The dreaded time is coming around. Soon, universities will be accepting applications and that means that UCAS will be a big part of people’s lives until January. And UCAS is synonymous with… the personal statement. This is a fairly big deciding factor for universities (as well as predicted grades), when choosing to accept candidates, so it’s important to succinctly convey everything that you want to say. But, from my own personal experience, there was one ingredient that was truly essential to writing a good personal statement: passion.
But how can you inject passion into a personal statement, especially when it’s being analysed? It’s a difficult process, and one that involves a lot of pieces of paper, saved Word documents and coffee (or whatever gets your brain buzzing). However, once you’ve asked yourself the right question, drafted a plan and gotten into the flow of writing, this statement will actually make you realise just why you want to go to university, and reaffirm why you deserve to be accepted by the universities.
The best advice I received when writing my personal statement was this: why do you want to go to university and study this degree? Now this may seem obvious – why would you be doing all of this if you didn’t know why you wanted to go? But the trick is to work out exactly why you chose to continue studying the degree that you have; your reason can’t be as general as ‘university seems cool’ or ‘I want to get a good job’, even though these might be true. You need to work out why you chose that subject specifically: why did you pick Maths over Archaeology? Or Human Geography over Geology? Or Law over American Studies? It’s surprisingly difficult to isolate this reason but, if you break down the things that you love about your degree, then you will get there. For me, studying English Literature, I realised that I love literature because of the power that it holds: words are able to illicit physical emotions and feelings from people, and I wanted to know how authors were able to do that. A specific reason will show universities that you’ve really thought about your love for the degree, and that you will work hard because you enjoy it. Enjoyment is one of the key things that they are looking for, in your statement.
But it’s not quite as easy as just stating why you want to study your degree. Anyone can come up with a reason, even if they’re not doing the degree – you need to back-up your reasons with evidence. It’s not too dissimilar to writing a CV: it’s a case of describing your skills/reasons and then following them up with experience/evidence. The type of evidence will depend on the degree that you’re doing: for English, it was a pretty obvious one of ‘what books have I read, which showcase the things that I love about literature?’. But reading books on your chosen subject is an excellent way of providing evidence. I went to my A Level English teacher, and we decided on several books to include. Although it is worth remembering that you’re not submitting your personal statement yet – if you come across a book that you think would be a good one to include, READ IT! Say what you thought about it, and what additional knowledge it provided you, about your course! Always keep an eye out for potential inspiration.
After this, the structure of your personal statement can vary – if your school is advising you, they will probably have their own guidelines – but there must always be passion in every sentence that you write. In my personal statement, I went on to talk about my other A Levels and extracurricular activities, and I explained why I enjoyed them so much – not just stating that I had done them. If your A Levels link nicely to your degree, then it may be worth highlighting the connections between them. Imply that you may want to explore these elements further, in your degree (i.e. a Politics A Level might led to a specific interest in Geopolitics in a Geography degree). However, if your A Levels do not have an obvious connection, then you can instead emphasise your varied interests, and how this makes you a well-rounded person. It allows you to bring different skills, which other candidates may not have (i.e. a Music A Level requires strong concentration, which can be used in an Archaeology degree). The whole point of this personal statement is to sell yourself to the universities and display your unique skills, so find a selling point in everything. Ask yourself why ‘this’ means that they should choose you.
As for extracurricular activities, or previous experience, these can follow the same method. You don’t need to connect these to your degree, because this should be a paragraph highlighting that you have interests and skills outside of your chosen degree. But it’s still a chance to display your uniqueness, the stuff that sets you apart from everyone else. Some suggestions of things that you could mention are: work experience, current or previous; part-time jobs; sports teams; substantial hobbies (unfortunately, video games won’t count, but something like painting or sewing will!); volunteer positions; clubs at school; involvement in religious community groups. These are just a few ideas to get you started and think about what you enjoy doing – what you are passionate about. They should start to flow into your head once you’ve thought of a couple. But it is worth noting that you can include activities that you are currently undertaking. So, if you’re doing the Duke of Edinburgh but you haven’t completed it, say that you are working to achieve the award, and explain what you have done so far, and what you intend to do in the future!
Writing a personal statement is not an easy task, and I wish you all the best of luck as you work towards completing it. Please just remember that vital component of a successful statement: passion. That’s what they’re looking for.
If you have any questions about personal statements, from someone who has gone through the process and written one, please leave a comment down below, and I will answer!