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Personal Statements for International Students

Over the past few years, I’ve had many international students contact me for help editing and revising their personal statements. The US college personal statement is a unique beast.

liberal arts skills laptop techincal us college personal statementIn the US, colleges are not only interested in students with good scores, but also students with unique personalities and solid writing skills. Therefore:

Your personal statement should…
  1. Stand out

    Admissions representatives read thousands upon thousands of personal statements. As a result, the message that “I’m smart and I want to go here” is nothing new to them. So, try and dig a little deeper.


    • Tell a story. 

      A good way to catch the reader’s attention is to use one or two paragraphs to introduce yourself with a fun (or funny!) anecdote.

    • Have an attention-grabbing first line.

      Really, anything other than “I am a student at [insert high school here]” is already an improvement over most applicants.

    • Talk about something you love.

      Whether it’s a hobby, a family member, or your dog, passion has a way of showing itself through your writing.

  2. Show off your ability to write

    This is an opportunity to prove that you are capable of handling classes in English. To prove yourself, your personal statement should be flawless– grammatically perfect and easy to read.


    • Beware of false friends.

      Realize means to think of, not to create.

    • Use your time wisely.

      Honestly, you generally have several months to work on an application before it is due. Using that time to revise your work to perfection will show that you are a responsible student.

    • Get your work reviewed by a native English speaker.

      Choose somebody with solid writing skills. You can even ask me to review your US college personal statement.

  3. Show your interest in the program

    This is perhaps the hardest thing to do in a personal statement. That’s because just saying “I’m interested” doesn’t really show interest. Of course, this is especially important for Master’s students and Ph.D. students… and anyone applying to a program where “undecided” is not an acceptable major.

    • Use your hobbies and volunteer experiences.

      Explaining that you have done something voluntarily is a good argument that you are truly interested in it. For example, if you volunteer every Saturday at the animal shelter then it’s pretty obvious that you are interested in animals.

    • Tell them about your college research.

      Maybe you haven’t actually studied genetics before, but you have stayed up late at night comparing different genetics programs. If so, say that!

    • Explain what you know about the topic of your studies.

      Don’t be afraid to include a little technical jargon in your statement– just be sure that you truly know what you’re talking about.


Read more of my blogs about College Admissions topics.
The Five-Point Resume Check
Five Ways to De-Stress before a College Interview
Sciences Po: 4 Tips for Writing Your Motivation Letter
The Argument for the Gap Year 


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