If you're thinking about going to university next year, then it's time to start thinking about writing your personal statement. Trying to sum up your personal qualities, experience and suitability for your chosen course might sound daunting, but remember, this is your opportunity to tell your chosen university why you deserve a place on their course. Listed below are our essential recommendations for getting that all-important personal statement done and dusted.
Whilst you may be applying for the same subject at five different universities, the good news is that most universities will be looking for similar experience and qualities. Before you start writing, make a list of attributes that they all ask for, then emphasise how you meet those requirements.
A successful statement has structure, so organising your statement under appropriate headings is worthwhile. The following headings could help you get started; Personal Interests/Personal Qualities, Academic Skills, Why you want to Study this Course/Career Hopes, Work Experience/Other Relevant Information. Once you’ve got your headings sorted, make a list of what you want to include and arrange it under the headings. Congratulations, that’s your first draft done.
Once you’re ready to start writing, it can be tempting to use overly-complicated language (you want to sound impressive after all), but this may make your statement sound stiff and formal. Whilst it’s vital that your statement is well-written, it’s also your opportunity to share a little of your personality with the admissions team, so it’s even more important that you sound like yourself. If your enthusiasm and commitment are obvious, you’ll sound impressive without trying too hard.
Avoid sentences like ‘I have been passionate about this subject since an early age’ as they aren’t particularly effective in demonstrating your commitment to your subject area. Be specific and provide examples e.g. ‘I have been interested in studying biology since completing my work experience at an animal shelter last year’. Don’t be tempted to apologise for skills or experience you don’t have, focus on what you have done, and explain how you hope to extend your learning further. In short, keep it positive.
Strong personal statements aren’t written in a day. Give yourself time for each stage of the process. If possible take a day or two between drafts (but make sure you meet your school, college or employer deadlines) as you’re more likely to see typos and possible improvements.
Resting between drafts will also help you avoid common pitfalls such as repeating yourself. It’s tempting to write the same important point in a range of different ways, but as personal statements are fairly short, you don’t want to waste any valuable space. If you have said something once, that should be enough.
Your statement may take several weeks to complete, and it can become hard to spot mistakes, this is where enlisting the help of friends, relatives and, of course your tutors can be very useful. Asking someone else to read your statement can help find mistakes you may have missed, and they may be able to offer suggestions for improvement.
Reading your statement out-loud may sound odd, but it’s one of the most effective ways to ensure that your statement ‘flows’ well.
Keep going until you get it right – drafting, checking for mistakes and asking other people for their input is all part of the process.
Try not to see your personal statement as a chore, but as your opportunity to shine. Capturing all your achievements and abilities on one page may feel impossible, but the word count is actually an advantage. The strict UCAS character limit on your statement means that they are not looking for a lengthy essay, but a short outline of your skills, experience and reasons for wanting to study at university. That’s 47 lines or 4000 characters, and if you’re not sure what that looks like, it’s almost the same length as this blog.
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