Personal Statements can be tricky. Summing up your personal qualities, interests, academic achievements and work experience in one short page often feels daunting. However, with a few easy techniques, you can get that UCAS form done and dusted.
1. Do your research. You may not find a page in every prospectus that says ‘What we want in a student’, but if the courses you want to study refer to personal qualities such as adaptability and critical thinking; or subject specific skills and areas of interest, it’s worth mentioning that you have them in your statement.
2. Make a list. By writing down everything you want to include, you won’t have to worry about missing something out.
3. Work under headings. Grouping the points you want to cover under sub-titles will break your statement into manageable pieces. Try the following headings to get you started: Personal Interests/Personal Qualities, Academic Skills, Why you want to Study this Course/Career Hopes, Work Experience/Other Relevant Information. Organise your list under the relevant headings, and hey presto, you’ve got a Statement Plan. Delete the headings once your statement is finished, and you should have a clear, structured piece of writing.
4. Write drafts. It’s unlikely that your first attempt will be the version that you use on your application. Working digitally whilst drafting allows you to edit, remove and add information easily. Saving multiple versions often helps, as you can access information that you might have removed, but later find that you need.
5. Be yourself. When you’re about to make the transition to Higher Education, it’s tempting to write in a stiff and formal way. Many people use phrases such as ‘I have been passionate about law from a young age’, but they are worth avoiding as admissions tutors see them again and again. It’s important to write clearly and appropriately but you should, ultimately sound like yourself. As an alternative, consider using examples to demonstrate your passion for a subject e.g. ‘I have been interested in law since shadowing a barrister as part of my work experience’.
6. Stay positive. Your Personal Statement is your chance to stand out from the crowd and secure a place. It can be tempting to apologise for skills or experience that you don’t have, but universities are interested in what you do have, so emphasise those strengths.
7. Don’t Repeat Yourself. It’s very easy to cover the same information or points more than once, but a good general rule is that if you have mentioned something once, you don’t need to refer to it again. For example, if you have excellent communication skills, say so once, and then prove it by not repeating yourself. If, like most people, your statement starts off by being too long, avoiding repetition will also help you to cut down on the word count.
8. Share. You may work on your statement for several weeks and many people find it difficult to spot mistakes in their later drafts. Asking tutors, friends and family members to read your statement can provide some useful input. Reading your statement out loud to yourself can also help you to tell whether it makes sense and ‘flows’ effectively.
9. Take a break. You need to give yourself time to write and edit your statement. If possible, give yourself a day or two between drafts, as this will give you a fresh take on your work and will help you to spot mistakes more effectively. Once you think you’ve finished, revisit the information you have for your chosen courses and your original list and double check that you haven’t left anything out.
10. The tenth and final piece of advice is: don’t panic! As you have hopefully noticed, UCAS put a strict character limit on your statement, which means that they are not looking for a lengthy essay, but a short outline of your personal attributes, skills and reasons for wanting to study at university. So that’s 47 lines or 4,000 characters, and if you’re not sure what that looks like, it’s the same length as this blog entry. Simple!