Siotoh Global Mobility

Crafting a Winning Personal Statement for a Scholarship

 As an aspiring student of your chosen University, your personal statement is the most important part of your application to university. It clearly and effectively needs to explain who you are, why you think you are a good applicant and why you want to study the course you have chosen. The essay should be about 400 words/47 lines and needs to be submitted along with the rest of your university application documents.

Why does a personal statement matter?

The personal statement allows you to stand out from other applicants with the same grades. It is a way to showcase your comprehension and understanding of the language you would be taught in. The competition for university acceptance is very tough; your grades alone are not guaranteed to get you a place. Think of it like a job application – you need to impress.

Here is what you would need to do.

— Be mindful of your structure!

Even if you are making good points, a poorly organised personal statement makes reading hard work. The last thing you’d want to do is make reading your work feel like a dreadful chore.

 — Show awareness of your subject.

Make sure your passion shines through. Utilize power verbs. Do your research on the course you’re studying and how it is being delivered at the University.

Reiterate your interest. You can point out moments in your life that helped solidify your choice to attend the University and take up the course you wish to do.

— Grab the reader’s attention.

You can use quotes, a zippy first line, or tell a story.

Try to grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence. Make it personal. If you intend to make use of quotes or other things that are not tied to you, be sure to circle back and establish a relation. This is about you selling yourself after all. Make it as relevant and current as possible.

Give examples to back up your points:

You can’t just say “I’m a good team player” without any evidence. How would your reader know this is true? Instead, go for something like this: “I’ve developed excellent time management skills through juggling my studies with a part-time job and babysitting my sisters twice a week. Balancing these obligations while still leaving time for hobbies is hard, but I make weekly plans which enable me to organise myself well.

— Use all the space

just writing a few lines isn’t enough.

Now here are some things you absolutely should NOT do…

— This should go without saying but, do not lie.

You will be caught out. Falsifications on any of your application documents could mean a termination of your application and the Institution has every right to forward your information to other Institutions in the country. It’s really not worth it.

You do not use slangs or poor English.

This is a formal document and should be written as such.

Bullet points are unnecessary.

Write in full paragraphs. Any attempt to use them could be taken as you scheming to use up the space in an inefficient manner and that would not look good for your essay.

Get someone else to write it

This includes personal statements found online. Admissions tutors have software which will tell them if something is stolen. You will be found out.

Try to include too much.

It is better to mention a few skills with examples to show how you developed them. Remember to keep what you mention relevant to your application and course of study. This is not where you write your whole life’s achievements.

 — Repeat information that is elsewhere on your application.

Mention specific universities.

The same personal statement goes to all your choices. You are not required to state where your statement is going to in the essay or file title. As long as it is the same course of study, your statement is acceptable everywhere you would be making an application to.

Suggested structure for your personal statement

You can structure your personal statement any way you want; for instance, you might have so much great work experience you want to talk about that you decide not to say very much about your experience at school or college. That’s fine. Whatever structure you choose, you must make sure that you explain why you have chosen your course and about the skills you have which you think make you a good candidate for university.

Your reasons for your choice of course

 — Which course would you like to study?

 — Why are you interested in studying this course?

 — Why do you find this field interesting?

 — Is there anything that has inspired you?

What are your future aims and ambitions Do you have a particular career in mind?

Be sure to provide specific reasons for your choice.

 Do not

Blandly say “I want to study this subject because I’m passionate about it and it’s interesting.

This says absolutely nothing about you as a person.

Useful phrases:

“My decision to study… (subject) at university has been particularly inspired by… (event) and will allow me to achieve my future goal of… (ambition).” “Studying… (subject) will allow me to develop… (skills) as well as giving me the opportunity to… (experience) I am particularly excited at the prospect of finding out more about… (subject) which I have been interested in since… (when).”

Your work experience or voluntary work.

 — What skills have you gained from parttime/work experience?

 — What tasks did your job role involve and what did you learn?

 — How do you feel your work experience can benefit you in this course?

 — Have you been involved in any voluntary work or projects to help your local community?

— Have you held any positions of responsibilities?

Be sure to:

Talk about the skills you gained from your work experience. Skills could include:

time management, team working, leadership, problem solving, communication, diplomacy, numeracy, analytical, presentation, confidence, increased maturity and awareness.

 Try not to…

Underestimate the skills you gain from work and undersell yourself. Be confident.


Mention any work experience you have in the subject area you’re applying for.

Useful phrases

“Being involved in a busy/professional/successful… (state type of company eg accountancy firm) allowed me to… (briefly describe the main tasks that relate to the skills you gained). These duties developed my skills in… (discuss your skills).” “As well as providing practical experience in a … (state area of work eg computer retail store) the job also allowed me to develop skills in … (state skills) through… (state tasks). I am particularly proud of my ability to…”

Your school/college experience

What have you learnt from your current studies? How do you feel they will help you progress onto further education?

 — Is there a particular project you enjoyed, excelled at or really inspired you?

— What skills do you feel you have developed during your studies?

 — Have you balanced your academic life with aspects of your social life?

 — How would you describe your school/college experience?

Be sure to:

Focus on the subjects you’ve most enjoyed or you have more to say about.


List the courses/subjects you’re taking as this is stated elsewhere on your university application.


Be positive.

Saying negative things about education doesn’t look good on an application to a university.

 Useful phrases:

“While at college I have particularly enjoyed… (state subject) because it has allowed me to… (state reason). I was especially proud of my work during the module on… (state module), during which I had to… (state what you did).”

“My school experience will really help me at university because it has given me the ability to… (state skill/ ability) which will stand me in good stead when I am required to… (state activity at university).”

Your involvement in sports, clubs and societies

 — Are you involved in any sports teams? Any clubs or societies?

 — Have you recently participated in any events?

 — What form of responsibility do you hold within the team/club/society?

 — Have you been rewarded with any medals/certificates/awards?

 — What types of skills do you feel you have gained?

Be sure to:

Make sure anything you mention here is current.


Say you aren’t part of any clubs and societies even if that’s the case – it looks negative. But do not lie. You could concentrate on other school experiences instead or choose not to include this paragraph.


Mention the skills you’ve gained. For instance, being on a team will probably involve some kind of team work.

Useful phrases:

“Taking responsibility for … (state responsibility) has developed my skills in … (state skills).”

“Attending matches as part of my college’s football team has not only enabled me to…. (state what you’ve done) but also…..(state what else you’ve done) which I really value because I have gained the ability to…. (state ability)”

Activities and interests outside school/college

— What are your hobbies and interests?

 — How would you describe yourself as a person? What are your strengths?

 — Do you have a valuable or exciting experience you would like admissions staff to know about? For example, have you been travelling? Have you learnt about different cultures and backgrounds?

Once again, do not lie. Don’t just say “I like music and having a laugh with my friends”. This would not do much to impress the reader and doesn’t make you sound interesting or like you’d be a particularly good applicant. Universities look at extracurriculars too.


Include at least a few lines on hobbies

– universities do want to know about you as a rounded individual.

 Useful phrases

“I have endeavored to learn more about … (state what you have learned eg astronomy) despite little information is available at school/college. The reason for my interest in this area is… (give your reason).”

“An experience which I feel has had a particular impact upon my outlook was when I… (state experience). This really opened my eyes to… (state what you learned/saw/how this impacted on you).”

Your concluding statements

— What aspect of university are you looking forward to?

— Are there any clubs/societies you really want to join? Why?

 — If you are planning to defer your entry (ie take a gap year) say what you plan to do and how you feel it will benefit you.

 — What career path would you like to go into and why?

 — What can you offer to the university?


Say you’re going to take a gap year without having a plan. It doesn’t sound impressive if you haven’t worked out what you want to do. If you don’t have a plan, make one!

Useful phrases

“I hope to continue to … (state hobby or interest) at university because it provides me with an opportunity to … (state opportunity eg meet people).”

“Before commencing my course, I am planning to take a gap year during which I will… (state your plans). I feel this will enable me to… (state what you’ll gain) which will help me at university because… (state why).”

Be sure your finish is as impactful as your start off. Make sure you sound enthusiastic with your answers and that you’re looking forward to starting with them soon. Your conclusion should round your personal statement off neatly.

The SGM team wishes you the best of luck!

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