Tom blogs about personal statements

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:00 AM

Tom, one of our student bloggers, provides his strategy for writing a personal statement.

Just about now, your teachers may get on your backs about putting a 'winning' personal statement into your UCAS forms. Don't forget, many universities don't invite prospective students for interviews anymore, so this is your 'introduction' and you need to impress. But don't panic:  I'm about to teach you how to formulate the perfect one, with little hassle and stress. Read on…

Start putting your statement together by dividing your text into five sections (or thereabouts - I'll explain later). These sections are probably best done separately, so don't worry about the 4,000-character limit at this stage - you can cut back later. The sections are:

  1. Why you want to study the subject.
  2. What you have enjoyed at A-Level thus far.
  3. Your subject-specific extra-curricular research
  4. Non-subject-specific extra-curricular research.
  5. Where the degree will take you and what else you will get from university.

1. Why you want to study the subject. This is your introduction to the personal statement - it doesn't have to start with 'I want to study XXXXXX because…', it could start with a trigger experience you've had, such as a book you've picked up, or a person you met that inspired you. It's even okay to say you love it, or you're good at it; in fact, that's encouraged! By showing your enthusiasm and talent, you're also showing what you can give to the university as a student. I would suggest refraining from using stock phrases such as 'I am passionate about'/'I have always loved'/'I was honoured to' - the tutors have heard these a thousand times over. Try and be unique. Similarly, mention the skills you have and ones you want - this will show the universities you look at that you not only want to be there for an education, but also for them to hone what skills you already have, and the challenge it will provide you being there! You have to try and convince the university that you're really interested in the course and you want to go to their university - but make sure you sound like your course choice was made for more than just as a stepping stone to a career. This will give the impression you only care about the certificate at the end and not what the university can offer you.

2. What you have enjoyed at A-Level thus far. This is where you can be very specific and detailed. Talk about your three /four/five A-Levels, mentioning explicit details of a course that you loved and would love to discover further. One example would be 'homicide' for a Law degree; another in 'gender theory' for Linguistics. Be sure to mention if you've researched it further, as this could set you apart from other candidates who might not have been as dedicated as you in this field. Of course, there's no need to do this for every subject - only the ones you feel are necessary to your application process.

3. Your subject-specific extra-curricular research. Show you have read and researched around the subject, or done certain things such as taster courses, or summer schools, or even work experience. Mention extended projects should you be doing one that's relevant to your course, and even mention out-of-college experience, such as personal endeavours.

4. Non-subject-specific extra-curricular research. This is all the extra stuff you've done - volunteering, extended non-related projects, and extra activities etc. that are worth a mention. Don't linger on this too long, though - this paragraph should only be about 10% of the finished statement - as tutors are going to want to know about specifics that are directly related to your course.

5. Where your degree will take you and what else you will get from university. I mentioned before that the statement would be five paragraphs, or thereabouts. That's because if your introduction is stellar and perfect and exceeds everything ever, you may not even need this paragraph. This is purely to tie things up in a neat and orderly way; it will be there to say to the tutors: "HEY! PICK ME! I've done a lot of work and I REALLY LIKE YOU!"

One final thing before we wrap up - be sure to use intellectual words, or should I say, lexis throughout. I wouldn't suggest ramming your statement into a thesaurus and seeing what concocts, though.

Good luck, God speed, and peace out, hombres.

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