Many students by this time in year 13 will have made great progress with their personal statements, ready to submit soon. But many will still be ‘staring into the abyss’, unsure how to write a personal statement. This article will hopefully give you some good pointers on how to structure it and some tips for how to write it. Writing your personal statement can be very tricky, no one likes writing about themselves. And the hardest part is often not knowing how to start!
Let’s start with how to structure your personal statement. There is a lot of advice available around this, for instance ( https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/applying-university/how-write-ucas-undergraduate-personal-statement). It’s worth thinking about your statement in 3 parts.
Why this course?
It is important to start your statement with why you are interested in what you are applying for. What has sparked your interest, why are you keen on it? This is your chance to get across why the course is something you want to study for a number of years and that you actually know what it’s about. The staff reading it will usually teach on the course, so getting across your motivation for studying it will help them know you are someone they’d like to teach.
Why you are a good fit
Showcasing why you are a good ‘fit’ for the course is important, and builds on your first part. This section is different from part one in that you are aiming to demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge for these courses to be a natural next step. So for instance, how do your A levels, IB, Pre U, EPQ support your application? What academic skills have you developed that will make you a good university student? For instance, reading around a subject, looking for a range of sources, analysing data, making links between different topics? Also, what knowledge have you gained from this post GCSE study? For example how has studying Biology and Chemistry made you more curious about what you will learn on a pharmacology or ecology degree? That thirst for knowledge and willingness to learn and be challenged on what you already know is really important to get across.
Non curricular activities
The amount of space you use for this section is flexible and depends how the first 2 parts have gone. It also depends on the course you are applying for – so for instance if you are applying for a course that needs work experience (medicine, veterinary, social work, teaching etc), you will definitely need to fit in some content about work experience. Universities do know that this has been more difficult to get in the last 18 months! Content here can cover activities outside of lessons that you’ve done, so part time jobs, sport and other interests that can really help make you stand out! It doesn’t really matter if what you’ve done doesn’t tie in with the course, the staff want to see that they will have interesting, engaging students to teach, regardless if they don’t share your musical taste or interest in dark chocolate.
Avoid using obvious quotes! Admissions staff find reading the same quotes quite boring. For instance, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’ by Nelson Mandela has become notoriously overused for UCAS applications.
Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can really irritate admissions tutors. For a piece of writing that could influence several years of your life, not getting it right could impact on whether you get an offer or not. Especially for English or language degrees where literacy is significantly important!
Don’t ‘borrow’ parts of other people’s statements, from this application cycle or others. Admissions staff want to hear your ‘voice’ in the statement. Also, UCAS will run your statement through plagiarism software to check you haven’t ‘cut and pasted’.
Make sure you are positive in your statement about what you have done and how useful this has been. But avoid ‘overstating’ how much work experience you’ve had, achievements you’ve got or books you’ve read. If you have an interview, these things will get picked up and you will get asked about them – staff will want to give you a positive experience during an interview, so will use your personal statement as a starting point to settle your nerves.
The last top tip is that it will take several drafts to get this right. It’s not uncommon to take at least 4 versions.
Good luck with writing your personal statement. It is important to get it right! And if you can get this done well, this will really help you in a few years time when it comes to applying for graduate schemes and jobs.
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