How to…write an outstanding personal statement
We all know that the key to securing that elusive university place is standing out from the crowd, but if everyone else has great exam results too, how can you make your application stand out?
Well, it is all in the personal statement. Your personal statement is your chance to shine and show your personality.
Don’t waste this opportunity, use these top ten tips to write an outstanding
ONE: It is important that your personal statement has a sensible structure. What university will offer you a place if your personal statement is more like a word-search than an intelligent outline of what you have to offer? Some rules for a good structure include:
- Punctuation – use capital letters at the start of sentences and full stops at the end.
- Succinct and concise – do not use 100 words to say something when 10 would do the job. Your statement should be no more than one A4 page if applying directly, or less than 4,000 characters (or 47 lines) if applying through UCAS.
- Sentences – As much as possible, sentences should be fewer than 20 words.
- Spelling – Your excellent exam results will not help you if you make spelling mistakes in your personal statement. Computers have spell-check for a reason!
TWO: The first section of your personal statement should introduce the reasons you want to study the course you are applying for. Think hard about why you want to study this course. A good reason to want to study Economics might be that the global financial crisis has horrified you so you want to learn more about its origins. A bad reason to want to study Economics is wanting to learn more about the human body.
THREE: If you are already taking the subject you hope to study at university, you should explain how you have engaged with the subject. What areas have you loved studying? What things do you want to learn more about? If you have not had the chance to study your degree subject yet, think about the way in which your school classes link to it. For example, you might want to study Sport because you have been interested in aerobic respiration and lactic acid in Biology.
FOUR: Explain how you have pursued the subject you are applying for outside of school. Have you read books about the subject? Do you subscribe to a related blog? Perhaps you have attended a relevant talk? If you cannot wait to forget all about your subject as soon as the bell rings at the end of the school day it might be time to rethink your choice. Admissions tutors are going to question your dedication to your subject if you are more committed to your games console!
FIVE: Include a section about your work experience. While relevant work experience is an excellent way to show you are serious about your course, even unrelated work experience shows that you are reliable and responsible.
SIX: Now it is time to talk about all of your interesting extra-curricular activities. Tell us about your weekends spent rock climbing or volunteering at a hospice. Try to think of the skills and interests you have that make you a bit different from everyone else; admissions tutors will not want to hear about another person who “enjoys spending time with friends”.
SEVEN: The conclusion of your personal statement should reiterate the reasons that the university should make you an offer. Sum up your passion for the subject and the ways in which you would be an asset to the university. If you are applying directly to the university this is a great opportunity to explain why you want to attend this university specifically. You should also sum up what you hope to achieve in your future after you complete the programme, as well as what you intend to do after graduation. (Remember, do not do this if you are applying through UCAS – your personal statement is sent to all the universities you are applying to!)
EIGHT: The biggest personal statement no-no is plagiarism. Not only is copying, unfair and dishonest, but you will probably be caught, and then you certainly will not be offered a place. UCAS, and many universities, now use computer software that highlights sentences and phrases that they have seen before. There are many resources to help with writing a personal statement, so do not use the cheat’s route.
NINE: Make sure you proofread your personal statement. Many times. Many many times. You just can’t check it too many times. Ask your Mum to read it. Ask your Dad to read it. Ask your aunt’s neighbour’s dog to read it! There are mistakes that the spellcheck on your computer will not pick up, and silly errors do not make a good impression on admissions tutors.
TEN: Remember, lots of universities do not interview prospective students, so your application is your only chance to wow the admissions tutors, and your personal statement is an important part of that.
So, there we have it; the top ten tips to writing a personal statement. Check out our post about making a strong application to university to find out how else to improve your chances of an offer.
If you have any further tips we’d love to hear about them in the comments section. Or, if you have personal statement questions of your own feel free to ask here.