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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and associate professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and the author of The Success Factor and Financial Times Guide to Mentoring . She was named the #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters and test your mentoring impact . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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Jul 10, 2023

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how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Hannah L. Miller

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Hannah L. Miller, MA, is the senior editor for Leaders Media. Since graduating with her Master of Arts in 2015,...

How to Write a Personal Statement: Tell Your Story for Success

What is a personal statement, the purpose of having a personal statement, structure of a personal statement, how to write a personal statement, tips for having an effective personal statement, personal statement example, personal clarity cultivates long-term vision.

It’s not uncommon during the application process to come across a section asking you to write a personal statement. This can happen whenever you fill out an application, whether it’s for college admissions, a new job, or anything else. If you’ve ever stared at the question, wondering what exactly they mean by “personal statement,” that’s understandable. They’re essentially asking you to distill who you are, where you excel, and what you stand for in the space of only a few paragraphs. That’s a lot of pressure, especially if you haven’t exactly thought about those key questions before. It will likely be the first time you’ve ever needed to know how to write a personal statement.

You shouldn’t let the intimidation of the moment overwhelm you. Don’t look at writing a personal statement as a chore but rather as an opportunity . This is your chance to truly express yourself and explain what makes you tick. It’s also an opportunity to show how you stand out over everyone else.

In this article, learn what a personal statement is, the purpose behind it, how to write one, and some additional tips for crafting the strongest personal statement you can.

“A personal statement should summarize what the candidate has done in the past, what they want to do next, and the skills/knowledge/experience that bridges the two.” Zena Everett, director and career coach at Second Careers

A personal statement is a detailed look at who you are, including your skills, values, achievements, goals, hobbies, passions, and any other information relevant to the position you are applying for. The main focus of a personal statement will largely depend on if the application is for a job or if it’s intended for a college admissions committee.

For example, a personal statement to get into college will likely talk about high school achievements and awards as well as what the individual hopes to study. 

A personal statement written for a job, on the other hand, will usually refer to accomplishments in past jobs as well as what you want to achieve as you advance in your career. 

In general, a personal statement for a job will be shorter, but both types should focus on what unique aspects you bring to the table along with the purpose that drives you to succeed. While not exactly a mission statement , it should reference what you hope to accomplish in life.

You shouldn’t wait to write a personal statement until the moment you see the question on an application. Preparing one beforehand will get you ready to answer what is a pretty important question. If you haven’t made one yet, write it ahead of time so you can refer to it when applying for a job, college, or graduate school. 

Essentially, a personal statement represents your personality, goals, and achievements in a succinct way for those in decision-making roles. They should get a good sense of who you are and what kind of person you want to become. You may also choose to include what career coach Donna Shannon calls a “passion statement,” which is a quick summary of why you love your job.

The following are some of the insights a personal statement can reveal to someone about you:

  • Crucial events in your life that shaped you into the person you are today
  • The core values that inform the most important decisions you make
  • The ethical values that you strive to live by when no one is watching
  • Times when you’ve needed to learn and grow
  • A vision for your life that you hope to fulfill

Personal statements should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. That much is pretty straightforward. However, the way in which you tackle the content of your personal statement usually follows one of two main structures: narrative or montage.

Narrative Structure

A narrative structure follows a story, only this time, you’re the main character who follows a hero’s journey. As part of the story, you can talk about the challenges you encountered in your life and how you overcame them . Then you can recount how you changed during that time, becoming the person that you are now. This structure is appropriate when you have faced big challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

Montage Structure

Not everyone faces a monumental challenge in their life. In such cases, a montage structure might be the best choice. This structure strings together a series of events and experiences you’ve had that all are tied into a similar theme . The experiences should represent different facets of your life that give helpful insight into your character and skills.

1. Create an Outline

While an outline won’t be seen by your intended audience, it is an indispensable step in creating the best personal statement you can. With an outline, you can organize your thoughts and properly plan out what your personal statement will include . This is the stage where you decide on your structure and what you’ll cover in the limited space you have. Creating an outline first will make writing your personal statement that much easier.

2. Begin With a Personality-Driven Introduction

Your introduction should serve more than just to ease the reader into your personal statement. Take the opportunity to show your personality from the very start . Indicate the type of person you are, and hook the reader with your unique qualities. Part of the introduction should discuss why the position or school interests you and why you would be the perfect fit there. The introduction should compel the reader to continue with the rest of the personal statement.

3. Detail Your Experiences, Skills, and Passions

Most of your personal statement should focus on the experiences, skills, and interests that make you different from everyone else. Use the body paragraphs to talk about what unique achievements you’ve accomplished. Go into detail about the skills you have that would be a huge benefit to the university or organization you want to join. Write about your goals and how much they mean to you.

You may find that all of these subjects lead to a personal statement that is far too long. While you want to be detailed, brevity is beneficial. One survey from the UK found that admissions officers spent on average only two minutes reading a personal statement. So pick and choose what you feel is the most relevant and unique information. Remember that you’re trying to sell them on the idea of having you join them. If it doesn’t contribute toward that end, there’s no need to include it. Harvard Business Review calls this “an elevator pitch to impress the recruiters.”

4. End With a Strong Conclusion

Your personal statement should conclude by summarizing many of the earlier points you made about why you want to be there and how you can help them. Make sure your conclusion is clear and strong. This is the final impression you’ll be able to give the reader, so you want it to be a positive one that makes them want to see more of you. Doing all this in a couple of sentences is an effective way to wrap up your personal statement.

5. Review and Refine

No personal statement will be perfect the first time you write it. Go back over what you wrote to proofread it. Check to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Review it to see that you’re getting your main points across. If possible, after writing your statement, let it sit for a day and come back later with some fresh eyes . In that way, you’ll be able to identify anything you might have missed.

Now that you know the basics of how to format a personal statement, review the following additional tips so that you produce the strongest, most dynamic statement possible.

  • Get feedback from friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Use active voice as much as possible.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Avoid over-explaining.
  • Use a positive tone throughout.
  • Stay away from cliches.
  • Name your most recent achievements, not things from many years ago.
  • Choose specific examples instead of generalities.

An additional thing to note is to actually answer the questions given in the prompt. A general personal statement can still be effective, but the prompt usually tells you what exactly people will be looking for in your answer. Copying and pasting your personal statement for every application will lead to a statement that misses the mark, no matter how well-written it is. As recruiter and business manager Laura Ross writes , “If you don’t take the time to ensure your personal statement is relevant to each job application, it will appear that you’ve been a bit sloppy, or even lazy.”

Ultimately, you should never overlook the personal statement section of an application. “Take it seriously!” is the advice given by Darren Weeks, a senior recruitment partner at the Office for National Statistics. “A few lines isn’t good for a personal statement, and won’t provide the evidence needed to allow your application to be assessed fully.” Think about what you write, and give an honest, insightful response.

Note that the following is merely a personal statement example and not one you should follow word for word. This example also uses the montage structure mentioned above.

“From the moment I stepped through the doors of the first marketing agency I worked for, I’ve always believed in creating a deep connection with customers and clients. This has led to numerous successful projects over the course of my 10-year career in marketing, a pattern of success I know I can carry over to your organization.

One particular project that proved highly influential was a client-outreach program I spearheaded. Thanks to my bilingual background, I designed two different programs, thereby increasing the potential customer base and reaching more people than ever before. I was also part of a marketing team that doubled our company’s revenue while under a strict deadline with a limited budget. My planning skills were instrumental in getting that project off the ground. I also helped launch a new e-commerce branch, creating multiple opportunities to reach customers and solve their needs.

My track record as a successful marketer is one of solving problems for the companies I’ve worked for as well as the customers we have. As I continue to grow in my career, I will bring the same levels of success to your company while further refining my skills.”

Writing a personal statement helps you to gain perspective by facilitating greater long-term vision and self-understanding. In much the same way a vision statement can help an organization, having your own personal statement leads to better decision-making, clearer goals, and an overall stronger sense of self. All of these elements are necessary for success.

Establishing that vision can be a challenge, though. The following are some tips that will help you create a vision for your life.

  • Ask yourself deep questions, such as what your ideal future looks like or what problems in the world truly bother you.
  • Think about what purpose you hope to carry out in your life.
  • Focus on the details of your vision.
  • Communicate your vision to others.
  • Keep distractions away from you.
  • Gain an understanding that your vision can change and mature over time.

Creating a vision board can also help define your vision in life. For more on how to do that, read the following article:

How to Create a Vision Board That Works

Leaders Media has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy .

  • Adams, R. (2023, June 15). UK university staff only read students’ personal statements for two minutes. The Guardian .
  • Laker, B. (2022, July 26). Switching Careers? Here’s How to Write a Strong Resume. Harvard Business Review.
  • Ross, Laura. “A Recruiter’s Guide To Writing A Powerful Personal Statement.” TMM Recruitment.
  • Shannon, D. (n.d.). The Passion Statement: Keystone of your job search. .
  • Weeks, D. (n.d.). Personal Statements in recruitment – Why and How? .
  • Whitmell, C. (2014, April 8). What makes a recruiter hate your CV? The Guardian .


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10 personal achievements examples that can inspire yours

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What are personal achievements?

Why highlight your personal achievements, 10 examples of achievements for a resume, how to highlight accomplishments in a resume or job interview, use strong language, don’t sell yourself short.

Hiring managers are busy people. Between back-to-back meetings, endless emails, and negotiating offers, it’s no wonder they spend only seven seconds reviewing a job seeker’s resume . 

If the resume they’re reading happens to be yours, it better stand out . A great CV should quickly show recruiters why you’re the best candidate for the job by being short, well-organized, and tailored to the position to which you’re applying.

And most importantly, it should be more than a list of previous job descriptions. It should highlight your track record of successes and achievements.

Listing your greatest achievements shows potential employers you can produce great outcomes for them because you’ve done it before. Whether you improved customer satisfaction rates or exceeded sales expectations, highlighting your accomplishments shows you value hard work and follow through on your commitments.

And don’t stick to just professional accomplishments, either — your personal ones have the same effect. As long as they relate to the job at hand, personal milestones add to a recent graduate’s otherwise sparse CV or complement a seasoned professional’s diverse work experience. 

But you should be strategic with the accomplishments you choose to highlight. You want to use them to demonstrate transferable skills, experiences, or personal qualities that aren’t obvious in the rest of your document. 

To better understand how to accomplish this, let’s take a look at these ten personal achievement examples. Hopefully, you can use them to inspire your own.

Generally, an achievement is any previous success you’re proud of. This means anything from raising a family to earning a degree or overcoming a chronic illness. But when it comes to your CV, only highlight achievements that:

  • Demonstrate your capacity to do the job at hand 
  • Are based on specific, measurable results.

For example, a strong professional achievement could involve writing a new sales pitch at work that lead to a 50% increase in deals over your first year.

Personal achievements are, as the name suggests, successes in your personal life. These can include anything from building a house to running the Boston Marathon. In the context of your resume or a job interview, they should demonstrate your ability to:

  • Solve a problem. Managers want employees who can think critically and address organizational problems. Your personal mission to install an extra speed bump on your street shows that you’re able to identify problems (like dangerous driving) and take steps to address them.
  • Overcome a challenge. A defeatist mentality will surely lead to defeat. Personal achievements like running a marathon help prove your grit and can-do attitude to prospective employers.
  • Realize your goals. If you can achieve your personal goals , you can achieve professional ones . A fundraiser organized for your local recreation center shows you can set a target and make a plan to hit it.

The personal achievements on your CV would shine even brighter if you won an award or some form of recognition for them. Mentioning a prize in your job application isn’t boastful but instead shows that others recognize your contribution.

An award in community service proves your commitment and actions had a noticeable benefit on your collaborators and neighbors.

Your first instinct might be to exclude your personal achievements from a job application. Why should your personal life have any bearing on your professional one? But in reality, accomplishments outside of your day job can help you through the recruitment process. They can:

  • Help you land a job interview . Managers want employees with a track record of getting things done. Your list of achievements shows you’re more than capable of moving projects across the finish line.
  • Facilitate a career change. Personal side hustles help sharpen new skills before transitioning into a new job. If you currently write social media content but would rather produce SEO blog posts, freelancing as a part-time blog writer helps you gain experience before applying for full-time roles. Plus, a personal Instagram account with several thousand followers proves you’re doing something right. 
  • Land your first job after college. As a recent graduate, you may not have professional accomplishments to share yet. In this scenario, your personal and academic achievements become much more important. A person elected to student government or named to the Dean’s List every year of study will stand out from someone who coasted through their degree without doing much else.


You should be strategic when choosing achievements to put on a resume. Your personal accomplishments should highlight soft skills or hard skills you’ll use to fulfill job responsibilities. Your selections should also focus on results within a recent time frame, usually from the last year.

Here are some examples:

  • Learned a new language. Not only is this a strong display of personal discipline, but it also can be useful for working with multi-lingual colleagues or clients.
  • Earned a top GPA in a highly technical college program. Applying for your first job out of school is difficult. But acing your technical courses show you have the hard skills to be a great new employee.
  • Launched a part-time freelance business or consultancy to develop new skills. This demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to self-development — valuable assets when applying to a role. 
  • Organized an event to raise money for charity. Fundraisers are complicated affairs that involve a lot of people. This accomplishment demonstrates your teamwork and skills as a project manager .
  • Earned a new degree or certification while working full-time. Returning to school as an adult requires commitment and hard work. Adding a new degree to your LinkedIn profile can help you earn a new job title later. 
  • Helped a not-for-profit overcome its financial troubles. Pro bono work for other organizations helps establish you as a leader in your field and community.
  • Traveled abroad to conduct academic research. International research requires funding. Plane tickets aren’t cheap, so your funders must have thought your study was important.
  • Won a community service award for your volunteer hours. Awards are how groups recognize important people. Earning one for your community service shows you you know how to make an impact.
  • Gave career advice to young professionals. Mentorship is an essential skill for a leader . Helping someone fulfill their potential can line you up for a manager job .
  • Spoke on panels discussing issues facing your profession. Participating in industry conferences as a panelist or keynote speaker shows you’re a leader in your field.


Once you know the successes you want to highlight, you’ll have to learn how to talk about your achievements. For example, professional triumphs should pepper the Work Experience section of your resume.

And under each item, instead of simply listing your job responsibilities, list your biggest achievements in the role — “I exceeded sales targets every quarter since I started the position” sounds more impressive than  “I was responsible for meeting quarterly sales targets.”

However, personal accomplishments may not fit nicely in your “Work experience” section, meaning they’ll need their own headings elsewhere in the document:

  • Education and certificates. Here you can list all of your academic achievements and professional certifications.
  • Conferences. In this section, highlight the events where you gave a speech or sat on a panel. Even attending conferences might count if you participated in meaningful workshops or heard powerful lectures.


  • Volunteer work. List fundraising activities or community service hours here.
  • Extracurriculars. For the recent graduates among you, list your involvement in student government, college sports teams, or other kinds of clubs.
  • Languages. Here you can mention the languages you know and the level at which you can write and speak them. 

You can also highlight your biggest achievements in your cover letter . Describing your involvement in key successes will set you apart from other candidates and make a good first impression on your recruiter.

Everywhere you mention your accomplishments, whether in your cover letter or your CV, make sure to use strong action verbs like “learned,” “delivered,” and “launched.” These words help connect you to the outcome, showing how your involvement led to the desired results. 

Here’s an example of weak language: “We organized an event that helped generate revenue for the hospital.” 

Here, we can’t tell how you contributed to the team. Even if you played a central role, this statement fails to demonstrate it to the reader.


Let’s word it differently: “I planned and executed a fundraiser for the hospital, which generated almost $4000 for patient care.”

Now we know our involvement in the project (planning and execution) and what impact it had (raised $4000 for patient care). This is much clearer and more impressive for the reader.

When creating your own ten personal achievement examples, remember the cardinal rule: focus on results. You want your employer to connect the dots between you and a positive outcome. Make it easy for them by detailing your successes .

Talk about how you woke up a 5 am every morning to train for a triathlon, sacrificed your Saturdays to mentor at-risk youth, or spent your evenings studying Spanish. Over time, these accomplishments add up. They should not only make you proud, but they’ll also make someone proud to hire you.

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Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

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How to write a personal statement

How to approach writing your personal statement for graduate applications.

If you’re applying for a grad course that requires a personal statement (sometimes also called a ‘statement of purpose’), it can be difficult to know where to start and what to include. Read on for tips from some of our masters’ students about their process and what they found helpful.

1. Before you start

The academic work is the most important reason why we’re here, but that also translates into work experiences, internships, volunteering. I think a big part of the personal statement is crafting that narrative of academic self that fits alongside your professional experiences, to give that greater picture of who you are as an academic. Lauren (MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies)

Start by thinking about the skills, knowledge and interests you’ve acquired over time and how the course at Oxford will take them forward.

Your statement is the story you want to tell about yourself and your academic work to the department you are applying to.

Most of your application and its supporting documents communicate plain facts about your academic career so far. Your personal statement is your best opportunity to put these facts into context and show assessors how you’ve progressed and excelled.

Make sure you highlight evidence of your achievements (a high grade in a relevant area, an award or scholarship, a research internship).

Presenting yourself

When I was writing my personal statement, I went onto my course website. I looked at what they emphasised and what kind of students they were looking for, and I wrote about my experiences based on that. Kayla (MSc in Clinical Embryology)

Make it easy for an assessor to see how you meet the entry requirements for the course (you can find these on each course page ).

Don’t make any assumptions about what Oxford is looking for!

Get to know your department

You want to study this particular subject and you want to study at Oxford (you’re applying here, so we know that!) but why is Oxford the right place for you to study this subject? What interests or qualities of the academic department and its staff make it attractive to you?

Use your academic department’s website for an overview of their research, academic staff and course information (you'll find a link to the department's own website on each course page ).

I said, ‘why do I actually want to be here? What is it about being at Oxford that’s going to get me to what I want to do? Sarah (Bachelor of Civil Law)

Talk it out

Talking to others about your statement can be a great way to gather your ideas and decide how you’d like to approach it. Sarah even managed to get benefit out of this approach by herself:

“I spent a lot of time talking out loud. My written process was actually very vocal, so I did a lot of talking about myself in my room.”

2. The writing process

Know your format.

Make sure you’ve read all the guidance on the How to Apply section of your course page , so you know what’s needed in terms of the word count of the final statement, what it should cover and what it will be assessed for. This should help you to visualise roughly what you want to end up with at the end of the process.

Make a start

When it comes to writing your personal statement, just getting started can be the hardest part.

One good way to get around writer’s block is to just put it all down on the page, like Mayur.

First - write down anything and everything. In the first round, I was just dumping everything - whatever I’ve done, anything close to computer science, that was on my personal statement. Mayur (MSc Computer Science)

You’ll be editing later anyway so don’t let the blank page intimidate you - try writing a little under each of the following headings to get started:

  • areas of the course at Oxford that are the most interesting to you
  • which areas you’ve already studied or had some experience in
  • what you hope to use your Oxford course experience for afterwards.

3. Finishing up

Get some feedback.

Once you’ve got a draft of about the right length, ask for feedback on what you’ve written. It might take several drafts to get it right.

This could involve getting in touch with some of your undergraduate professors to ask them to read your draft and find any areas which needed strengthening.

You could also show it to people who know you well, like family or friends.

Because they’re the first people to say, ‘Who is that person?’ You want the people around you to recognise that it really sounds like you. It can be scary telling family and friends you’re applying for Oxford, because it makes it real, but be brave enough to share it and get feedback on it. Sarah (Bachelor of Law)

Be yourself

Finally - be genuine and be yourself. Make sure your personal statement represents you, not your idea about what Oxford might be looking for.

We have thousands of students arriving every year from a huge range of subjects, backgrounds, institutions and countries (you can hear from a few more of them in our My Oxford interviews).

Get moving on your application today

To find out more about supporting documents and everything else you need to apply, read your course page and visit our Application Guide .

Applicant advice hub

This content was previously available through our  Applicant advice hub . The hub contained links to articles hosted on our  Graduate Study at Oxford Medium channel . We've moved the articles that support the application process into this new section of our website.

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Academic Personal Statement Guide + Examples for 2024

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You have a bright future ahead of you in academia and you’ve already found the program of your dreams.

The only problem? 

You have to write an impressive academic personal statement that sets you apart from a sea of applicants.

We know that writing about yourself might not come naturally. And when the academic program you have your sights set on is on the line, it doesn’t make it any easier.

But there’s no need to worry!

We’ve prepared this guide to help you write your academic personal statement and secure your spot in your program of choice.

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • What Is An Academic Personal Statement?
  • 7 Steps to Writing the Best Academic Personal Statement
  • An Example of a Stellar Academic Personal Statement

Let’s dive in.

academic cv

You’ll need an academic CV alongside your personal statement. Create one with ease with Novorésumé !

What Is an Academic Personal Statement?

A personal statement is an essential part of the academic application process.

Much like a motivation letter , your academic personal statement serves to demonstrate why you’re the right candidate for the course and sell yourself as a capable student.

Your goal is to show the admissions committee that they’ll benefit from having you in their university as much as you’ll benefit from joining the program.

Academic Vs CV Personal Statement

The term ‘personal statement’ can mean different things depending on your field.

In the world of job hunting, a personal statement usually refers to a few sentences that go at the top of your CV . This paragraph is meant to convey your top skills, relevant experiences, and professional goals to a hiring manager from the get-go and increase your chances of getting an interview.

However, in the world of academia, a personal statement refers to a more in-depth description of you as a candidate. 

In a nutshell, an academic personal statement shows the admissions committee your academic achievements so far, as well as what motivated you to apply and pursue this position.

Personal statements are also often required when applying for certain jobs, much like writing a cover letter . If you’re looking at a position as a faculty member in a university or other academic institution, for example, you might be asked to provide an academic personal statement.

7 Steps to Write an Academic Personal Statement

Preparation is the key to success and this is exactly where our guide comes in handy.

So just follow these steps and you’re sure to secure your spot:

#1. Read the Brief (Carefully!)

Academic personal statements aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all piece of writing. 

Typically, every institution has its specific requirements on what candidates should include in their academic personal statement.

To make sure you’re on the right track with your academic personal statement, read the brief carefully. Consider taking notes and highlighting important points from your program’s brief as you go through it.

Pay attention to any specific question the university wants you to answer. If you don’t address everything the admissions board expects, your personal statement will look sloppy and you’ll be considered an inattentive candidate.

Be sure to re-read the brief after you’ve finished writing your academic personal statement, too. This way you can make sure you’ve answered everything adequately and you’ll have the opportunity to correct any slips.

#2. Research the Program

Make sure you do your homework on the academic program you’re applying to.

You can’t write a good academic personal statement without research, let alone a great one. Much like researching your employer , taking the time to learn more about your desired school and personalizing your application can make a huge difference.

For example, you can dive into how your values align with that of the school you’re applying to, and how your experience and interests relate to specific things about the program. The more you focus on how you’re the right fit for this specific position, in this specific program – the better.

Carefully read through the school and program’s official pages since everything you would need to know is probably on the school’s official website. You can also ask current and former students for help but remember that whatever they say should never replace official information when crafting your academic personal statement.

#3. Plan Your Statement

An academic personal statement is meant to explain your academic interests and shouldn’t contain irrelevant details about your personal life.

Focus on why you want to study the course you’ve chosen and provide any information about your achievements so far.

Ask yourself the following questions to get the ball rolling on what to write:

  • Why do you want to study (or work) in this program? How will it benefit you?
  • How do your skills match the position?
  • What makes you stand out from other applicants?
  • What are your exact career aspirations?
  • How can you and your work benefit the institution you’re applying to?
  • If you changed fields, how did you decide to apply in this direction?
  • What insight can you bring thanks to your different experiences?
  • How will this change of field help your future career?

Write down your answer to these questions in the first draft of your academic personal statement.

#4. Look at Example Statements

Don’t hesitate to read other people’s academic personal statements online. They’re a great source of inspiration and can help get rid of any remaining writer’s block.

If you’re struggling to understand how to meet the language and formatting requirements for your academic personal statement, seeing actual examples is the best way to learn.

But be careful – don’t copy any lines you read, no matter how impressive you think they are. 

Most universities run every academic personal statement through intensive plagiarism checking, and even a paraphrased sentence could lead to your application being rejected for plagiarism.

So pay more attention to the overall structure of the academic personal statements you read, rather than copying the exact wording.

#5. Structure the Contents

There should be a cohesive argument that your entire essay follows. Each sentence and paragraph should complement and build on the one that comes before it.

The structure of your personal statement should include:

An intriguing introduction to you as a candidate

The introductory paragraph should grab the admission committee’s attention and keep them engaged.

Here you should be sure to avoid cliches like saying how you’ve “always dreamt” of graduating from this university or of studying this exact program. Instead, give an example of what really influenced you to pursue this dream.

Here’s an example:

  • I’ve always loved reading and since I was a child, it’s been my dream to graduate from Oxford University and contribute to the world of literary analysis. That’s why I spent the past year volunteering at my local writers’ society and giving constructive feedback during workshops and book discussions.
  • It wasn’t until I failed my first essay assignment in secondary school that I realized the depth that lies beneath each sentence in a given text. I began to delve into the rich layers of literary texts and the intricacies of literary analysis became my passion. Although initially challenging, the depth of understanding that this field offers about human emotions, cultural contexts, and narrative structures enthralled me. I found myself questioning the narrative structures and character motivations that I had previously taken for granted, and I was eager to understand how the subtle and often overlooked elements within a text could have a profound impact on its overall interpretation. This need to fundamentally understand a given author’s work has stayed with me since and led me to pursue literary analysis as a postgraduate student.

An engaging body

The main part of your academic personal statement should detail your interests, experience, and knowledge, and how they make you suitable for the position.

This is where you should expand on your motivation and use the following tips:

  • Why this university? Provide strong reasons for your choice, related to your future career or the institution’s reputation.
  • Mention your relevant studies and experience. This includes projects, dissertations, essays, or work experience.
  • Give evidence of key skills you have, such as research, critical thinking, communication, and time management, and explain how you can contribute to the department with them.
  • Say what makes you unique as a candidate and provide an example.
  • Explain who have been the main influences who put you on this path and why they’ve influenced you.
  • Mention other relevant experiences, such as memberships in clubs related to the subject, awards you might have won, or impressive papers you’ve written.
  • Talk about your career aspirations and how the program ties into your goal of achieving them.

Depending on the guidelines of the specific university, you could also divide your academic personal statement’s body with subheadings, such as:

  • Academic background
  • Research interests
  • Methodological approaches
  • Research experience
  • Personal experience
  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Relevant skills
  • Career aspirations

A logical conclusion

Your academic personal statement needs a conclusion that ends on an enthusiastic note.

Make sure the conclusion reiterates the main points from the body of your text.

Your relevant accomplishments and desire to attend this specific program should be clear to any reader.

#6. Pay Attention to the Language

When writing the first draft of your academic personal statement, pay attention to the language and tone you’re using.

An academic personal statement is also a formal text, so your writing should reflect that. Colloquialisms aren’t appropriate, as they would take away from the well-mannered impression you want to give the admissions committee.

However, you also want your personal statement to be straightforward and avoid any complex jargon from your field of study.

For example, your opening sentence shouldn’t be overly complicated. You should communicate everything as clearly as possible, and be inclusive to those outside of your field of study since they might be on the admissions board that’s reading your academic personal statement.

Make sure that the tone throughout your text is positive and conveys your enthusiasm for the program. Your academic personal statement should show the admissions committee that you really want to be there, and why that’s beneficial to everyone involved.

#7. Proofread Your Statement

This step probably isn’t surprising to you but it’s worth paying attention to.

Your academic personal statement is a very formal document and it should be spotless. 

So, make sure it adheres to academic writing conventions . For example, contractions like “I’m” instead of “I am” are informal, and should be avoided.

Mistakes like these are very common when writing about yourself, particularly when you’re used to describing yourself in informal environments.

Carefully proofread your academic personal statement, then run it through a grammar checker like Grammarly or Quillbot, then proofread it again.

The tiniest grammar mistake or typo could make the admissions board reject your application.

Academic Personal Statement Example

Ever since my first encounter with the enchanting worlds spun by Flaubert, Balzac, and Proust, my intellectual pursuits have gravitated toward French literature. With an undergraduate degree focused on French Language and Literature, I have been fortunate to explore my passions both theoretically and empirically, embedding them within broader themes of cultural theory and comparative literature. It is with great excitement that I apply for the postgraduate research position in the French Literature program at Kent University, with the aim of contributing novel scholarly perspectives to this captivating field.

Academic Background and Research Interests

During my undergraduate studies, I delved deeply into the realms of 19th-century Realism and Naturalism. My senior thesis, which examined the dialectics of morality and social structures in Balzac's "La Comédie Humaine," was not merely an academic exercise; it served as a crucible where my theoretical understandings were rigorously tested. This research experience intensified my interest in the complex interplay between literature and societal norms, a theme I am eager to further explore in my postgraduate work.

Methodological Approaches

My academic approach is fundamentally interdisciplinary. I strongly believe that literature should not be studied in a vacuum; rather, it should be contextualized within historical, sociological, and psychological paradigms. During a semester abroad in Paris, I took courses in cultural anthropology and French history, an enriching experience that complemented my literature-focused studies. This holistic approach will enable me to contribute a multifaceted perspective to the research endeavors at Kent University.

Previous Research and Scholarly Engagements

My scholarly activities have also extended beyond the classroom. Last summer, I participated in an international conference on French Literature and Post-Colonial Theory, presenting a paper on the depictions of colonial landscapes in Dumas' adventure novels. The opportunity to engage with academics from various disciplines provided me with fresh insights and underscored the importance of collaborative research. Further, I've had the honor of having a review article published in the Sheffield Journal of Contemporary Literary Explorations, where I critiqued a groundbreaking new translation of Verne's works.

Extracurricular Contributions and Skills

In addition to my academic achievements, I have sought to enrich my department’s intellectual community. I served as the editor of our departmental journal and organized a series of seminars featuring guest speakers from the worlds of academia and publishing. My strong organizational skills, combined with proficiency in both written and spoken French and English, make me a versatile candidate capable of adding value to the French Literature program’s broader objectives.

To summarize, my deep-rooted passion for French literature, fortified by rigorous academic training and interdisciplinary methodologies, makes me an ideal candidate for the postgraduate research position in your esteemed program. The prospect of contributing to academic discourse at Kent University is an opportunity I find deeply compelling. I am especially excited about the potential for collaborative research and interdisciplinary inquiries, which aligns perfectly with my academic philosophy. I am fully committed to leveraging my skills, experiences, and enthusiasm to make a substantive scholarly contribution to the study of French Literature. Thank you for considering my application; I am keenly looking forward to the possibility of furthering my academic journey in this vibrant intellectual community.

FAQs on Academic Personal Statements

If you’re wondering anything else about academic personal statements, check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions related to them here:

#1. How do you start a personal statement for an academic job?

Applying for an academic job is different from applying for a position as a student. First, you need to establish your qualifications and enthusiasm for the role immediately.

Start by explaining your current status, for example, as a postdoctoral researcher or an experienced member of the faculty, and specify the position you are applying for. Then follow up with your research interests or personal philosophy towards teaching.

You can add a personal anecdote or compelling fact that summarizes your academic journey so far, or your passion for the field. After that, your academic personal statement can go deeper into the qualifications from your academic CV and how you’re a great fit for the position.

#2. How do I introduce myself in an academic personal statement?

The introduction of your academic personal statement is the key to grabbing the attention of the admissions committee.

Start by stating the field or subject that interests you, and why. You can share a specific personal anecdote or observation that led you to this academic pursuit and set the stage for the detailed explanation in your main body.

The goal of your introduction is to give the reader a sense of who you are, what drives you, and why you would be a valuable addition to their department.

#3. Is an academic personal statement like an essay?

Yes, an academic personal statement can be considered a type of essay.

Both essays and academic personal statements are structured forms of writing that are meant to deliver a coherent argument and are divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion. They provide supporting evidence to prove the point and maintain a logical flow to guide the reader to the final conclusion.

However, essays tend to be objective and explore a specific topic or question in depth. Academic personal statements use similar techniques but they present the candidate’s qualifications, experiences, and aspirations in a way that’s meant to persuade the admissions committee.

#4. How long is an academic personal statement?

Typically, an academic personal statement is between 500 and 1000 words long.

The exact length of the text varies depending on the university and program you’re applying to. You should always check the specific requirements for your desired program, and stick to the guidelines you find.

However, if the university you’re applying to doesn’t specify a word count, you should aim for one to two pages.

#5. What do I avoid in an academic personal statement?

Since your personal statement is a crucial part of your academic application, it’s important to avoid any common mistakes.

Make sure the content of your academic personal statement isn’t too generic. Its goal is to give insight into you as an individual, beyond what can be read in your CV . 

You should also avoid cramming too many points in your text. Your academic personal statement should follow a logical flow, and focus on the relevance of what you’re sharing about yourself and how it relates to the academic program you’re pursuing.

Key Takeaways

And that concludes our guide to writing an academic personal statement!

We hope you feel more confident when crafting your application for that academic program or faculty position you have your sights set on.

Now let’s recap what we talked about so far:

  • Academic personal statements are very different from CV personal statements. While CV personal statements are brief paragraphs at the top of the page, an academic personal statement is an in-depth text that details why you’re interested in a given position, and what makes you a good candidate.
  • The guidelines on academic personal statements vary according to the institution you’re applying to. Read the brief very carefully, and pay attention to what it says about word count and questions your personal statement should answer. Any mistakes here could result in rejection.
  • There are differences between applying for a postgraduate program and applying for a faculty position. But in both cases, you should research the exact place you want to apply to and adjust your application accordingly to match the institution’s values.
  • Always proofread your academic personal statement before sending it, even if you’re sure there are no errors.

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How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement [With Examples]

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

What are the big challenges students should be aware of before writing their UCAS Personal Statement?

  • The essential ingredients for writing a great Personal Statement
  • How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples]

Final hints & tips to help your students

Join 10,000 other counsellors & educators & get exclusive resources delivered straight to your inbox.

The UCAS Personal Statement can sometimes be a student’s only chance to impress a UK university. Read our in-depth guide to helping your students plan & write a winning application.

There are hundreds of articles out there on how to write a UCAS Personal Statement that will grab the attention of a UK university admissions officer.  

But if you’re working with students to help them perfect their Personal Statement in time for the  relevant UCAS deadlines , we can sum up the secret to success in three words.

Planning, structure and story. 

The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s chance to talk about why they want to study for a particular degree, course or subject discipline at a UK university. 

As they set about writing a personal statement, students need to demonstrate the drive, ambition, relevant skills and notable achievements that make them a  suitable candidate for the universities they have chosen to apply to . 

But the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to write a lot about themselves in a relatively short space of time. That’s why lots of planning, a tight structure and a compelling story are essential if a student’s Personal Statement is to truly excel. 

As important deadlines for UK university applications grow closer, we at BridgeU have put together a guide, outlining some of the strategies and techniques to help your students to write a personal statement which is both engaging and truly individual.

Handpicked Related Content

Discover the simple steps that will boost the confidence of your native English speaking & ESL students alike in  University Application Essays: The 5 Secrets of Successful Writing .

As they begin to plan their Personal Statement, students may feel intimidated. It’s not easy to summarise your academic interests and personal ambitions, especially when you’re competing for a place on a course which is popular or has demanding entry requirements. In particular, students will likely come up against the following challenges.

Time pressure

Unfortunately, the Personal Statement (and other aspects of university preparation) comes during the busiest year of the student’s academic life so far.

Students, and indeed teachers and counsellors, must undertake the planning and writing of the personal statement whilst juggling other commitments, classes and deadlines, not to mention revision and open day visits!

Because there is already a lot of academic pressure on students in their final year of secondary school, finding the time and headspace for the personal statement can be hard, and can mean it gets pushed to the last minute. The risks of leaving it to the last minute are fairly obvious – the application will seem rushed and the necessary thought and planning won’t go into  making the personal statement the best it can be . 

Sticking closely to the Personal Statement format

The character limit which UCAS sets for the personal statement is very strict – up to 4,000 characters of text. This means that students have to express themselves in a clear and concise way; it’s also important that they don’t feel the need to fill the available space needlessly.  Planning and redrafting of a personal statement is essential .

Making it stand out

This is arguably the greatest challenge facing students – making sure that their statement sets them apart from everyone else who is competing for a place on any given course; in 2022 alone, UCAS received applications from 683,650 applicants (+1.6k on 2021) students. In addition, UCAS uses its own dedicated team and purpose built software to check every application for plagiarism, so it’s crucial that students craft a truly  original personal statement which is entirely their own work .

The essential ingredients for writing a great UCAS Personal Statement 

We’ve already mentioned our three watch words for writing a high quality Personal Statement.

Planning. Structure. Story. 

Let’s dig deeper into these three essential components in more detail.

Watch: How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement with University of Essex

Planning a ucas personal statement.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s vital that students plan their Personal Statement before they start writing it. Specifically, the planning phase could include: 

  • Students thoroughly researching the UK university courses they plan on applying to. 
  • Deciding on what relevant material to include in their Personal Statement (we’ll cover this in more detail later on). 
  • Writing an unedited first draft where they just get their thoughts and ideas down on paper. 

Structuring a UCAS Personal Statement

As we’ve discussed, the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to be extremely disciplined – they will be required to condense a lot of information into a relatively short written statement. This means that, after they’ve written a rough first draft, they need to think carefully about how they structure the final statement. 

A stand out Personal Statement will need a tight structure, with an introduction and a conclusion that make an impact and really help to tell a story about who your student is, and why they are drawn to studying this particular degree. 

This brings us nicely to our third and final ingredient…

Telling a story with a Personal Statement

The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s opportunity to show a university who they are and how their life experiences have shaped their academic interests and goals. 

So a good Personal Statement needs to offer a compelling narrative, and that means making sure that a student’s writing is well-structured, and that every sentence and paragraph is serving the statement’s ultimate purpose –  to convince a university that your student deserves a place on their subject of choice. 

How to help your students start their UCAS Personal Statement

In order to ensure that a personal statement is delivered on time and to an appropriate standard, it’s essential to plan thoroughly before writing it. Here are some questions you can ask your students before they start writing:

How can you demonstrate a formative interest in your subject?

It may sound obvious but, in order for any UCAS personal statement to have the necessary structure and clarity, students need to think hard about why they want to study their chosen subject. Ask them to think about their responses to the following questions:

What inspired you to study your chosen subject?

Example answer:  My desire to understand the nature of reality has inspired me to apply for Physics and Philosophy

Was there a formative moment when your perspective on this subject changed, or when you decided you wanted to study this subject in more detail?

Example answer:  My interest in philosophy was awakened when I questioned my childhood religious beliefs; reading Blackburn’s “Think”, convinced me to scrutinise my assumptions about the world, and to ensure I could justify my beliefs.

Can you point to any role models, leading thinkers, or notable literature which has in turn affected your thinking and/or inspired you?

Example answer :  The search for a theory of everything currently being conducted by physicists is of particular interest to me and in “The Grand Design” Hawking proposes a collection of string theories, dubbed M-theory, as the explanation of why the universe is the way it is.

Asking your students to think about the “why” behind their chosen subject discipline is a useful first step in helping them to organise their overall statement. Next, they need to be able to demonstrate evidence of their suitability for a course or degree. 

How have you demonstrated the skills and aptitudes necessary for your chosen course?

Encourage students to think about times where they have demonstrated the necessary skills to really stand out. It’s helpful to think about times when they have utilised these skills both inside and outside the classroom. Ask students to consider their responses to the following questions. 

Can you demonstrate critical and independent thinking around your chosen subject discipline?

Example answer :  Currently I am studying Maths and Economics in addition to Geography. Economics has been a valuable tool, providing the nuts and bolts to economic processes, and my geography has provided a spatial and temporal element.

Are you able to demonstrate skills and competencies which will be necessary for university study?

These include qualities such as teamwork, time management and the ability to organise workload responsibly.

Example answer:  This year I was selected to be captain of the 1st XV rugby team and Captain of Swimming which will allow me to further develop my leadership, teamwork and organisational skills.

How have your extracurricular activities helped prepare you for university?

Students may believe that their interests outside the classroom aren’t relevant to their university application. So encourage them to think about how their other interests can demonstrate the subject-related skills that universities are looking for in an application. Ask students to think about any of the following activities, and how they might be related back to the subject they are applying for.

  • Clubs/societies, or volunteering work which they can use to illustrate attributes such as teamwork, an interest in community service and the ability to manage their time proactively.
  • Have they been elected/nominated as a team captain, or the head of a particular club or society, which highlights leadership skills and an ability to project manage?
  • Can they point to any awards or prizes they may have won, whether it’s taking up a musical instrument, playing a sport, or participating in theatre/performing arts?
  • Have they achieved grades or qualifications as part of their extracurricular activities? These can only help to demonstrate aptitude and hard work. 

How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples] 

If sufficient planning has gone into the personal statement, then your students should be ready to go!

In this next section, we’ll break down the individual components of the UCAS Personal Statement and share some useful examples.

These examples come from a Personal Statement in support of an application to study Environmental Science at a UK university. 

Watch: King’s College London explain what they’re looking for in a UCAS Personal Statement


This is the chance for an applying student to really grab an admission tutor’s attention. Students need to demonstrate both a personal passion for their subject, and explain why they have an aptitude for it .  This section is where students should begin to discuss any major influences or inspirations that have led them to this subject choice. 

Example :  My passion for the environment has perhaps come from the fact that I have lived in five different countries: France, England, Spain, Sweden and Costa Rica. Moving at the age of 15 from Sweden, a calm and organized country, to Costa Rica, a more diverse and slightly chaotic country, was a shock for me at first and took me out of my comfort zone […] Also, living in Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, definitely helped me realize how vulnerable the world is and how we need to take care of it in a sustainable manner. 

This opening paragraph immediately grabs the reader’s attention by giving the reader an insight into this student’s background and links their academic interests with something specific from the student’s personal backstory. 

Discussing Academic Achievements 

The next paragraph in this Personal Statement discusses the student’s academic achievements. Because this student has had an international education, they frame their academic achievements in the context of their personal background. They also cite useful examples of other curricula they have studied and the grades they have achieved. 

Example : 

Throughout my academic life I have shown myself to be a responsible student as well as a hard working one, despite the fact that I have had to move around a lot. I have achieved several other accomplishments such as a high A (286/300) in AS Spanish at age 15, and also completed a Spanish course of secondary studies for ‘MEP’(Ministerio de Educacion Publica), which is a system from Costa Rica.   

You’ll notice that this student doesn’t just list their achievements – their strong academic performance is always linked back to a wider discussion of their personal experiences. 

Showcasing Extracurricular Activities

As well as discussing academic achievements, a good Personal Statement should also discuss the student’s extracurricular activities, and how they relate back to the student’s overall university aspirations. 

By the third/fourth paragraph of the Personal Statement, students should think about incorporating their extracurricular experiences, 

Another valuable experience was when my class spent a week at a beach called ‘Pacuare’ in order to help prevent the eggs of the endangered leatherback turtle from being stolen by poachers who go on to sell them like chicken eggs. We all gained teamwork experience, which was needed in order to hide the eggs silently without scaring the mother turtles, as well as making it more difficult for the poachers to find them. 

When the poachers set fire to one of the sustainable huts where we were staying, not only did I gain self-awareness about the critical situation of the world and its ecosystems, I also matured and became even more motivated to study environmental sciences at university.

This is a particularly striking example of using extracurricular activities to showcase a student’s wider passion for the degree subject they want to study. 

Not only does this Personal Statement have a story about volunteering to save an endangered species, it also illustrates this applicants’ wider worldview, and helps to explain their motivation for wanting to study Environmental Science. 

Concluding the UCAS Personal Statement

The conclusion to a UCAS Personal Statement will have to be concise, and will need to tie all of a student’s academic and extracurricular achievements. After all, a compelling story will need a great ending. 

Remember that students need to be mindful of the character limit of a Personal Statement, so a conclusion need only be the length of a small paragraph, or even a couple of sentences. 

“ After having many varied experiences, I truly think I can contribute to university in a positive way, and would love to study in England where I believe I would gain more skills and education doing a first degree than in any other country.  “

A good Personal Statement conclusion will end with an affirmation of how the student thinks they can contribute to university life, and why they believe the institution in question should accept them. Because the student in this example has a such a rich and varied international background, they also discuss the appeal of studying at university in England. 

It’s worth taking a quick look at a few other examples of how other students have chosen to conclude their Personal Statement. 

Medicine (Imperial College, London) 

Interest in Medicine aside, other enthusiasms of mine include languages, philosophy, and mythology. It is curiously fitting that in ancient Greek lore, healing was but one of the many arts Apollo presided over, alongside archery and music.   I firmly believe that a doctor should explore the world outside the field of  Medicine, and it is with such experiences that I hope to better empathise and connect with the patients I will care for in my medical career. 

You’ll notice that this example very specifically ties the students’ academic and extracurricular activities together, and ties the Personal Statement back to their values and beliefs. 

Economic History with Economics (London School of Economics)

The highlight of my extra-curricular activities has been my visit to Shanghai with the Lord Mayor’s trade delegation in September 2012. I was selected to give a speech at this world trade conference due to my interest in economic and social history. […] I particularly enjoyed the seminar format, and look forward to experiencing more of this at university. My keen interest and desire to further my knowledge of history and economics, I believe, would make the course ideal for me.

By contrast, this conclusion ties a memorable experience back to the specifics of how the student will be taught at the London School of Economics – specifically, the appeal of learning in seminar format! 

There’s no magic formula for concluding a Personal Statement. But you’ll see that what all of these examples have in common is that they tie a student’s personal and academic experiences together – and tell a university something about their aspirations for the future.

Watch: Bournemouth University explain how to structure a UCAS Personal Statement

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Know the audience

It can be easy for students to forget that the person reading a personal statement is invariably an expert in their field. This is why an ability to convey passion and think critically about their chosen subject is essential for a personal statement to stand out. Admissions tutors will also look for students who can structure their writing (more on this below). 

Students should be themselves

Remember that many students are competing for places on a university degree against fierce competition. And don’t forget that UCAS has the means to spot plagiarism. So students need to create a truly honest and individual account of who they are, what they have achieved and, perhaps most importantly, why they are driven to study this particular subject.

Proof-read (then proof-read again!)

Time pressures mean that students can easily make mistakes with their Personal Statements. As the deadline grows closer, it’s vital that they are constantly checking and rechecking their writing and to ensure that shows them in the best possible light. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to giving feedback to students writing their Personal Statements, make sure you’re as honest and positive as possible in the days and weeks leading up to submission day. 

And make sure they remember the three key ingredients of writing a successful Personal Statement. 

Planning, structure and story! 

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how to talk about achievements in personal statement

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Personal Statement Skills: What You MUST Include!

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

When you write your personal statement, you’re frequently told to include ‘skills’. But what skills should you include, how should you write about them and why are they important?

The skills to include in your personal statement are the ones which best illustrate your suitability for academic study and your knowledge of your intended subject. You should include skills gained from relevant practical experience and those which are suited to further progression in the subject.

I’ve explained each of these four skills areas in detail below, so that you can create a compelling, successful and skills-rich personal statement in no time at all…

Evidence Your Suitability with Academic Skills

If you’re planning to study at degree level or beyond, the institution you are applying to needs to see evidence of your academic suitability in your personal statement. Yes, you’ll predicted grades to support you, but that’s not enough. What’s key is to evidence your broader academic ability, not just your subject knowledge.

You can click here to read my post on exactly how to make your personal statement outstanding!

Academic abilities break down into three sections, and you need to include examples of each of these in your application:

The logical way to approach these three elements is to combine them into a single point. Each point should show that you have successfully made use of research skills, analysed the relevant data and presented it well, regardless of your subject focus.

You can discover resources that will help you develop your research and analytical skills here , and find out how to strengthen your study skills here .

Take a look at the following extract. It covers all three elements in a concise and compelling way, and it is the kind of approach you need to aim for in your own personal statement:

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

If you’re not sure about the best way to structure your work, or want some extra support with your spelling, punctuation and grammar, then I often steer students towards using Grammarly . It’s a free piece of software that can really lift your writing; it’s highly intuitive and allows you to phrase content in a concise and compelling way. If you want to find out more about how to make Grammarly work for you, check out this link .

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Show the Skills that Prove Your Subject Knowledge

As well as being an appropriately academic candidate, admissions teams will want to see strong evidence of skills related to your subject. They will expect a range of relevant, tangible skills, built up over time and related to both academic and practical study.

They will also want to see evidence that you have acquired skills based on practical experience and engagement with your chosen subject outside of the formal curriculum .

The table below lists the kinds of opportunities that might equip you with the subject-specific skills you should include in your personal statement:

Just like your academic skills, it is important to put these into context using the following formula:

Explain the relevant skill you have, identify how this skill was developed and indicate how it will be of value on the course you are applying for Your Personal Statement Support

Here’s an example that follows this formula, so that you can see how you might write it down effectively:

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Shine by Including Transferable ‘Soft’ Skills

For a long time, transferable or ‘soft’ skills we considered less important in academic applications. You would often hear of students who had been told to ‘add a sentence about their hobbies’. This is not the case today, and admissions officers and employers want to be reassured that applicants have the interpersonal and social skills to succeed in a pressurised and often stressful environment.

In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding. Daniel Goleman

What kinds of transferable skills are universities looking for?

  • Punctuality and preparedness
  • Ability to study independently and effectively
  • Motivation and dedication
  • Physical stamina and engagement
  • Teamwork and cooperative skills
  • Organisation
  • Pressure management and well-being strategies
  • Awareness of personal finance
  • Awareness of multi-form diversity
  • Effective use of technology (personal and professional)
  • Community contribution and volunteering

As before, the important thing is to make sure you put these transferable skills into context. Don’t write them like the list above but indicate why and how they are of value to you and those around you.

For more powerful personal statement strategies, check out my post here .

Prove you have the Skills to Succeed in the Future

Last of all, your personal statement should indicate that you’ve got the potential to develop the skills you’ll need after you graduate, whether that’s in the workplace or in further study.

Common examples include:

By illustrating your existing use of these skills, you are reassuring an employer or course leader that you are not only likely to complete the course, but will be ready to move forwards with strategy and purpose once you graduate.

Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support. You’ve got this! D

Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.

David Hallen

I've worked in the Further Education and University Admissions sector for nearly 20 years as a teacher, department head, Head of Sixth Form, UCAS Admissions Advisor, UK Centre Lead and freelance personal statement advisor, editor and writer. And now I'm here for you...

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Hobbies and Interests Personal Statement Guide

Table of Contents

Hobbies and interests in a personal statement can do more to bring focus and clarity to your statements than fields of study. A good hobby can make a much more exciting and unique statement.

Before writing a personal statement, ensure you have a comprehensive list of your most impressive accomplishments, hobbies, jobs, and talents. Your interests have a significant role in your statement. But don’t think you can’t discuss them because you don’t have specific credentials.

This article provides tips on how to write compelling and distinctive personal statements using hobbies and interests. Read on!

Tips to Consider When Writing Hobbies and Interests in a Personal Statement

Personal statements benefit from including interest, but doing so might be challenging. You won’t go wrong if you stick to these guidelines while writing your statement.

1. Don’t Talk About Your Passion for Its Own Sake

Put less emphasis on the hobby than you should on the qualities it exposes about you.

Don’t talk about your passion for its own sake unless it’s relevant to your field of study. For instance, if you’re applying to dental school, you should do more than state that you enjoy painting. Instead, you should explain how you plan to combine your appreciation for the visual and performing arts in your chosen field.

Making these associations may be complex at first. If you’re stuck for ideas, try writing down why you appreciate your activity and your chosen field. If you see a connection, you should use it.

2. Avoid Claiming That Your Leisure Hobbies Are “exactly Like” Your Future Career

You may say that being a football team captain gave you the leadership skills you’ll need as a doctor. You may also state that your love of art led you to dentistry.

Still, you shouldn’t put too much stock in your current situation. If you can paint, that’s great, but it doesn’t indicate you have the skills to be a dentist. It’s not fair to compare your responsibilities as a football captain to those of a doctor.

Recognizing that your interests reflect aspects of you differs from asserting that your interests are almost similar to your future profession.

The admissions committee will likely take great pride in their work. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to compare it to your hobbies. There are two ways in which these ties can strengthen your application essay.

First, they demonstrate your ability to apply knowledge gained in various contexts to your professional growth.

Second, they prove that your extracurricular activities are relevant to your chosen profession. It is not merely a wishful thinking exercise about your future.

3. How Well You Do in Your Interest Is Important

If your college swimming team won the state title, don’t just say that you swam there. Highlight the skills that helped your team succeed and include examples of how you’ve applied those skills elsewhere.

A well-rounded individual is very desirable in the eyes of the admissions’ committee because achievement in one area usually equals greatness in another.

However, here’s the catch: excelling in your pastime isn’t enough. You need to demonstrate that the skills that helped you succeed in your fun can serve you well in your chosen profession.

If you don’t, people may assume that you’re the type to let your passions get in the way of your professional development and studies. You want your extracurricular activities to be a selling point, not a drawback.

4. Show How Your Interest Benefits Others

It’s a given in nearly every personal statement that the author has some sort of altruistic motivation. However, only a few students can convey their genuine desire to help others in their accounts.

The admissions’ committee can learn much about your character from hearing about your interests and passions. It is an essential detail to provide, but something that is normally expected to be said may make them more skeptical.

5. Your Interests Should Take up No More Than a Few Phrases

The admissions officers can be difficult to predict. Your Mount Everest climb may inspire the admissions board that they can’t forget it.

However, how you describe your connection to the field you’re applying to likely garner greater attention from admissions officers.

You should describe your activities in a few sentences, but you can organize them to maximize their impact. Include a brief discussion of your hobbies near the beginning of your statement to demonstrate how they influenced your early career path.

Your statement should emphasize your potential as a professional in your field, regardless of where you focus. With so little room, every word must count.

Example of Great Hobbies and Interests Personal Statement

The hobby or interest part of an application that stands out. Here’s a great example of all we have discussed using an INK example;

white pink and green floral painting

I am a passionate hobbyist with diverse interests and an enthusiasm for learning new skills. Over the years, I have explored many hobbies, including painting, photography, playing music, gardening, and cooking – just to name a few!

My approach is holistic and creative, seeking out novel ways to engage my interests in exciting and engaging ways. When I was exploring painting, I experimented with different textures and styles to create unique compositions that reflected my aesthetic.

Similarly, as a musician, I endeavored to use unconventional instruments such as kazoos and xylophones to create offbeat melodies. Furthermore, I love utilizing technology to further my endeavors.

These projects have challenged and taught me new abilities, from audio production to Photoshop design. All-in-all, I relish any opportunity to tap into my multifaceted creativity and explore the bountiful world of hobbies and interests.

Your hobbies and interests personal statement are significant! If you have any hobbies or interests that you would like to include in your essay, make sure they are narrow enough.

There’s not enough time to show the committee your skill and passion for all your hobbies! Instead, you should go in-depth and show how the specific activity benefits others.

Hobbies and Interests Personal Statement Guide

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

The start of opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money trial set the stage for weeks of testimony about the former president’s personal life and places his legal troubles at the center of his closely contested campaign against President Joe Biden.

how to talk about achievements in personal statement

Opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money trial set the stage for weeks of testimony about the former president’s personal life and places his legal troubles at the center of his closely contested campaign against President Joe Biden.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at his criminal trial at Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at his criminal trial at Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

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Former president Donald Trump, center, awaits the start of proceedings at Manhattan criminal court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. Opening statements in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial are set to begin. Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he thought might hurt his presidential campaign in 2016. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)

This artist depiction shows defense attorney Todd Blanche pointing at former President Donald Trump while giving his opening statement to the jury in Manhattan criminal court Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Donald Trump, right, sits at defense table during Judge Merchan’s reading of his ruling and instructions to the jury in Manhattan criminal court Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Former President Donald Trump, left, listens as assistant district attorney Matthew Coalangelo, right, gives opening statement to jury with Judge Juan Merchan presiding in Manhattan criminal court Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump walks next to his attorney Todd Blanche, at Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

Former president Donald Trump speaks upon arriving at Manhattan criminal court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. Opening statements in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial are set to begin. Trump is accused of falsifying internal business records as part of an alleged scheme to bury stories he thought might hurt his presidential campaign in 2016. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)

Former president Donald Trump speaks to the media after the first day of opening arguments in his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court for falsifying documents related to hush money payments, in New York, NY, on Monday, April 22, 2024. (Victor J. Blue/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public, a prosecutor told jurors Monday at the start of the former president’s historic hush money trial.

“This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election — to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior, using doctored corporate records and bank forms to conceal those payments along the way,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

What to know about Trump’s hush money trial:

  • Trump trial live updates: Testimony set to resume
  • Trump will be first ex-president on criminal trial. Here’s what to know about the hush money case.
  • A jury of his peers: A look at how jury selection will work in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial .
  • Trump is facing four criminal indictments, and a civil lawsuit. You can track all of the cases here.

A defense lawyer countered by assailing the case as baseless and attacking the integrity of the onetime Trump confidant who’s now the government’s star witness.

“President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes. The Manhattan district attorney’s office should never have brought this case,” attorney Todd Blanche said.

The opening statements offered the 12-person jury — and the voting public — radically divergent roadmaps for a case that will unfold against the backdrop of a closely contested White House race in which Trump is not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also a criminal defendant facing the prospect of a felony conviction and prison.

Former President Donald Trump attends jury selection at Manhattan criminal court in New York, April 15, 2024. (Jeenah Moon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

It is the first criminal trial of a former American president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury. Befitting that history, prosecutors sought from the outset to elevate the gravity of the case, which they said was chiefly about election interference as reflected by the hush money payments to a porn actor who said she had a sexual encounter with Trump.

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again,” Colangelo said.

The trial, which could last up to two months, will require Trump to spend his days in a courtroom rather than on the campaign trail, a reality he complained about Monday when he lamented to reporters after leaving the courtroom: “I’m the leading candidate ... and this is what they’re trying to take me off the trail for. Checks being paid to a lawyer.”

Trump has nonetheless sought to turn his criminal defendant status into an asset for his campaign, fundraising off his legal jeopardy and repeatedly railing against a justice system that he has for years claimed is weaponized against him. In the weeks ahead, the case will test the jury’s ability to judge him impartially but also Trump’s ability to comply with courtroom protocol, including a gag order barring him from attacking witnesses, jurors, trial prosecutors and some others.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revisits a years-old chapter from Trump’s biography when his celebrity past collided with his political ambitions and, prosecutors say, he scrambled to stifle stories that he feared could torpedo his campaign.

Former President Donald Trump, followed by his attorney Todd Blanche, left, exits the courtroom following proceedings in his trial, Friday, April 19, 2024, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York. (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)

Former President Donald Trump, followed by his attorney Todd Blanche, left, exits the courtroom following proceedings in his trial, Friday, April 19, 2024, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York. (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)

The opening statements served as an introduction to the colorful cast of characters that feature prominently in that tawdry saga, including Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who says she received the hush money ; Michael Cohen, the lawyer who prosecutors say paid her; and David Pecker, the tabloid publisher who agreed to function as the campaign’s “eyes and ears” and who served as the prosecution’s first witness on Monday.

AP AUDIO: Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway.

AP correspondent Julie Walker reports on opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial.

Pecker is due back on the stand Tuesday, when the court will also hear arguments on whether Trump violated Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order with a series of Truth Social posts about witnesses over the last week.

In his opening statement, Colangelo outlined a comprehensive effort by Trump and his allies to prevent three separate stories — two from women alleging prior sexual encounters — from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign. That undertaking was especially urgent following the emergence late in the race of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump could be heard boasting about grabbing women sexually without their permission.

Colangelo recited Trump’s now-infamous remarks as Trump looked on, stone-faced.

“The impact of that tape on the campaign was immediate and explosive,” Colangelo said.

Within days of the “Access Hollywood” tape becoming public, Colangelo told jurors that the National Enquirer alerted Cohen that Stormy Daniels was agitating to go public with her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

“At Trump’s direction, Cohen negotiated a deal to buy Ms. Daniels’ story in order to prevent American voters from learning that information before Election Day,” Colangelo told jurors.

But, the prosecutor noted, “neither Trump nor the Trump Organization could just write a check to Cohen for $130,000 with a memo line that said ‘reimbursement for porn star payoff.’” So, he added, “they agreed to cook the books and make it look like the payment was actually income, payment for services rendered.”

Those alleged falsified records form the backbone of the 34-count indictment against Trump. Trump has denied a sexual encounter with Daniels.

Blanche, the defense lawyer, sought to preemptively undermine the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his role in the hush money scheme, as someone with an “obsession” with Trump who cannot be trusted. He said Trump had done nothing illegal when his company recorded the checks to Cohen as legal expenses.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It is called democracy,” not a crime, Blanche said.

Blanche challenged the notion that Trump agreed to the Daniels payout to safeguard his campaign. Instead, he characterized the transaction as an attempt to squelch a “sinister” effort to embarrass Trump and his loved ones.

“President Trump fought back, like he always does, and like he’s entitled to do, to protect his family, his reputation and his brand, and that is not a crime,” Blanche told jurors.

The efforts to suppress the stories are what’s known in the tabloid industry as “catch-and-kill” — catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

Besides the payment to Daniels, Colangelo also described other arrangements, including one that paid a former Playboy model $150,000 to suppress claims of a nearly yearlong affair with the married Trump. Colangelo said Trump “desperately did not want this information about Karen McDougal to become public because he was worried about its effect on the election.”

He said jurors would hear a recording Cohen made in September 2016 of himself briefing Trump on the plan to buy McDougal’s story. The recording was made public in July 2018. Colangelo told jurors they will hear Trump in his own voice saying: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?”

Trump denies McDougal’s claims of an affair.

The first and only witness Monday was Pecker, the then-publisher of the National Enquirer and a longtime Trump friend who prosecutors say met with Trump and Cohen at Trump Tower in August 2015 and agreed to help Trump’s campaign identify negative stories about him.

Pecker described the tabloid’s use of “checkbook journalism,” a practice that entails paying a source for a story.

“I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000” on a story without getting his approval, Pecker said Tuesday.

The New York case has taken on added importance because it may be the only one of the four against Trump to reach trial before the November election. Appeals and legal wrangling have delayed the other three cases.

Tucker reported from Washington.

Follow the AP’s coverage of former President Donald Trump at .



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