Posted on 9th October 2012
Writing Personal Statements
It’s that time of the year again…
UCAS application season…
Which can only mean one thing: writing the dreaded personal statement.
It isn’t the most delightful or easiest thing in the world, but it is really important and the sooner you can get started on writing yours, the better. Here’s some advice about how to begin…
The first thing to keep in mind when you are writing your personal statement is what on earth its functions is. It is very easy to think about it as a mandatory hoop that must be jumped through, without really considering what the people reading it will be looking for. Ultimately your personal statement needs to make you stand out as a fabulous student that the admissions department would be foolish not to take. The two main questions that the tutors will be asking are: ‘Do we want this student and this particular university? And, perhaps more importantly, ‘should this student be studying this particular course?’ This last one is especially important. I remember the first open day I went to at a college in Cambridge and a rather stern fellow repeatedly emphasised that the main point of the statement and interview was to ascertain whether or not the student had applied for the correct course. If they had any sense that you weren’t going for the right thing then they would certainly not be offering you a place.
Essentially universities want candidates who are extremely passionate about their field of interest, hardworking, conscientious, organised, able to work to deadlines and deal with pressure, able to adapt to new environments and students who are adequately prepared for the rigour and demands of studying for a degree. Through your statement you need to show all of this. Although this sounds like a tall order, if you break it down into more manageable elements it can be less stressful than you may have anticipated.
To begin with I would recommend making a few traditional spider diagrams or lists, whatever format works best for you. These should contain your initial thoughts on the following areas:
-Which subject you want to study and why
-How your A Level choices link up to this
-Anything you have done which demonstrates an interest in your subject that goes beyond what you have done in school
-Personal experiences that have impacted on your subject choice
-Any work experience you have done which is relevant. This will be particularly important for those wishing to study something like medicine or vetinary sciences
Next you need to show what an interesting person you are beyond the restrictions of the academic curriculum. Have you had a part time job that will prove how reliable and responsible you are? What are your hobbies? Have you done any voluntary or charity work? Have you won any prizes or awards?
If you are on, or plan to take a gap year, then definitely write about this. You need to share what you are doing or plan to do and why. Is there anything in our gap year schedule that relates to your chosen course?
Having jotted down all of these notes you should be in an excellent position to start writing. Don’t worry too much initially about the structure, just start to write full sentences that incorporate the notes you made on each area. Write things down and then take a look later, maybe you have thought of a better way to phrase things, so tweak what you’ve written.
Once you’ve written and collected these little fragments you can start to put them all together, like assembling a trifle or other layered dessert of deliciousness. There are no set rules when it comes to the structure of your statement but I would recommend opening with a really enthusiastic paragraph on why you want to study this particular course. Then broaden out to talk about how other subjects you have studied have fed into this and what you have done beyond school to demonstrate your interest. You can also talk about relevant work experience and the skills that you have which you believe will equip you for this course. In the final third of the statement write about your hobbies and other interests so that the admissions tutors get more of a sense of your personality. My sixth for tutor told me: “remember they are looking for human beings, not robots”. Although this may seem rather obvious, I think we can often forget that they are looking for individual characters and not a batch of identical learning machines.
By now you should have your first draft. The next step is to make the statement as clear and concise as possible. Keep re-reading it and evaluating your language. You may suddenly think of a better way to put something. Also check that it fits into the box on the UCAS website as they are very strict on the length of them.
For more advice, take a look at the following website: http://www.studential.com/guide/write_personal_statement.htm#link_ucas
Of course we also have plenty of tutors here at Enjoy Education who can help with admissions, so if you do want more advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call!