Firstly, do not open with a quote, regardless of whether you are quoting Barack Obama or the Dalai Llama, the most important lesson is to be original—and this means not using other people’s words to impress a committee.
Secondly, talk about what makes you different from other applicants. The admissions committee at any university spends hours going through the applications of potentially successful candidates; these other applicants are ambitious, intelligent and competitive—they are trying just as hard as you to impress. So here is your chance to stand out, mention sports and instruments you actively play, but also any languages you are interested in learning (or already have begun to learn)—such as Spanish, Russian, Chinese or even Welsh. Also mention any bizarre feats you have accomplished—have you run a half marathon dressed up as Big bird? Or maybe you became a licensed sky diving instructor last summer? Did you make it all the way from London to New York during an intense session of Jail Break? All these feats not only successfully reveal your personality but they also provide a break from the monotonous routine that can be reading through standardized applications as a committee member on the university’s admissions board.
You should also talk about your other interests, like your wider reading selection—what subscriptions do you indulge in? What books have influenced you? Who is your favorite author and why? If you have any, previous work experience is always a plus as well, it shows you can balance work and school; even if your work experience is limited to babysitting, if you can show that you have earned money to pursue your future studies, or even to fund that backpacking trip through South American to improve your Spanish, it demonstrates that you are hard-working and are not afraid to take on long-term commitments.
It is also important to address your future career ambitions in your personal statement; tell the committee where you see yourself after completing a degree at their school. These career plans might change, especially for undergraduates, but having some sort of plan shows you have direction. If you still struggle to commit to a future career in just a short personal statement, think about what your dream job would be (keeping it relevant and realistic to the degree you are applying to). But do not focus so much on what you think the committee might want to hear, be as specific as possible but also be honest—it will be transparent to the committee if you are not sincere.
Finally, your closing statement should tie everything together—once again reiterate why you want to go to this specific school and why your unique personality traits (which you have showcased above) make you an ideal candidate. Just remember not to finish with a quote, because actions speak louder than words (just kidding!)
Tips for Writing a Personal Statement was written by a Tavistock Tutor and UCL Student