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Why Foreign Universities Require Personal Statements Or Statement Of Purpose

Universities receive admission applications from thousands of aspiring students. For instance, Harvard University had 39, 041 applications for her undergraduate programs in 2018 and accepted only 5.4%, University of Oxford had 24, 645 graduate students applying and accepting 0.215% in 2015/2016 session. What about the California Institute of Technology? She had an acceptance rate of 8%. In 2017, Wharton Business School had an acceptance rate of 19.3% while London Business School in 2015 had an acceptance rate of 26%. What about the renowned Harvard Business School? In 2017, she had 11%! Although, these are for schools that reveal her acceptance rates. What these statistics tell us is that it is highly competitive and rigorous to get admitted into top graduate programs globally. And even for less prestigious institutions, as the numbers of applications will swell.

Just like you don’t automatically get a job because you graduated with a first class, getting accepted into graduate studies goes beyond one’s grades – which are usually impressive. These are the factors that play during the application process:

· CV/Resume

· Letters of recommendation

· English proficiency tests’ results (this depends on the school and nationality of applicant).

· Results of standardised tests (GMAT/GRE/SAT/TOEFL/IELTS/LSAT)

· Transcripts

· Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose

The first five can make your application a success. How you deal with the last – personal statement/statement of purpose – can mar the application.


A personal statement is an essay that describes the process of your strengths. Whether you are applying for a scholarship, graduate study or an MBA program, you would be required to write a personal statement where you will have to create a logical connection between your past, present and future. This includes your undergraduate experience (or high school for aspiring undergrads), work experience and future aspirations.

On the other hand, statement of purpose is an aspect of one’s application to a graduate school or a professional program that tells the admissions committee who you are, what you intend doing and the impact in the society. You also need to explain how the school will help your career aspirations. There are usually little or differences between both. Some schools term it “personal statement”, others say “Goals”, “Essay” etc.

A SoP or PS is needed to convince admission officers or scholarship awarding bodies on why you should be chosen. The requirements differ across institutions, disciplines and departments. But the underlying theme remains: Tell us why you should be given the scholarship or admission? The bodies in charge of accepting your PS or SoP want to see your enthusiasm, charisma, desire and character. The essay should not only be convincing but also exhibit innate attributes. See your SoP/PS as a cover letter conveying why you are the right fit for the job position. Admission officers don’t usually individuals with no record of doing something extra-ordinary, but rather they desire individuals who are balanced and have a fair view of the world. Ditto for scholarship board members who desire to see why you want the sponsorship and what you would do with it.

Furthermore, applicants should see this write-up as the opportunity to explain why they are the right candidates for the program and why the program suits them. As this provides the occasion to further discuss your strengths, competencies, values, goals and experiences. This makes you a unique candidate and not just making up the numbers.

For an undergraduate program, tutors are not only interested in your academic ability but also potential. They desire to see you are truly engaged to the course of study. These include relevant extracurricular activities, engagement with the course of subject. Don’t write your personal statement as a checklist of required achievements but explain what motivated you to apply for the course and how your life experiences align with it.


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