Five ways to nail your personal statement
Applying for uni? Not sure about tackling that personal statement? Start here.
A lot of students find the ‘personal statement’ part of their undergraduate application the most challenging bit. It’s not surprising, as the PS is quite an unusual beast. But try seeing it as an opportunity: this is your chance to speak directly to admissions tutors and tell them exactly why you would make a fine student. We’ve put together five tips to help along the way.
1. Get started
This is the most important tip. For most 2018 courses the application deadline is 15 January, so as your man William Shakespeare once wrote, get started ‘now, even now, very now’. The more time you give yourself, the less stressful or rushed your application will be.
2. Get rough
Don’t worry about structure, language, or any of the finer details at first. Just write down everything you think you want to include. Hobbies? How you feel about your subject? Why you want to go to uni? Scribble a list, don’t think too much about it – this is simply about getting something down.
Next, look at the unis you’re interested in: what are they after? What qualities, abilities and interests do they want their students to have? (Some website and prospectus digging will reveal this.) Write them down, too.
Now you’ve got something to work with. You can start to plan your statement around your first list while making sure it relates to the things you know a uni wants. Keep referring back to your rough notes as you write your statement, so you don’t miss out something important.
3. Ask other people
It’s helpful to get input from your friends, family and teachers. They all know you very well – what do they think you should include? Ask a few different people, as you might get some ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
This isn’t about getting them to write it for you, tempting though that might be. It’s about looking at the PS – and yourself – from a slightly different perspective, to make it as interesting and accurate as possible.
4. Be yourself (but not too much)
Your PS is basically a letter to admissions tutors saying ‘Pick Me,’ so it doesn’t need to be dry and formal. It needs to be honest, enthusiastic and simply written. Avoid grand statements, fancy phrases that you wouldn’t use in real life, and jokes – humour is subjective and an admissions tutor might not get it. Just get as close as possible to your natural voice. Also: no rhyming. No! Stop it.
A good way of checking that your PS sounds like you is to read it aloud. Get friends and family to listen to the first draft (and the second, fifth, seventeenth…) and give you feedback.
5. Oh god check your spelling
There’s no excuse – none – for poor spelling and grammar on your Personal Statement. Check it, check it, get six other people to check it, then check it again. Then leave it alone for two days and check it once more. You must be the Jedi master of spellchecking because admissions tutors notice errors. You don’t want a spelling mistake to be the thing that makes them reject your application.
If you need further inspiration, UCAS.com has loads of useful info, advice and tools for putting together the perfect personal statement.