A personal statement is a document demanded by almost every foreign university in its application procedure. The document highlights the achievements, goals, strengths, personality and experience of the candidate by which a university assesses whether he/she is suitable for their desired course.
A better personal statement can not only put you ahead of other applicants with higher academic results but can also, at times, guarantee you a place at universities where you do not meet the requirements for previous academic results, by a little margin.
With 70,000-90,000 Bangladeshi students going abroad for higher education each year and with few materials found on the internet containing detailed information on how to write a personal statement, the aspirants will benefit greatly from the guidance provided herein on the four most common questions in a personal statement.
Question 1: What makes you a suitable candidate for this course?
Many candidates readily assume that the answer to this question revolves around simply outlining the skills that have been acquired from his/her previous academic and extracurricular activities. What is actually needed is that he/she to explain how these skills have been developed and how these are related to the demands of the intended course.
For instance, one would not provide a satisfactory answer in this section if he/she just writes that "I have developed research skills from my previous academic commitments". Instead, he/she should opt for saying that "at the undergraduate stage, I was required to undertake several essay-based assignments which required me to conduct widespread research on contemporary issues to provide certain recommendations, and thus these have improved my research skills. I can use this experience of mine to find comprehensive and creative arguments which would place me in a better position to score higher marks in the course".
The skills that the institutions seek in this section vary from subject to subject, but some of the common skills other than the one mentioned above are as follows: (i) Teamwork (ii) Communication (iii) Ability to work under pressure (iv) IT literacy (v) Creative problem solving.
Do not forget to mention any recognition that has been awarded to you for excellence in any stage of your academic and professional life in this section. For example, you may refer to a scholarship that has been awarded to you for your academic results. Again, remember not only to mention it but to go further and do so in a way that addresses the question. You can state that you have been awarded a scholarship for outstanding results, showing how sincere you are and how refined your skills are, which increases your chances of passing the course with flying colours.
Question 2: Why do you want to study at this university?
It is very easy to be tricked into thinking that this question can be successfully answered with general statements only. However, it will occur to you with a little thought that this question has been designed to put your research skills to test.
Before you decide on answering this question, take time to engage in research about the global ranking of the institution and what area(s) the institute excelled in the most. For instance, if the university you have chosen is ranked tenth in the QS World University Rankings, mention that in this section along with pointing out that it is so highly ranked because of its impeccable record in terms of employer and academic reputation.
Question 3: Why have you chosen this course?
In order to answer this question, an overall discussion of your chosen subject may not suffice. The answer expects you to explore your achievements in the field for which you want to enlighten yourself further in a particular course.
Reasons for choosing a course entails a brief view about the whole subject, your future endeavours in relation to this course, the benefits of undertaking the course, the facilities that your society or country will offer you after you get the degree title of that particular course, etc.
It is wise at this stage to mention if any of the course teacher's areas of interest in research matches with yours and if so, how this will benefit you in the future. For instance, if you apply for a specialized postgraduate course, you can state here that "this degree will increase your chances of being employed in higher positions in x, y, and z ways" to show how you could benefit from choosing this course.
Question 4: Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question can be answered widely. However, you need to explain precisely about your ambition and job interest. In order to state your career prospective, make sure to research meticulously about the platform that you want to see yourself in. Your plans must be realistic and must portray long-term planning which will ultimately lead you towards your ambition. Being able to portray your sense of commitment and being enthusiastic should be your main objectives while writing this answer.
As clear and concise answers are what one looks for in a personal statement, go straight to the point while answering the questions in a personal statement. Also, be sure to check for any additional information regarding the personal statement provided on the University's website. This will enable you to get an idea of key documentation issues, such as word limit, fonts, line spacing, etc., accepted by the University you are applying for.
Furthermore, do not use any information (which surprisingly many students do to get themselves into trouble) for which you will not be able to provide evidence if it is subsequently requested by the University for cross-checking in an attempt to make yourself stand out from others. It is imperative that adhering to the above suggestions you also oversee your grammatical and spelling mistakes. To avoid such minor mistakes that can affect your chances of success greatly, you can use online instruments such as Grammarly or get your draft checked by some of your teachers.
Deena Afroza Aziz is pursuing an LLM from the Eastern University, Bangladesh.
Arafat Reza is an LLB graduate from BPP University, UK.
Mehbeez Binte Matiur is an Honor's 3rd Year student at Department of Criminology, University of Dhaka.