So, you’ve just had a wonderful summer holiday and suddenly remembered that on day one back at school you need to present the first draft of your personal statement. Don’t panic. Here are some tips to get you started.
Remember you can only submit one personal statement for up to 5 courses, so don’t be specific about the particular university or course title and make sure your content is relevant as far as possible to all the courses to which you’re applying.
The admissions tutors will have hundreds of personal statements to get through, so you need to try and catch their attention early on. You have just 4,000 characters and 47 lines to make your statement honest, original and individual.
What should it include?
The first paragraph should cover what course you’re applying to and why you have chosen it. Don’t simply say that you are passionate about the subject. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to it and explain what you have done to research the area including books and online articles you have read. Then reflect on how these have influenced your thinking and understanding. Try and explain in a personal way by mention of a specific example, what it is that attracts you to your chosen course and why you think you will succeed at it.
In the second paragraph, talk about your A level subjects, why you chose them, what you’ve enjoyed about them, what skills they have helped you develop. Also explain how each of them will contribute to and help your university studies. If you’ve struggled with one of your subjects but have persevered regardless, then be honest about it and turn your dedication into a positive.
The third paragraph is an opportunity for you to talk about your wider interest in the subject and ambitions for the future, including relevant work experience and what you have gained from it, lectures you may have attended, TED talks or who you follow on social media, open days, taster courses or summer schools and anything else that will support your application.
The remainder of the statement should cover your other skills including extracurricular activities, positions of responsibility held either in or outside school. This could include for example, volunteering, music, sport, drama. Think about which of your achievements are worth emphasising to enhance your application. Use them to show the admissions team what you could contribute to university life outside your academic pursuits. Emphasise aspects of your personality and if you have an unusual interest that will help you stand out, then include it! If you really can’t think about what makes you unique, then ask those close to you how they see your strengths. Finally, your last sentence should be an upbeat statement about how you are looking forward to studying and immersing yourself in university life.
Be aware of the pitfalls:
Don’t make things up especially when applying for courses where you may be called for interview. It’s important to be honest. For example, don’t write that you love American literature but have actually only read the book required for your A Level exam and not read outside the syllabus.
Don’t use flowery language – avoid using formulaic words or phrases.
Don’t over complicate the reasons for choosing the course.
Don’t try to be funny – the admissions tutor may not share your sense of humour.
Don’t try to be too clever – simplicity and an easy to follow statement work best.
And finally, PROOF READ it yourself and ask someone else to proof read it for you.
Liz and Liz are Careers consultants. To book a session with one of them please call us on 020 3198 8006, email us at [email protected], or complete the form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.