For a lot of students, now is the time where you’re starting to think about what you’d like to study at university, and what university you’d like to go to. Writing a personal statement is the key thing to secure yourself an offer for a place at university, so here are a few tips which can help you make yours as effective as possible.
Break it into Paragraphs
This may sound obvious, but this helped me so much when I was writing my personal statement. I found it so overwhelming to try and get everything in that I wanted to talk about, so breaking it down into paragraphs worked wonders.
How you structure your personal statement completely depends on what you want to talk about, and how your school/college will advise you to do so. Here’s what I did, and it worked really well for me:
- Opening paragraph/sentence
- Relate A-Level subjects to skills and interests (emphasising why you’re applying for this course)
- Past experience (work exp, volunteering) again, relating it to interests (Important note: talk about any work experience or volunteering you may have done even if it isn’t relevant to what you’re applying to. I did work experience in a vets, enjoyed it but knew it wasn’t for me so I talked about this and how it sparked my interest in the lab/research side of science. It’ll demonstrate interest in the course)
- Back to A-Level subjects, I discussed all 3 together and how the combination has enhanced my skills and I gave an example of each (I related Sociology to research skills, etc. and talk about why these are of interest to you)
- Hobbies and other extracurricular activities (Don’t be scared to talk about these, really emphasise them and why you enjoy them. Showing your personality in your personal statement is SO important. If there’s anything else you’re super proud of, then put it in with this paragraph)
- Closing paragraph/sentence
Don’t be scared to move paragraphs or pieces of text around. The important part is just starting to write your personal statement, then you can fit all of the pieces together, review it and make changes from there!
Make it Unique
My advice would be to not even look at another personal statement before at least writing a few words for each of the paragraphs for your personal statement. I personally think it’s so hard to try and make your own personal statement ‘unique’ when you’ve looked at examples, as you automatically think that’s what the university expects so you try to use that as a guideline.
If you’re going to have a look over some personal statements before starting yours, maybe look at one that’s for a different course to the one you’re applying for. When you’ve got a rough idea of what you want to talk about, and have plotted a few things down, then go in and look at a few personal statements relevant to your course. Look at the good and the bad ones!
Universities will know when you’ve just copied something straight from another personal statement, so save yourself the embarrassment and hassle and write things straight off your back. If you have an idea of something you want to say, but aren’t sure how to word it, just plot it down. You can always go back over it and reword something, it’s better to do that than forget what you wanted to write!
Make sure that you have a strong opening and closing sentence.
Express Your Personality
It’s in the name, ‘personal’ statement. The university will want to know about you as a person too, what your interests are, what you enjoy doing and how you’d fit in!
Use your personal statement to really express this. Talk about your hobbies and why you enjoy them, what you hope to do, any achievements from them, etc. It’ll allow you stand out and be distinguished from the other applicants.
Be Clear and Concise
We’re all guilty of using a string of words to help us reach the word count, but this isn’t what you want to do for a personal statement. You want to be as clear and concise with your writing as possible, so the person reading it hasn’t got to read through waffle to understand the point you want to make.
It’ll allow you to make your points as effective as possible.
Standing out from such a large crowd can be hard, but there’s no need to be dishonest in your personal statement. Be honest with what you’ve done. If you’ve struggled with anything, or weren’t able to do something you wanted to do, briefly talk about it, how you’ve overcome it and what you learnt because of it. The last thing you want is to attend an interview (if you have to for your course) and be caught out on a little lie you’ve told in your personal statement!
For me, I talked about the struggle of doing A-Levels whilst working part-time. I used it as an example of how I’ve learnt to manage my time, work effectively and expand my skillset within the workplace.
Back up the points you’re making by using examples! It’s such a great way to showcase that you’ve actually done something. You can then talk about what it taught you, any skills you’ve equipped or improved, any positives or negatives, how you’re going to use this and apply it to the future.
It relates back to being honest, and will allow you to stand out and seem genuine amongst other applicants.
I always say this, but starting early for anything you have to do really is key. Having to rush through it, producing something you aren’t 100% happy with and then submitting that will not be a nice feeling.
Try to do some work on your personal statement a few weeks before going back to school/college in September. Even if it’s plotting down a few ideas of things you’d like to talk about, or certain examples you’d like to mention.
It’ll allow you more time to look over it and produce the best possible personal statement that you can. It’s what’s going to sell you to the university, so obviously you want it to be good.
Review, review and review!
You can never review your personal statement too many times. The more opportunities you have to look over it and identify any weak areas or mistakes, the better. Write a draft of your personal statement, put it away for a week and then look at it again, and repeat. Looking over it again and again in the same day really won’t help. Approach it with a fresh mindset like you’re reading it from new.
Get your friends and family to review your personal statement too, asking them to highlight any words or phrases which could be changed, and any things that could be included or excluded. The more comments they can make, the better, and really emphasise that to them.
My boyfriend must have read my personal statement so many times, I made SO many changes but it was so helpful to have someone else pointing out flaws I didn’t realise were there. My personal statement ended up being 652 words, and I was writing it for about a month before submitting my UCAS application.
Here’s a reminder to stay positive, search for some inspiration and smash writing your personal statement. Don’t submit your UCAS application until you are 100% happy with your personal statement.
The final thing I want to mention is that if you’re applying for more than one type of course, you need to make one general personal statement so if the courses are two completely different ends of the spectrum, try not to make it heavily focused on just one of those.
Good luck with writing your personal statement!