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Tips to Writing an Effective Personal Statement

The ability to write a good personal statement, or mission statement as some call it, is a very important skill. Many students and professionals struggle with writing an effective personal statement. Due to this reason they miss out on various scholarships and growth opportunities. I have gathered some useful tips on how to build a well-crafted personal statement.

A personal statement is a piece of writing which summarizes you. It should be a reflection of your background, education, extra-curricular activities, life events and/or experiences that make you a unique applicant. If you are applying for a specialized university program or an educational scholarship, this letter should address questions such as: Why are you a good candidate for this program or scholarship? One way to answer this question is to give a very specific example from your life experience which shows that you are passionate about the field you are pursuing and aligns well with your career goals, therefore, making you a deserving candidate for the scholarship or program. A generalized answer will be very cliché and the reader will get the idea that you did not put in the work to make your personal statement ‘personal’. Also keep in mind that your answer should be feasible given the parameters of your experience and skillset.

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Some of your key assets in writing a solid personal statement are a clear introduction to you in terms of your background and education, followed by some detailed paragraphs about any extra-curricular, community service activities or special life events that strengthen your candidacy. It is vital to mention what you learned from these experiences because that is the essence. For example, if you are applying to an environmental sciences scholarship abroad, it will be beneficial to mention the time you were part of the school community service project to clean the local beach. At a tender age of 15, you were motivated to make the planet earth a safer and sustainable habitat for all species.

In my opinion, it helps if you put your life story in a chronological order. It makes it easier for the reader to make a story in his/her head. It does not have to start with your childhood, but if there is an order to which you put excerpts from your life into the personal statement, it would be a convenience to the reader hence gaining you more points as a candidate overall.

Various scholarship programs are focused on participants giving back to their community or home country at the completion of their degree/program. A good personal statement will always ensure the reader that the candidate has a clear plan upon the completion of their program; be it working for a government department or in the private industry or becoming an entrepreneur. This reflects the ways the candidate will give back to the community. For instance, if you are pursuing a big data scholarship, one way to give back to your community is by joining the national census department. The skills you learn from the big data scholarship will enable you to analyze large datasets.

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This is the most important tip: never ask someone else to write your personal statement for you. The most obvious reason is that, no one knows you better than yourself. There are people out there who charge money to write fancy personal statements for candidates. If you have worked hard to be where you are and you think you are a deserving candidate, never depend on someone else to write a second-hand story for you. It will kill your chances of getting into your dream program or scholarship.

Ask your seniors, professors, or peers to review your personal statement and give their honest feedback. Multiple reviews from your professors or seniors, ensure that you avoid silly mistakes. This is the second most important tip in my opinion.

To conclude, focus on your unique experiences and skills.

Good luck!



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Nazia Akhtar

Born in Hunza and moved to New York for education and then Toronto for work. NYU 2018