Honestly, anyone who says that writing their personal statement is a breeze hasn’t done it right. There is nothing easy or breezy about trying to cram your life up to that point in 4,000 characters. That’s right, 4,000 characters.
Not words. Characters!
That means even a space between words has as much value as those words.
But I shouldn’t be so negative, because that personal statement I wrote a year ago got me my place at Leicester. So here’s my perspective on how to ace that daunting task:
Start by bullet pointing notes on each aspect of the personal statement.
- Really think about what makes you interested in the subject(s) you’re applying for. It can be painful and take some time, but it’s extremely important you know exactly what pushed you to pursue this. This section makes up the majority of your statement. If you write a really generic reason, you’ll end up with a really dispassionate response and universities will see this. I wanted to pursue History because I found it so fascinating how closely interconnected everything is. Something as minute as the price of bread could have caused the French Revolution and everything that followed it like Napoleon! If you have a favourite are of study, talk about it. Just another example of passion.
- Note any skills you have gained from your A level choices, school activities or work experience that would aid you during your time at university. These don’t have to be academic skills like problem solving or good analysis. It could be anything like building confidence or improving listening skills. University is not all lectures and labs. Much of your time could be spent in group discussions or projects. Plus, your work experience doesn’t have to be in the field your applying for. Something like working in a shop shows you’re willing to take responsibility. This is only a small section so don’t think too much about it.
- Note one or two hobbies that particularly stand out above the rest and make you passionate to do well. For me, I decided to talk about my membership to a local theatre company where I took part in productions for a number of years.
This is the basic framework. Once you’ve completed your notes, you can pick and choose what information to include.
Don’t fret too much about the opening sentence. Yes, you need something to open your statement. But no admissions tutor will dismiss yours simply because you didn’t open with a firework display of sophisticated words. My statement literally opened as “My love of history…” which sounds like a 5 year olds response to ‘About me’.
But what really puts your statement above the rest is by making it particularly personal. After all, universities want to really know you. I did this by opening into an anecdote about a recent trip to Bonn, Germany where I learnt about reunification and linked this to my Year 12 coursework. You don’t have to do what I did, but something like a recent experience definitely helps.
After writing your first draft, it’s best to ask someone else to read through it to see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll probably write at least 3 drafts before the final copy.
Remember, this statement is going to at least two different universities. Don’t explicitly mention a particular degree course since not all courses are named the same. Certainly at Leicester, there are numerous variations on history and politics.
Don’t worry if you haven’t even written the header ‘Personal Statement’. As long as you complete it before the UCAS deadline, you’ll be considered equally to those over-achievers who insist on submitting theirs on 1st September.
On the other hand, don’t write it in a red bull and coffee marathon a few hours before the deadline. That’s for when you get to uni.