A personal statement is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a chance to tell the uni why you want to attend uni, and what you wish to achieve there.
The key to writing a good personal statement is realising that everyone has their own story to tell and that all the skills and experiences that have shaped you really do make you unique. It’s a great way to show off what you’ve learned in your 13 years of schooling, what you’ve gained from your gap year if you did one, and how you want to push those boundaries in higher education.
For me, though, it wasn’t so much the story-telling that was hard; I struggled with making my personal statement sound authentic. A friend of my dad’s was lovely enough to read over my personal statement. As soon as she finished reading it, she asked me, ‘Why do you want to study law?’ and I launched into my explanation of wanting to make a difference in the world. After I’d finished, she said, ‘Now you need to figure out how to translate that passion that I just saw into your personal statement’. The result was something very different and a lot more me, and it was something I was happy to submit. So, make sure your personal statement sounds like you and that your passion for your chosen course shines through.
On top of that, remember to keep your personal statement positive! There’s absolutely no place for negativity in your personal statement, so when you’re proofreading, put on your positivity glasses and get rewording.
Now, here are some questions to ask yourself as you write your personal statement:
- What are you ambitions or long-term goals?
- Do you have specific goals in mind?
- Why have you chosen that specific course to study?
- Why is your chosen course suited to you?
- What are skills, experiences, or achievements under your belt that you’ve gained from school, work, or other activities that makes you suitable for post-secondary education?
- What transferable skills do you have?
The UCAS “How to Write a Personal Statement” page is a great place to start if you’re unsure of how you want to start off your 4,000 characters. For international students, it mentions that you should mention the following three things in your personal statement:
- Why do you want to study in the UK?
- Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken
- Why do you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country?
Keep in mind that there’s no need to personalise your personal statement to specific universities you’re applying to. This is different than what you’re probably used to in North America, where we submit our personal statements to each university directly. Instead, you’ll be submitting your personal statement through UCAS, so all the universities you’ve applied to will see the one personal statement you’ve written.
To reiterate: this is your chance to tell your story and sell yourself – kind of a one-sided, written interview, if that makes sense. Use language that’s subtly convincing, yet grounded and humble. For example, use words like ‘I was selected’ as opposed to ‘I was accepted into a program’. But, having said that, don’t get overconfident; there is a fine, fine line between selling yourself and coming off as arrogant.
But most importantly, be yourself! Let your enthusiasm for applying to uni just ooze out of your personal statement; you’ll stand out for sure if it feels genuine. Good luck!