How to write a personal statement to study abroad

Updated April 17, 2017

Your personal statement reveals the person behind the application statistics. Applications gather personal information in an impersonal way. They intentionally gather quantifiable information in order to make objective calculations about applicants' qualifications.

However, it is often necessary to distinguish between two applicants who are equally educated, experienced and otherwise qualified to study abroad. Your personal statement enables reviewers to make such distinctions. They use what your personal statement reveals about your talents, interests, goals and experiences to assess your application within the broader context of your life experience.

Create an outline. Follow the standard format of introduction, body and summary. "Creating an outline before writing a paper helps students to organise their thoughts," says Deborah M. Sims, coordinator of the University of California Rverside Teaching Assistant Development Program.

In your word processor, set off three section titles--introduction, body and summary--by making them all capital letters, bold and underlined. Divide the body of your essay into subsections. This will keep you focused while you write. Delete the section titles when your personal statement is finished.

Find an angle for your introduction. According to the Purdue Owl, the biggest challenge to a successful personal statement is making the ordinary sound interesting. Introduce your essay with flair, but not cliché. State your thesis and introduce the body of your personal statement.

For example, "I've always wanted to visit Italy," is mundane. However, "I loved conversing in Italian with my grandfather before he died, but my interest in Italy is more complex..." grabs the reader's attention. It states in an appealing way that you know and cherish the language, and it introduces the body of your essay by promising some interesting detail.

Deliver in the body of your essay what you promise in the introduction. Present your objectives by stating what you hope to accomplish through study abroad and how that ties in with the interests briefly mentioned in your introduction. Share experiences that have prepared you for successful study abroad. University of California 0 Berkeley recommends using the personal statement to provide "evidence of your achievements that isn't reflected in other parts of your application." Use this evidence specifically to support the reasons you offer for why study abroad is a good choice for you.

Write the summary and keep it succinct. Highlight the main reasons, detailed in the body of your essay, why you are a good candidate for this particular study abroad program.


Meticulously edit your essay for punctuation and grammar.


Avoid controversial political and religious issues.

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About the Author

A native Californian, Adee Miller began writing in 1995 for "Teaching Home Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from California State University and is currently writing her Master's thesis.