Earlier this week, I received a text from my cousin asking me to check her personal statement and to give her any advice that I could remember from when I was writing mine. Although my memory is notoriously bad, a few tips seem to have stuck from my days in Year 13. As this is something that affects all prospective university students, I thought I would share some of that advice with you.
- Your Introduction has to stand out.
Your introduction, as implied in the name, is the first thing that will be read. If it’s boring and generic, that will be the first impression of you that the reader will get. Remember, this person doesn’t know you, so you have to make them want to know you.
(This is also relevant in the main body of your text; taking part in bake sales is generic and not particularly interesting whereas being a registered scuba diver isn’t something that you come across every day. Prioritise the latter.)
Do: Start with an observation, a fact or an idea about your chosen course that you think encapsulates its essence or provides a particularly interesting perspective on it. Explain your thoughts on this and why you think it is relevant/effectively summarises the course.
Don’t: Introduce yourself with ‘I have been studying x for x amount of years’ or ‘I am really interested in studying x because…’
- Show don’t tell.
Spelling out that you are the best candidate for the course because you have x, y and z attributes is a little clunky and can often seem forced. It’s better to use your experiences and interests to demonstrate how you have developed these traits rather than listing them.
Do: Draw on relevant experiences to infer key skills and personal attributes. For example: My position as a waitress allowed me to take on the responsibility of Front of House Manager and experience the challenges of leading a team in a professional atmosphere.
Don’t: Just list your attributes. For example: I am a responsible, hardworking person and a good team leader. This is shown by my job in…
- You need to explain your points fully.
Point, Evidence and Explanation (P.E.E) isn’t just relevant for English Literature essays, you need to use it here as well to embed each point you make about yourself and to link it back to the course you want to take.
Do: Explain each point fully in terms of why it is relevant to your course and why it makes you a great candidate for it. For example: Point- I have completed experiments throughout the year. Evidence: These have included x, y, z. Explanation: This has allowed me a greater understanding of x, while creating an awareness of y.
Don’t: Leave your points half explained. If you can’t think of a relevant link to the course you want to take or a skill you have gained from it, it’s probably better to leave it out.
- Be confident.
Your personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate that you’re the best candidate for the course to which you’re applying. I noticed when reading my cousin’s that she had a tendency to soften her statements in an attempt to come across as polite, the effect was to actually make her sound uncertain.
Do: Believe in yourself and let your writing show this. If you don’t believe you deserve it, no one else will. This is particularly important in your conclusion; if your introduction is there to make you stand out, your conclusion has to embed this. Make sure it is strong and confident and summarises exactly why you deserve a place at that university.
Don’t: Use phrases like ‘I hope/think that I am/ have…’ Swap these for statements like ‘I fully believe…’
- Proof read.
This point is unbelievably important. Grammar, spelling and syntax errors are unforgivable in something like this and send completely the wrong message to the universities that you want to get into. Errors make you seem lazy and disinterested.
Do: Proof read your work and get other people to check it as well. Reading aloud is often a handy way of making sure your writing flows and sounds natural, and can often draw attention to wording and typing errors.
Don’t: Submit work with mistakes in it or that hasn’t been checked by a second party. Just don’t.
So, there you have it! Five tips to help you with writing your personal statements! If you have any questions or wish to share your own advice on this topic, as always just drop a comment below.