More than ever, there has been an increase in Nigerians desiring to study abroad at various institutions at either undergraduate or postgraduate programs. The vast majority of countries Nigerians desire to go are: the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Canada, South Africa, Netherlands, Norway, India, Russia, China, South Korea, Israel etc. Some of these scholarships involved in postgraduate studies include: PTDF scholarships, Shell postgraduate scholarships, NLNG postgraduate scholarships, AGIP postgraduate scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships, MEXT Japan, Chevening scholarships, Erasmus etc. There are numerous to mention. Certain requirements are expected of them, some of which are: travel documents, transcripts, standardised tests’ results (GRE, LSAT, SAT, GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL, EJU), certificates, letters of recommendation, etc. What is missing there? Personal statement.

A personal statement is not “usually” part of what constitutes an aspiring student’s materials when travelling to the university of his/her choice. However, it is an important aspect in universities’ admission. As the name connotes, it is personal. This implies that every personal statement is unique to an individual and no two or more personal statements are the same. It is about you. Unlike a CV which is majorly about your professional/career history; personal statements encompasses everything about one’s life: your activities, why you desire to study the course, why the university, personal goals, failures, achievements, ambitions etc. It is an opportunity for the institution to know more about you beyond your professional life. So, the question is: How does one write a personal statement?


Unsurprisingly, this is the hardest part when writing a statement. Most individuals tend to overdo this aspect thereby making admission officers to throw their application in the bin. There is really no point creating an over-kill statement thereby making your introduction verbose.

Additionally, no point using cliché words or quotes by prominent individuals. Admission officers want to see your thoughts not others. It is you not them that aspire to study the course and discipline. Your interest in the course and university should be of utmost importance. Commence with why you chose it; what excites you about the course and why you want to learn more about it. This is the opportunity to display your desire to studying the course and school.


You are expected to elucidate reasons for studying the course/discipline you chose. Admission officers want to read the desire and enthusiasm you have for the course. This is by narrating several events in a logical and sequential manner in a way to attract the mind of the officer(s). Your work experiences, volunteering activities, projects etc. You have to marry these together in a coherent manner.

It can be very tempting to overemphasise a point, but do note that, this is graduate school. Admissions officers expect you to sound like one – a graduate. Don’t risk trying to crack a joke, as the admissions officer may not share your sense of humour – different cultures and belief system. Avoid personal clichés and leave out the unnecessary celebrity quotes.

Additionally, relate your hobbies, skill-set, extra-curricular activities and interests to display suitability for the course program. Conclude this by elucidating why the university will be the best place to undergo your studies. This is by listing core resources, staff members, facilities, research output from the department etc. Think about the question: Why are you good for this course?

There are DO’s and Don’ts in writing a personal statement/statement of purpose/essay.


  • Use everyday language: It’s unique to you and your person than to express yourself in grandiose vocabularies which will most of the time take you to the thesaurus/dictionary every few minutes. Your statement of purpose/essay or personal statement should reflect your personality – the real you.
  • Have some rules when writing: An example is the “so what if”. This mostly comes up especially if you are not sure of the information.
  • Spell check your write-up: Are you applying to an institution using British English or American? S go through the article again, even if the next day.
  • Read aloud: If necessary, print your document and read aloud your statement to locate possible errors that could not be spotted on the screen. You might also give to someone you know has a better grasp of the language than you.
  • Brevity: Be concise and make your write-up lucid. Make it easier for the reader and anyone to be able to understand what you are saying from a first sight.
  • Integrity: Be honest and reflective where appropriate. What is it about this course or university that you are applying for that will help you grow, and develop? This is the only chance, before an interview for an institution or potential employer to get some context about you – it’s important to not just show off (positively) but to show how they can help you.
  • Specific: Be specific and use statistics that demonstrate your work/achievements to date. Generic statements, vague claims and bland examples will not make you stand out.
    Volunteering Activities: Mention all of your voluntary work. It shows your commitment, passion and the skills you have developed.

    DO NOT:

  • Lie: Plagiarise, exaggerate or lie. Be truthful and say the things about you.
  • Humdrum: Overuse buzzwords like ‘passion, dedicated, motivated, effective’ etc. or make sweeping statements like ‘I am a highly motivated …’; let the examples do the talking; remember your statement comes in partnership with your CV and ‘motivation’ is easy to demonstrate without explicitly stating it a 1000 time.
  • Hackneyed: Use a hackneyed statement, such as ‘I am a people person’.
  • Irrelevant: Include irrelevant personal facts like your date of birth (you can put these in your CV if you wish to include them). Of course, if you are specifically asked to provide these details, then do so.
  • Celebrity Quotes: Include quotes from other people in place of your own thoughts (especially famous quotes), unless there is a very good reason. On the other hand, quotes from referees may be fine – just don’t bombard the reader with such.
  • Enumerate: ‘List’ your interests. Instead, demonstrate them, such as ‘I volunteer for a domestic violence helpline’ rather than ‘I am interested in domestic violence issues’.
  • Boredom: Bore the reader. If you get bored when you re-read your statement yourself, then you need to revise it and make it more interesting.

    Finally, you need to own it and believe in it. So, having taken account of all the advice, write it the way that you want to – and in such a way that it sounds like and reads like the ‘real’ you. These should be properly fitted into your introduction, body and conclusion.

    Source: JARUSHUB


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