For most applications a personal piece of writing is required (but of course there are exceptions). This piece of writing may be restricted to a word or character limit, some may have a specific prompt, others may offer a choice of prompts, some will have specific instructions, some are written separately to the application form, some are written as part of the application form and some will have a mixture of the aforementioned. Whichever it is be sure to take this requirement seriously – it can make or break an application!

Some students will ask, “why start now?”  After all undergraduate entry in September 2017 is over a year away (February 2018 for Southern Hemisphere institutions). But my advice is begin to formulate your ideas towards the end of DP1/Grade 11/Year 12. That way you will already be ahead of yourself and more able to balance all the demands of your High School studies along with your university applications.

In the Northern Hemisphere application systems for September 2017 entry will open from September 2016 onwards which is only 4 months away. If you are applying to institutions in the Southern Hemisphere to start your undergraduate degree in February 2018 then you may want to wait a while. But by starting now you will be able to get feedback and will be prepared well in advance! If you are applying to the US using the Common Application system and you want to register for September 2017 entry now, you can! They will roll your account over.

Start with brainstorming ideas, mind-mapping thoughts, answering questions on a worksheet or simply begin by building your Resume/CV. The latter will be a great way to list all your achievements, academic and non-academic, which will be a great resource for when you start writing your application (some systems also require your Resume/CV so it is always good to have one ready). Share your ideas with your College Counsellor, friends or members of your family and ask for feedback.  Most often you will write 3-6 (or more) drafts of your essay/statement/letter so the more time you give yourself the better prepared you will be.

Below are some links to information from different application systems.  *The list is not exhaustive so please do talk to your College Counsellor or Careers Advisor for more information*

Remember: Take your time to produce your best piece of work and read the instructions carefully for each application!



In the USA Common Application system there are 5 essay titles to choose from. Students choose one (word limit 650):

For expert advice, sample essays and short VDOs go to

Some universities or specific courses ask for Supplemental Essays usually with a 250 maximum word limit.

Some groups of universities who do not use the CommonApp system (such as UCAL and TEXAS) have their own Essay prompts or Questions.




In the UK you write your own Personal Statement which has a limit of 4000 characters or 47 lines (whichever you reach first).

For advice, VDOs and downloadable Mindmaps & Worksheets go to:


In the EU you are often asked for a Letter of Motivation (and/or Personal Statements for some universities). See below for 3 examples.

1. Leiden University, NL

The motivation letter is a personal statement in which you explain why you wish to study at Leiden University and follow your particular programme of choice. It is also an opportunity for you to convince the faculty of your qualities. The letter should contain about 700-1500 words. Application information.

2. University College Freiburg, DE (Liberal Arts & Sciences)

Download the Letter of Motivation with very specific guidelines: no longer than 1000 words focus on why UCF, why Liberal Arts and what are your interests/matching qualities in/to the Liberal Arts & Sciences. You must end the letter with the following statement: “I hereby confirm that this letter of motivation has been composed by me and is my own work, unless stated otherwise.” Application information.

3. Sciences Po, France

The personal statement must be written directly into the space provided in the online application form (in French or in English depending on the language of the programme). You may draft the letter in a Word document and then copy/paste it into the application. Application information


Generally there are no essays/statements/letters required! But do check each individual institution for their own requirements.

See advice from WES:

Private institutions and specialist colleges

Whether it is a Swiss Hospitality institution, a private Business College or a Conservatoire be sure to check all requirements. Below is an example of a hospitality college in Switzerland.

  1. Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL),  CH

The essay is an important part of your application. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your strengths, motivation and interests. Your essay should be typed and double-spaced, and it should not exceed two pages of A4 paper in length. Application information

Topics (choose one):

  • At EHL, students can pursue a multidimensional undergraduate experience both on and off campus. Given the opportunities offered at EHL, please discuss your current interests, including academic or extracurricular pursuits, personal passions and summer experiences, and how you will build upon them here. What do you want to achieve both academically and personally at EHL ?
  • You must choose nine ingredients to add to your recipe for success for a dynamic career in international hospitality management: three ingredients from your past experiences, three from your present motivations, and three from your future accomplishments as an EHL student. What would these ingredients be, and how will they contribute to a “five-star career”?
  • It is your first day at EHL and you have to introduce yourself to the future leaders of the hospitality industry. What would you say to them? 

Your essay will tell us a great deal about you, and it will also enable us to assess your analytical skills and determine whether you can organize your thoughts and express them clearly.  We expect you to produce an interesting personal account for your selected topic. 

Please remember to add your name and the topic you have chosen at the top of the first page.