I talked to a group of students at Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet yesterday about applying to universities in the US and UK.
If you were at the lecture and want a copy of my slides, they're available online to download
Apart from encouraging them to look outside of Sweden and see what's available, I tried to get them to think about how important it is to show your skills, rather than just talk about them, when crafting a personal statement.
Show, don't tell
Just saying “I'm dedicated, a team player, a good organiser,” and so on doesn't show that you have these skills. Instead, you need to show how, say, you've trained gymnastics three times a week for nine years and competed in county competitions. Sharing a few specific details goes a long way to substantiating your claims.
It's like those personal ads you see on dating sites: “Talk, dark, handsome with GSOH” might sound good on paper but the reality can be very different. When applying to university you get a bit more space to write. That's why you need to pinpoint and show those skills and experience that give weight to your application.
The same can be said when applying for jobs.
Sample Letter of Application
I've got a handout that I give students on this. It's available on Slideshare: