Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement

6 June 2024

Writing a personal statement as part of the university admissions process can be daunting for some people, but not for you.

You’ve got OzTREKK!

In this article, we’re going to talk about what they are, why you may need to write one, and how you can showcase the most important thing: you!

hands working on laptop
Do you have to write a personal statement? We’ll let you know well in advance, so you can be prepared.

What is a personal statement?

Personal statements are like short essays written in the first person. A personal statement is sometimes part of the application process to gain admission to graduate or professional programs like medicine, dentistry, law, public health, teacher education, vet, and to rehabilitation sciences programs like audiology, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy.

Sometimes, they are referred to as a “statement of intent.” Depending on the university or program, you may be prompted to answer specific questions, such as why you’re interested in a particular study area. Other times, you’ll have to go it alone.

Personal statements are your prime opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Think of it like a job application cover letter: It should outline your motivation to study that particular program, your previous education and employment history, and how the program can assist your career aspirations or progression.

Are there different types of personal statements?

Most often, we see students required to write a “narrative” personal statement. These have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. This type of statement tells your story and is easiest to write because you can explain things in chronological order. The story should be about you, and it should have relevance to the program or to the prompt provided.

If a topic was given requiring an argument, just remember to analyze the problem to the best of your ability without contradicting yourself. They are looking for you to demonstrate your critical reasoning skills and how well you express yourself.

What should be in my personal statement?

Use a tip from journalism! Cover who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Of course, you already know the who (that’s you!). But what about your why?  Why do you wish to study (insert program here)? Be sure you stand out from the crowd by avoiding clichéd terms and ideas (“I just want to help people”), but instead tapping into your unique beliefs and experiences that motivate you to pursue a particular career.

This section can also include when, where, and how—because you’re talking about your personal experiences. Maybe you went through something in your past that initiated the spark, or you have relevant practical experience that inspired you. Maybe you travelled to another country to volunteer.

Okay, you’ve just outlined why, where, when, and how you think you’re a great fit for the program. Now, explain your what. Based on your skills, knowledge, experience, and personality, what are the benefits you bring to a university or program?

Your personal statement should include your ambitions, skills, and experience—everything that makes you a desirable candidate for the program. It’s also a good idea to talk about why you’ve chosen a particular university. Maybe their research has inspired you, or you’re familiar with their extraordinary facilities. Maybe it’s their personal approach to teaching and learning.

Take this time to speak honestly about your intentions and your hopes. Don’t forget to explain what you plan to do with your degree!

What should not be in my personal statement?

Keep in mind that while you need to get a little personal discussing your passion for (and the why behind) studying medicine, for example, you shouldn’t get too personal. If something that happened to you is directly related to your interest in becoming a doctor, briefly mention it, but you don’t need to divulge personal details. For example, talking briefly about a loved one who has struggled with a disease is great for a medical school personal statement, but not for a law school.

Here are some topics you may need to consider more closely before including them in your personal statement:

  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Illness
  • Personal life event (marriage, death, birth, etc.)

While you may include any of the above topics, what you choose to include must contribute to your ability to succeed in the program or showcase your skills as a scholar. For example, you may want to include something about a past illness if it explains lower grades during a semester. Dwelling on it may alienate the admissions committee or come across as asking for pity. Underdogs are great—because they’re strong and resilient and positive. They’re not seeking pity or attention.

How should I begin my personal statement?

It’s important to stand out right from the beginning. You don’t want to begin with something generic (e.g., I want to become a doctor because my mother is a doctor.)

This is your chance to start off with something that will capture your reader’s attention:

I’ll never forget the look of joy on little Macy’s face when I first entered her room at the pediatric hospital. As a summer high school volunteer, every interaction I had with Macy and the other children reaffirmed my desire to study medicine.

Immediately, the reader knows you’ve been to a pediatric hospital. You’ve seen firsthand what kids go through. You were in high school, so this also shows your interest and commitment. It’s also a perfect segue to explain the reasons why you wish to become a doctor. What did you do that helped Macy? How did you make a difference in her life, and how did it make you feel?

Start with something that captures the reason why you’re interested in studying a particular program, and make sure it communicates your enthusiasm for it.

How should I end my personal statement?

There are many types of endings, but a great narrative ending often mirrors its beginning. It’s called a circular narrative.  In the case above, we talk about a high school experience (early in life). A great ending to complement your beginning would mention Macy and your volunteer experience:

While Macy eventually left the hospital after her successful treatment, the feeling I got when I helped care for her will be everlasting.

Start with A, then mention A again at the end, noting how it’s affected or changed you and your future for the good. Full circle. Try to end on a positive note!

How long should it be?

In most cases, the university will indicate the number of words or character maximum, but it varies by university and program. If they don’t indicate a maximum, use the 1–2 paragraphs/pages or 500 words rule. Use a clear font in 11- or 12-point font size. If it’s unclear, reach out to your student advisor; they can tell you the average length based on what they’ve seen.

Do I have to be a good writer?

Unless you’re applying to a graduate English or journalism degree, it isn’t likely you’ll get dinged for a misplaced comma or a small grammatical error. But, spelling and grammar are important, so don’t switch tenses and allow yourself time to revise and refine. Remove anything that’s not relevant to your program—keep it concise!

If writing isn’t one of your strengths, don’t try to be “creative” with your personal statement. Organize all your points ahead of time, then start from there.

If there’s a question posed by the personal statement, try to answer it in a unique and engaging way. Some questions may have multiple parts and you may not be able to answer each part with equal detail. Your answer should focus on your strengths and be written with sincerity and maturity.

The most important thing? Make sure you have someone else proofread it; they’ll catch things you might miss!

Should I explain why I had lower grades?

Not always. If you think it’s pertinent to your application, yes, but keep it factual and to the point. If in doubt, reach out to your student advisor for guidance, as sometimes a school will ask for an academic addendum.

The addendum is used to address your grade fluctuations and explain them, but still indicates your intentions and motivations for a successful performance in further studies. Feel free to expand on outlying factors that may have contributed to the grade fluctuations or multiple course withdrawals but keep it brief and professional. Be sure to include what’s motivating you to pursue further studies and how you plan to achieve academic success.

Will OzTREKK help me with my personal statement?

While we can try to answer questions about length, we aren’t permitted to critique personal statements or offer further suggestions. If you’re really struggling, we’re here to chat!

Shortlist of what can be included

Here’s a list of some of the things you can include in your personal statement:

  • Your motivations to pursue your chosen career
  • Why you’ve chosen a particular program
  • Why you wish to study at that university
  • Your understanding of the profession, especially how it is practiced
  • Relevant personal experience of the profession and its related fields (and dates, too, if pertinent)
  • Personal characteristics, beliefs, and outstanding achievements related to your program
  • Any obstacles you’ve overcome
  • How your history/experience will enhance your learning, and performance as a practitioner
  • Any long-term goals you hope to achieve with your education (e.g., your professional goals)
  • If necessary, explanations (short!) regarding your transcripts (e.g., long-term illness shows a gap in your studies)

When you apply to an Australian university through OzTREKK, you can trust that we’ll guide you through the entire “How to Apply” process from start to finish.


We hope this helps answer some of your questions regarding personal statements as part of the Australian universities‘ admissions process. If you still have questions, please reach out to or email your student advisor. We’re here to help!