Help With Personal Statement Writing Esl

Co-class and First-Year Seminars

The Student Academic Success Center is currently offering a 1 unit Pass/No-Pass class to support student writers taking Workload 57 (the Entry Level Writing Requirement course). In this class, we will learn strategies to help you do well on writing you’ll do in WLD 57, including reflecting on your writing process, practicing grammar, and preparing for the WLD 57 final exam. You will also get an opportunity to get feedback from your peers and the instructor on your WLD 57 assignments. By the end of this course, you will have effective tools to construct convincing arguments and recognize the value of writing.


All registered students are welcome to attend the various writing and ESL workshops we hold during the quarter.  Topics include Prewriting, Strategies for In-Class Writing, Avoiding Plagiarism, Grammar and others.  Most writing workshops meet once or twice per quarter, but some workshops meet weekly. Workshops are interactive, allowing students to have their specific questions addressed.

Interested instructors and student groups can request a workshop for their class, and our menu of writing workshop topics appears below. Please contact Kevin Sitz for more information at 754-8409.

Giving credit where credit is due: This workshop focuses on when and how to cite sources in academic writing. The facilitators cover MLA and APA citation styles and introduces students to library resources.

The fear of the blank page: This workshop is for overcoming writer’s block. The facilitator addresses the challenges of writer’s block and provides strategies for how to overcome them.

Finding your voice: This workshop introduces students to argumentation in practice. This interactive workshop focuses on how to formulate and argue a certain position. It helps student develop this crucial skill for position papers and thesis building.

How do I begin?: This session helps with writing punchy introductions. This workshop is designed to help students improve their introduction-writing techniques.

Navigating though the university maze: In this workshop, we discuss time management strategies for undergraduate and graduate students. This workshop is designed to assist both undergraduate and graduate students with time management techniques.

Development and organization - Beyond the 5 paragraph essay: Learn how to move beyond the formula: intro/thesis, three body paragraphs and a conclusion in order to build connections and organize your writing to support more complex ideas and relationships.

Counter arguments, concessions and refutations: Learn how to acknowledge other perspectives on an issue and even concede to valid points while still maintaining your argument, all of which will help you take a fair and balanced approach in your writing.

Peer Revision: Work on your essays in small groups in order  to get feedback for revision. A writing specialist will be on hand to answer specific questions and help with feedback.

WLD 57 Exam Review for English Language Learners: Attend this workshop to learn strategies for writing essays for WLD 57. In particular, we will focus on how to organize and structure your essays and how to handle both out-of-class and in-class essay writing.

UWP 23 Paragraph Mechanics: This workshop focuses on the overall organization of a paragraph. Students will be able to assess strongly constructed paragraphs, and the focus of the session will be on making sure paragraphs flow well for your reader.

UWP 23 Grammar Review: Attend this workshop to learn about how to use punctuation effectively in your writing. We will focus on learning how to use commas, semicolons, and apostrophes; we may also discuss how to use verbs effectively in your writing. We will focus on using appropriate verb tense, verb form, and strong verbs to make your essays more concise.

UWP 1: Topic, Scope, Question, and Thesis: Come learn how to move from topic to thesis by narrowing your focus and posing questions that lead to thesis options that are appropriate for your assignment requirements, purpose and audience.

Editing: the Paramedic Method: Have your essays been described as wordy or passive? Are you confused about how to edit for concision and clarity? This workshop focuses on shaping up prose to make it more reader-centered and concise. Writers of all levels will practice writing in active voice and cutting unnecessary words or phrases while ensuring clarity. 

Peer Review Group: Come join one, two or all three peer review sessions. We’ll quickly examine how to give effective peer feedback before diving into reading and commenting on peers’ writing. This workshop will provide specific feedback on your writing in order to help guide your revision, so you can better convey your message to the intended audience. Bring three copies of your essay to each workshop.

Kathryn Abell of Edukonexion shares some tips ahead of her talk at the British Education Fair in Madrid taking place on 19-20 October 2015.

When applying to a UK university, the discovery that school grades alone are not enough to gain entry onto the programme of your choice can come as an unwelcome surprise. This is especially true for international students, many of whom see the words 'personal statement' for the first time when starting their university application.

But far from being a barrier, the personal statement is, in fact, one of the stepping stones to achieving your goal of studying at a UK university.

A personal statement can help you stand out

If you have selected your study programme well – that is to say, you have chosen something that you are truly excited about that matches your academic profile – then the personal statement is simply a way to communicate to admissions tutors why you are interested in the programme and what you can bring to it. And given the fact that many universities receive multiple applications for each available place, and that most do not offer an interview, your written statement is often the only way you can express your personality and say 'choose me!'.

The 'personal' in 'personal statement' suggests that you should be allowed to express yourself however you want, right? Well, to a certain extent that is true: admissions tutors want to get a picture of you, not your parents, your teachers or your best friend, so it has to be your work. However, the purpose of the statement is to persuade academic staff that they should offer you one of their highly sought-after university places; although there is no strict template for this, there are specific things you should include and certain things you should most certainly leave out.

The importance of the opening paragraph

The online Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) undergraduate application form allows a total of 4,000 characters (around 700 words), meaning that you need to craft the statement carefully. The most important part is unquestionably the opening paragraph, as it acts as an invitation to continue reading. If you are not able to catch the attention of the admissions tutor, who has hundreds of statements to assess, then it is highly unlikely they will read through to the end.

The best advice here is to avoid much-used opening lines and clichés such as 'I have wanted to be an engineer since I was a child'. This kind of thing is not the invitation readers are looking for. Instead, try using an anecdote, experience or inspirational moment: 'Although tinkering with engines had always been a childhood hobby, it was the vision of the fastest car on earth, the Bloodhound, at an exhibition in London, that roused my desire to learn everything I could about automotive engineering'. Really? Tell me more!

Of course, your opening paragraph could start in a variety of ways, but the fundamental purpose is to grab the reader’s interest.

Provide evidence of your commitment and skills

Following on from that, you have to provide evidence of your passion and commitment to your chosen programme, and highlight the specific and transferable skills you possess to study it successfully. You can do this by following the ABC rule.

Action: Include examples of what you have done, experienced or even read that have helped you in your choice of degree and boosted your knowledge of the subject area.

Benefit: By doing these things, explain what you learned or gained; in the case of a book or article, put forward an opinion.

Course: The most successful applicants ensure that the information they include is relevant to their course in order to highlight their suitability. Flower-arranging may allow you to realise your creative potential, but will it help you study astrophysics?

It is perfectly acceptable to base this ABC rule on school-based activities, as not all students have opportunities outside the classroom. However, if you can link extra-curricular pursuits to your desired programme of study, you are further highlighting your commitment. As a general rule of thumb, the information you include here should be around 80 per cent academic and 20 per cent non-academic. So, for example, as a member of the school science club – a non-curricular, academic activity – you may have developed the ability to analyse data and tackle problems logically. Taking part in a work placement falls into the same category and could have helped you develop your communication, time-management and computer skills. You get the idea.

Non-academic accomplishments may involve music, sport, travel or clubs and can lead to a variety of competencies such as team-working, leadership, language or presentation skills. A word of warning here: it is vital that you sell yourself, but arrogance or lies will result in your personal statement landing in the 'rejected' pile. Keep it honest and down-to-earth.

Provide a memorable conclusion

Once you have emphasised your keen interest and relevant qualities, you should round off the statement with a conclusion that will be remembered. There is little point putting all your effort to generate interest in the opening paragraph only for your statement to gradually fade away at the end. A good conclusion will create lasting impact and may express how studying your chosen course will allow you to pursue a particular career or achieve any other plans. It can also underline your motivation and determination.

Use a formal tone, stay relevant and be positive

As you have to pack all this information into a relatively short statement, it is essential to avoid the superfluous or, as I like to call it, the 'fluff'. If a sentence sounds pretty but doesn’t give the reader information, remove it. In addition, the tone should be formal and you should not use contractions, slang or jokes; remember, the statement will be read by academics – often leaders in their field.

Referring to books is fine but don’t resort to using famous quotes as they are overused and do not reflect your own ideas. Also, while it's good to avoid repetition, don't overdo it with the thesaurus.

Negativity has no place in a personal statement, so if you need to mention a difficult situation you have overcome, ensure you present it as a learning experience rather than giving the reader an opportunity to notice any shortcomings. Also, bear in mind that your personal statement will probably go to several universities as part of a single application, so specifically naming one university is not going to win you any favours with the others.

Get some help but never copy someone else's work

Checking grammar, spelling and flow is essential and it is perfectly OK to ask someone to do this for you. A fresh pair of eyes and a different perspective always help, and, as long as the third party does not write the content for you, their input could be of vital importance. And while you may get away with not sticking to all of the above advice, there is one thing that you absolutely must not do: copy someone else’s work. Most applications are made through UCAS, which uses sophisticated software to detect plagiarism. If you are found to have copied content from the internet, or a previous statement, your application will be cancelled immediately. Remember, it is a personal statement.

Get your ideas down in a mind-map first

Finally, I will leave you with my top tip. If you understand all the theory behind the personal statement and have an abundance of ideas floating in your head, but are staring blankly at your computer screen, take a pen and paper and make a simple mind map. Jot down all your experiences, activities, skills, attributes and perhaps even include books you have read or even current items that interest you in the news. Then look for how these link to your course and highlight the most significant elements using arrows, colours and even doodles. Capturing thoughts on paper and making logical deductions from an image can give structure to your ideas.

Register for our British Education Fair in Madrid, taking place on 19-20 October 2015, for a chance to talk directly to staff from 40 UK universities, vocational colleges and English language schools.

Get more advice from our Education UK site on your UCAS application and writing your statement.

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