Essay and Personal Statements

Purpose:  Why are students asked to write College Application Essays and Personal Statements?
It’s one of the best ways a university gets to know you and your writing ability outside test scores. It often can make or break an acceptance decision. So writing your best and giving yourself plenty of time is critical.

A Few Points To Remember

  • How you write reveals your writing ability
  • What you write reveals important aspects about yourself
  • Essay Questions often vary depending on the university

Mr. Gartz’s 6 Tips to a Winning Essay (US Style)

  1. Outline:
    Begin writing the essay or personal statement with an outline and create an essay during year 12.
  2. Title
    All essays should have a creative and unique title.
  3. Thesis Statement
    Answer the question being asked in your introduction. Universities want to see that you are a good listener as well as a strong writer.
  4. Personal Story
    Show your character. What makes you unique and talented? Stand out and tie this into your future academic goals.

    • ex.) A student may have participated in MUN and won best proposal. This helped them realize they have a gift for debate and now want to translate that into a law degree.
  5. Why This University?
    Let them know you’ve made an educated decision and are intent on studying there.
    Share how you will contribute and what this particular university has that’s unique. Make connections about what is important to you in a university experience and what they offer. Show how they will help you realize your goals.
  6. End Graciously
    Restate the theme of the essay from title and body paragraphs. End graciously!

    Did You Know? 

    Several USA Universities will ask you to write more than 1 essay. Sometimes even up to 3 or 4, with varying length including some short answers.

 UK Personal Statements: 

  1. Outline:
    Begin writing the essay or personal statement with an outline and create an essay draft during year 12. Understand the  limitations, scope of the UK Personal Statement & What they are looking for…
  2. Thesis Statement:
    Answer the question being asked in your introduction. Universities want to see that you are a good listener as well as a strong writer.
  3. Focus on the Subject!
    Share in your introduction the reasons for applying the intended subject and why the UK?
  4. Relate current and future Studies:
    How can your current studies relate to the course you have chosen? Refer to the content of your chosen course as detailed in the prospectus and note what is specifically of interest to you.
  5. Show breadth of knowledge in the subject: particularly if this is a new subject that you have not studied before. Why are you interested in this area and what relevant background reading have you done in the field/profession? Discuss the work of some key ‘thinkers’/academics who have made an impression on you.
  6. Share most meaningful work/ voluntary experience: Doing so can be useful for most subjects as it helps to develop and demonstrate personal skills that are relevant to the course. Make sure that you can talk confidently about your work -experience placements, what you did and most importantly the skills you developed as a result and how they can apply to your chosen studies.
  7. Personal Achievements: Highlight your personal strengths that are relevant to the course – what sets you apart and how have your experiences prepared you to be successful? (See Summary of Resume for Assistance)
  8. Career aspirations:
    You may wish to mention your career ambitions towards the end of your statement. However, don’t worry if you are undecided on your exact future plans.
 Personal Statement

USA/ UK Resources:

Peer Review Worksheet

Peer Review Worksheet for College Essays

Popular Universities – Essay Prompts By Country

Personal statement/CVA personal statement is not compulsory for making an application to a university but it is recommended you include one as it gives you the opportunity to express to the admissions team why you would like to be considered for the programme, and also to highlight any achievements outside of academia. It is required for admission to the Residential Colleges however and is something that can help you by sharing your passionate interests…           USA

United Kingdom


  • UBC (Canada)
  • Queens University
    *McGill, University of Western Ontario & University of Toronto and others…
    The Application Writing Supplement is only required if a student is applying to certain faculties. (Please check uni websites for these and all others

Hong Kong

  • HKU Personal Statement

Please use separate sheet(s) to provide information which you feel will be of interest to the Admissions Tutors and will help them know you better, e.g. your reasons for applying to HKU, the chosen curricula, extra-curricular activities, participation in voluntary work, past working experience, career aspirations and other achievements.

  • HKUST Personal Statement

Please provide information which you feel will be of interest to the selection panels of the program.

  • Chinese University of Hong Kong

Please briefly state the reasons for applying and provide other information which you consider will be of interest to the University.

  • City University of Hong Kong: The content of the statement should explain why the applicants wish to study the programme and how the qualification is relevant to their career aspirations, as well as their expectation of the programme. If applicable, they may also provide other information (e.g. work experience, non-academic achievements, community services) that may be relevant to the assessment of the application(s).
  • HK Polytechnic University
    Personal Statement Essays are required to some but not all programs. However, even in cases where the program doesn’t require it – students still may submit. Please focus on Preparation to Major, Choice of Study Plan and Future Goals. Following Mr. Gartz’s Winning Tips is a good way to structure this essay as it is for all other HK Universities.


Sophia University

University of Tokyo – PEAK: The applicant must submit two original essays. The essays must be written in English and should be typed, dated and signed. The form can be downloaded from the PEAK website. (Please see “How to Apply.”)Essay 1: Write a short essay in English in response to the question below (250 to 300 words): The American educationalist, John W. Gardner (1912-2002), said: “Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving our young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” In applying to the Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK), what do you hope to gain from your university education? Essay 2: Write a short essay in English in response to the question below (250 to 300 words): Choose one historical figure. What do you think he or she would have done differently if the person could see the world today?

Waseda SILS: see the chosen faculty application questions: (eg.  Social Sciences Write an essay of approximately 1000 words that answers the following two questions: 1)  In your country or community, identify one social issue that should be addressed and explain why. 2)  During your time at TAISI, what do you hope to learn and how do you think the TAISI program will help you resolve the social issue you identified in question 1.)


  • Seoul National
  • Yonsei

Les Roches / Glion / SHMS / Hotel Ecole de LausanneOften for Hotel Management in Switzerland a Motivational Essay is required that shares your intentions of applying to the school and your career and professional goals. This is a very important part of the application.