The Personal Statement (also called Statement of Purpose)

Your Personal Statement/Essay is like a written handshake; it’s the first impression you give to administrators. Your personal statement is your opportunity to emphasize your best qualities and to show off your writing and communication skills. Also, if your transcript isn’t the greatest, you can use your personal statement to explain why, or to go into detail about your other talents away from school. While your GPA does factor into the equation, other extracurricular activities count as well, so be sure to list them. Even if there is a minimum GPA requirement that you don’t meet, you may still be able to participate in a program if you write a strong Personal Statement/Essay and have good letters of recommendation. You will probably write and re-write more than one draft of your personal statement before turning in your application. You may even want a professor to look it over before you write the final draft. This is especially true if you are asked to tell your audience what you are hoping to learn and get out of your study abroad program. Briefly explain your personal and academic goals. Most study abroad program administrators particularly want to know why you desire to study abroad in that particular country.

The goal of your personal statement should guide your writing: Are you writing for purposes of admission into a program? Are you competing for a scholarship? Are you trying to set yourself apart as a candidate for a nationally competitive fellowship? Maybe a combination of the above? Keep in mind what questions your reader is trying to answer about you and address those questions.

Generally speaking, if you are writing a personal statement for a study abroad application or scholarship offered through UMKC's Center for International Academic Programs, the readers are looking at the following:

  • What is motivating this student to go on a study abroad program? Why does he/she want to go to this location to take these classes at this moment in his/her academic career?

  • How clear is the student in his/her understanding of what the program will entail and how it will benefit him/her? How will sending this student on this program benefit the student, and ultimately the university when he/she returns?

  • How well written is the personal statement in terms of mechanics? Are there any typographical errors, problems with punctuation, run on sentences or other errors that would indicate the student needs help in this area?

Writing your personal statement can be one of the most satisfying--or frustrating--writing experiences you'll ever have. The personal statement is an important part of your application package. Depending on the topic you choose, the essay you write provides additional evidence of your intellectual and creative achievement. The essay is also the only opportunity for the readers of your application to get a feel for you as a person as well as for you as a student. The essay is also the place where you can put your academic record into the context of your opportunities and obstacles. There is no one correct way to write a personal statement, but in general those who will read your essay are looking for two important things:

  • HOW the essay provides evidence of your achievements that isn't reflected in other parts of your application

  • HOW and WHY the events that you describe have shaped your attitude, focus, and, most of all, your intellectual vitality.

This information will help you think about and craft a personal statement by taking you step by step through a process of brainstorming, drafting and revising. At the end, we hope that you will produce a personal statement that you are proud of and that will provide admissions officers with an accurate portrait of who you are and why a college education is important to you. Make an appointment with the UMKC Writing Center to go over your Personal Statement!  

Visit Purdue tips on writing a personal statement to see examples and get great tips.

Be sure you:

  • answer the questions you are asked - don't use the same statement for all applications – always be certain your answer fits the question being asked

  • tell a story – set yourself apart

  • be specific – use examples for backing up your desires (why would you be good)?

  • find an angle – find a way to make it interesting

  • concentrate on your opening paragraph – here you will grab the reader’s

  • attention (or not)
  • tell what you know regarding a specific country or program of study

  • be choosy about what you choose to include (don’t include controversial/political subjects)

  • do research if needed – find out all you can about the country, academics, university specifics

  • write well and correctly – get editing help from professor, friend or family

  • avoid clichés – “I want to expand my horizons” is highly overused

Asking for ... and receiving ... good letters of recommendation