Your personal statement is your chance to give the admissions tutors at the universities that you are applying to a chance to meet the real you – to demonstrate your interest in the course, show what you would bring to the faculty and the university and convince the admissions tutors to offer you a place.
You have limited space to express yourself – only 4000 characters or 37 lines in the UCAS box (whichever you reach first) which translates as just over a page of typed A4 – so every sentence in your personal statement will need to pull its weight.
Bear in mind that you can only write one personal statement for all of your university choices, so make sure that you are tailoring your statement as much as possible to each of the courses you are applying to – otherwise your tutors might doubt your commitment to their university and course.
One thing’s for certain: you won’t come up with a polished personal statement overnight. It will take many drafts, a lot of editing and a few late-night flashes of inspiration – and it will all be worth it when those university offers start rolling in.
To help you get started, we’ve got a few useful tips to point you in the right direction.
What should you include?
Although it’s called a personal statement, the idea is not just to give the admissions tutors a potted history of your life to date. You need to be expressing your academic self – your interest in the subject you are applying for and your achievements in that area.
Your personal statement is a good place to write about any subject-related work experience you have done, any courses of lectures that you have attended which have advanced your knowledge and will demonstrate that your interest extends beyond the classroom and any books or articles that you have read.
Make sure that you are not just listing the things that you have done– try to show what your reading and experiences have taught your and how they have developed your interest and understanding of your subject.
You should mention your extra-curricular achievements as well, but the amount of space that you dedicate to this section should depend on the university to which you are applying: if you are applying to Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial, you should keep your extra-curricular activities to a minimum as these universities are focussed primarily on your academic achievements.
If you’re applying to a university such as Loughborough, which may be looking at the contribution that you will make to the university as a whole as well as the faculty, then you can dedicate a bit more space to your achievements outside of your subject. How do you start?
There are about a million ways of starting your personal statement – and there is no one correct way to begin: some people start with a quote which encapsulates their interest, others with an anecdote that explains where their curiosity for their subject stems from.
Your opening should set the tone for the rest of the personal statement – showing your enthusiasm and interest in your subject, and introducing the admissions tutor to your personality. Don’t ever feel like you need to pretend to be someone else in your personal statement – just make sure you are your academic self. Speak as you would to your headmaster or mistress – clearly, maturely, but retaining a sense of who you are.
How to close
Almost as hard as starting is finishing! Your final paragraph doesn’t have to be long – just enough to round off your statement and reiterate your interest and dedication for your subject. Watch out that you don’t come across as too arrogant or self-assured here – it can be easy after almost 4000 characters of own-trumpet blowing to get a little carried away! Is there anything to avoid?
A chance to shine
Your personal statement is your space to sell your own subject interest. You haven’t got much room, so make sure that you’re not repeating anything that the admissions tutors could find out somewhere else on your UCAS form – you don’t need to list your A levels or GCSE grades, for example, as these go into the form in a different section.
Aim to be positive
You should aim to be really positive in your personal statement. This is not the place to attempt to explain a lower predicted grade due to a disagreement with a teacher or the fact that you needed to miss school for an extended period of time due to illness. If there is something in this vein that you feel the admissions tutors need to know, ask the teacher writing your reference whether he or she could include this in the reference section of the UCAS form.
It’s far better for your teacher to bring this to the admissions tutor’s attention and it means you don’t waste space trying to explain yourself – instead you can just dazzle the university with your interests and achievements.
It may not be the most exciting activity and after days, weeks and even months of drafting, summoning up the motivation might be a challenge, but proof-reading your personal statement is absolutely essential! You know that feeling you get when you spot a typo in an article – no matter how insignificant, it lowers your opinion of the content of the piece and the author.
Admissions tutors are likely to be sticklers for accuracy, so make sure you get your teachers, friends and parents to proof-read it a couple of times. One tip we’ve got is to being with the last sentence and work your way through your personal statement backwards – it keeps you focussing on the individual sentence and not the full statement.
Best of luck with your personal statement! Look on it as a challenge, but also a very important opportunity to talk about a fascinating subject – you!