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How to nail your personal statement when applying to university

Applying for university can be stressful. You’ve got a lot riding on your application, so you must get it right. One place many students seem to get stuck is writing a personal statement.

To help you get cracking with yours, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to write a killer personal statement, with examples. So, no more putting it off!

But first, some advice direct from someone who’s read thousands of applications, Cathy Gutierrez, Manager, Admissions and CPL for Deakin University:

‘Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell us something about you and your achievements that we can’t see by reading your transcript or resume,’ Gutierrez says.

‘This is your chance to shine.’

Why it’s worth the effort

A spot at university is competitive. Thousands of applications flood in every round. So, how do you stand out from the pack? That’s where your personal statement comes in.

Your personal statement is a crucial part of your admission application. A stellar personal statement can make your application leap out of the pile.

If you didn’t get the marks you planned, your personal statement can be what gets you across the line.

Your statement is an opportunity to shine a light on your achievements, especially if you’re applying as a mature age student. It’s your chance to offer a peek at your personality and convince the university you’re a good fit for them.

Ten steps to writing a personal statement

1. Make time

Writing a personal statement takes time. Writing an excellent one takes even longer! Don’t leave it until the last minute – give yourself plenty of time.

2. Just start

Nearly everyone finds it hard to get started writing a personal statement. That’s the trick. Just get started and the hardest bit is over! Try making a list of the best things about you and go from there.

3. Be relevant

Stick to facts relevant to the course you’re applying for or frame them in a way that makes them relevant. For example, use your volunteering experience to highlight teamwork skills:

‘Teamwork was key to my volunteering work with Wagtail Sanctuary. We often worked in pairs to carry out animal health checks and do it safely. We also had to manage and agree on a fortnightly roster.’

4. Be you

Make your statement unique. If you’ve faced obstacles, explain how you overcame them. Talk about your own reasons for wanting to study. For example:

‘Biology is the subject at school I’m passionate about. It was while doing an assignment on infectious diseases for biology that I decided to study medicine at university. I am fascinated by microbiology and want to work in biomedical research.’

5. Sell yourself

Now’s not the time to be shy. Just like when writing a cover letter, list your achievements, skills and experience. Talk about what you’re good at and what you’re proud of.

6. Keep it simple

You don’t need to write an essay (that comes later!). If your writing is clear and concise, a few paragraphs might be all you need. An example introduction:

‘My motivation for study is to upskill and take my career in a new direction. Marketing is part of my current job and the part I enjoy most. I’d like to put myself in a position where I’m confident to apply for roles that are solely marketing-focused.’

7. Show initiative

If you’re passionate about the course you want to study, chances are you’ve already dipped your toe in with extracurricular activity. Show your initiative by highlighting experience and internships. Example:

‘I’m keen to make it in the games industry. I produce a podcast on games design with friends, where we review the latest games and discuss narrative in gaming. As an intern with Yellow Dog Games I created three prototypes, which you can see at’

8. Check your writing

It’s university you’re applying for, so your writing needs to be up to scratch. Proofread, proofread, proofread! Ask a friend to look over what you’ve written.

9. Stick to requirements

Each course can differ in application requirements. Before submitting, double-check you’re using the right format and meeting the word length.

10. Rinse and repeat

If you’re applying for more than one course, there’s no reason why you can’t recycle your personal statement for each application. Just give it a tweak to keep it relevant.

One last thing: don’t get the personal statement mixed up with an access and equity statement. The statement for an access and equity application focuses on any disadvantage you may have faced. Learn about access and equity here.

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Cathy Gutierrez
Cathy Gutierrez

Manager, Admissions and CPL, Student Administration, Deakin University

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