a respectful stance both critical and kind, just as selection committee members are likely to do. The sample essays in this chapter represent personal stories that are intriguing, diverse, complex, honest, and humanizing. These samples present opportunities for you to study, admire, question, emulate, reject, and—most importantly—consider how to present the best, truest, most effective picture of yourself, carefully refined for the eyes of others.