How to write your Personal Statement

Friday, November 06, 2015 3:30 PM

You are sitting in front of a blank screen that you have to fill with 4000 words about YOU. It’s scary. Where do you start?

Your personal statement is your shop window. It is your opportunity to get the attention of your admissions tutors so that you stand out from the crowd. And it’s how you take your application to the next level. It is also how you demonstrate that you are the perfect student for that course.

So it’s important to get it right.

Here are some tips to ensure that your statement is an accurate reflection of you and the perfect addition to your application. Don’t forget that this is a process that will take some time. Don’t attempt to write it in one go; it is always good to get the opinion of others to ensure that you are presenting yourself in the best light. But make sure that your ‘voice’ shines through.

1.   How to start.

Firstly, why not jot down lots of words that describe you and your interests that you can then use as your word bank for the first draft. You are unique. Write down what makes you stand out (in a good way!).  If you find it difficult ask someone – friends or family – to describe you in three words. Get them down on paper, and then start adding your own. Save your document as soon as you can so that you don’t lose it half way through.

2.   Words that come to mind when you think about your course.

Are you excited about the course? How did that happen? Have you always longed to do it, or is it a recent idea? Have you been on work experience – if so, what backs up your interest? Find words and phrases that convey your excitement about the course you want to do, and write down the evidence that proves this.

3.   The three sections of your Personal Statement

Think of your personal statement in thirds.  You need a short punchy opening paragraph that summarises who you are and why you want to do your chosen course. Why not leave this until you have finished the other two paragraphs, and then this will flow more easily. Using the words and phrases from your word bank, write the second paragraph focusing on the course and why you would be the perfect candidate. What can you contribute to the course and university for example? And finally move on to YOU and what makes you stand out from the crowd. What’s your ‘skill set’: are you a good communicator? Do you enjoy writing essays? Are you a great team player? What are your relatable interests? What are you passionate about? The tutors are looking for evidence for why they should offer you an interview/place so everything here must be relevant. What activities have you done that gave specific benefits that could help your application (volunteer work? sports team? choir member?) Include any extra-curricular interests or work experience here as they will help you. Be clear and write about your achievements, however small you may think they are. Don’t fib; you will be found out. In your final line, summarise your personal statement in a couple of lines and finish with a comment that indicates a positive outlook as you plan your career.

4.   Language

It’s very easy to get carried away with what you are writing about when it is something you love. But don’t waffle. Focus. Make sure every word is relevant. Don’t be arrogant or show-offy, but don’t be too modest either. Don’t try to impress by using overly flowery lingo. Plain English is usually best. If you write plainly and clearly then if you use a specific word (say, ‘passionate’) then it will stand out more. Don’t copy from anyone else or from an online example – you’ll be found out. You must be yourself. Pick out the best words from you initial ‘word list’ and don’t repeat yourself.

5.   Keep redrafting

Ask for the opinions of teachers, friends and family at this stage as well. Does your text flow OK? Are you using language that you’ve just lifted from a thesaurus or is it your authentic voice? Are you over-egging something? Is your text clean, punchy and direct? Does your enthusiasm shine through? Don’t forget to check your spelling – and don’t just rely on an online spell-checker, it also need a proper proofread and sense check.

Your Personal statement is your calling card.  Make it memorable. Make those tutors WANT to meet you! Make sure that you leave enough time to finish it properly before you have to submit your application. Read it before you go for your interview as this will be the basis of many of the questions that you may be asked as your application progresses. And don’t forget – if you just miss your grades, tutors will look at your personal statement to see if they will still consider your application.

It really matters!

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