Writing a personal essay is one of the most arduous elements of applying to universities abroad. Students often spend months deciding about what to write about, drafting, and editing their essays. For international students, especially for those for whom English isn’t the first language, personal essays can be particularly daunting.
A personal essay gives admission officers some insight into who you are—your personality, background, goals, and the challenges you’ve had to overcome. It also gives them an idea of how well you’ll be able to fit in with the other students.
While many universities offer open-ended prompts for personal essays, some ask students to respond to more specific questions. For instance, they might ask questions such as “What event has shaped you into the person you are today?”, or “Who has been the most influential person to you?”
It’s common to hire a professional consultant or seek a mentor to help you write a powerful college application essay. You might be wondering, “Do all universities abroad require students to submit a personal essay?”
Fortunately, there are many universities abroad that don’t require personal essays from prospective students. Let’s explore the reasons why and how you can make your application shine, even without a personal essay.
Why Some Universities Don’t Require Personal Essays
There are several reasons why some universities abroad may not require you to write and submit a personal essay. The biggest reason is the time and money investment it takes. With universities receiving hundreds and even thousands of applications every cycle, it can be costly to dedicate staff to reading and evaluating all application essays. That is something that some universities would rather not invest in.
With cost implications in mind, some universities only require personal essays from students applying to very competitive programs or scholarships. In such cases, the additional insights from personal statements can be helpful in selecting students to admit.
In addition, some universities automatically admit all students who meet their specified criteria—which is usually a combination of GPA, standardized test scores, and/or class rank. Such schools might ask “borderline” candidates who don’t quite meet the set criteria to include personal essays in their applications. That gives you a chance to make a case for why you’re a good fit for the school despite not meeting the academic criteria.
Lastly, some universities aim at making the application process a little easier for students. By not requiring students to write essays, they encourage students from diverse backgrounds to apply.
How to Make Your Application Shine Without a Personal Essay
A personal essay allows you to show admission officers why you’ll be a great addition to their campus. If you’re not required to submit an essay, you have to maximize the other elements of your application.
Here are some tips:
Craft a Strong Resume
Some schools that don’t ask for a personal essay will require prospective students to submit a resume or CV instead.
A resume also provides you with a chance to highlight your relevant achievements. With some effort, your resume can reflect more than just your grades and professional achievements—it can show your personality.
Do some research and read powerful resumes, whose templates you can use to craft your own. Ideally, your college application resume should balance your academic and professional achievements and extracurricular activities. Even so, aim to not have your resume longer than one page. Proofread it to remove any typos and spelling or grammatical errors.
Get Great Recommendations
Recommendation letters provide an additional avenue for admission officers to learn about who you are as an individual. If you aren’t required to submit a personal essay, put more effort into finding great recommenders—who will extol your personality, achievements, and aspirations to the admission officers.
The best recommenders are teachers who taught you the core subjects required for the program you’re applying to join. Go for teachers who know you well and in whose classes you excelled. It’s advisable to ask your school advisor which teachers you should approach for recommendations.
Provide the recommender with all the information they need to write you a strong recommendation letter—including your resume, your transcripts, a list of relevant extracurricular activities, your achievements, and an outline of your career goals.
Take Your Writing Classes Seriously
You should aim to have great grades in all your subjects—especially the core subjects for your desired university program. But excelling in classes that test your writing skills, such as literature, will show admission officers that you can write a great essay given the chance.
Schools that don’t require an application essay may look more closely at your grades in writing-intensive classes. Therefore, make sure that your grades in those classes are excellent.
Put Your Best Foot Forward During the Admission Interview
Just like a personal statement or essay, an admissions interview is meant to give you a chance to show your personality and expound on your achievements and aspirations.
Basically, you’re invited to speak with admissions officers or alumni for them to get a feel of who you are and if you’ll fit into the school.
If your college application process includes an interview, put your best foot forward. Dress appropriately, be polite and engaging, respond honestly, and ask great questions.
Top U.S Schools that Don’t Require Personal Essays from Prospective Students
Here’s a list of 64 top schools in the U.S you can apply to without a personal essay:
- University of Alabama
- Alabama State University
- University of Alaska Anchorage
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Northern Arizona University
- University of Arizona
- Arizona State University
- Arkansas State University
- University of Arkansas
- California State University
- University of Colorado – Denver
- University of Bridgeport
- Delaware State University
- University of Central Florida
- University of South Florida
- Georgia State University
- University of Hawaii Manoa
- University of Idaho
- Illinois State University
- Indiana Wesleyan University
- University of Southern Indiana
- University of Indianapolis
- Iowa State University
- University of Iowa
- Kansas State University
- University of Kansas
- Kentucky State University
- Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge
- University of Louisiana – Lafayette
- Bowie State University
- Bridgewater State University
- Eastern Michigan University
- Western Michigan University
- University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
- University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University
- University of Missouri
- Missouri State University
- University of Montana
- University of Nebraska – Lincoln
- University of Nevada Reno
- Kean University
- University of New Mexico
- Siena College
- CUNY-Baruch College
- CUNY-Hunter College
- West Carolina University
- University of North Dakota
- Ohio University
- Oklahoma State University
- Southern Oregon University
- Western Oregon University
- Eastern Oregon University
- University of Pittsburgh
- Clemson University
- University of South Carolina
- University of South Dakota
- Tennessee State University
- University of Utah
- Utah State University
- Washington State University
- West Virginia University
- University of Wyoming
- McGill University (in Canada)
Do you want to learn more about studying abroad and exploring new scholarship opportunities?