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How to write a great personal statement

With the UCAS closing date looming and we know that students will be working hard on their personal statements. With all the restrictions brought in to deal with Covid-19, work experience and volunteer opportunities have been harder to come by. Crafting a personal statement that stands out is more important than ever. We caught up with Student Recruitment Manager Richard Palmer and Student Recruitment Officer Katie Lake for their tips on writing a great personal statement.

Why is your personal statement important?

Sadly enough, good grades are no longer enough to ensure an offer from your chosen university. However, a personal statement is your opportunity to get your personality across, it’s your chance to say why you will be a good fit at your chosen institution. These statements are a top consideration for admissions tutors but don’t see it as a chore, take it as an opportunity to highlight your enthusiasm and commitment for your chosen course.

 

What are admissions looking for?

Students need to have the appropriate qualifications and grade predictions to meet entry requirements but this needs to be elaborated upon in your personal statement. It’s time to pick out key ideas and themes. Areas to consider include;

  • Good presentation of the UCAS application overall, including the statement. Good structure, grammar, spelling etc.
  • Illustrating your suitability for the course by linking it to different areas of life. For example, studies, extra-curricular, personal hobbies/experiences if applicable, work experience if applicable etc.
  • Illustrate real interest in the subject area – talk about key ideas.
  • Your personality – not in terms of humour or sarcasm but showing that you are a responsible and hardworking student.
  • A high-quality reference that supports your application

 

Top tips for your personal statement

1)  Get a plain piece of paper, draw a small box at the top for a strong opening statement, another small box at the bottom for a concluding statement and split the middle into three sections for explaining your course choice, your college experience and then your wider experience. Use this to brainstorm with bullet points before starting to write.

2)  When discussing your suitability, discuss your current studies by talking about what tasks you have done that you are proud of, the skills you have developed, how the content and the skills relate to your chosen course and how they will help you succeed.

Do this even for subjects that seemingly have nothing to do with your course. For example, if you’re applying for Criminology but studied A-level Geography you could talk about ‘green crimes’ etc. Or, if you did group presentations/coursework assignments/portfolios during college studies, how would these skills help you in the future?

If you are applying for slightly different courses, remember that all your university choices will see the same personal statement. Make sure to prioritise talking about your main subject for consistency.

3)  There are two main reasons you don’t want to work from templates or copy your friends.

The first and simplest reason is that you won’t stand out.

The second is that UCAS puts every statement through plagiarism software. If your statement has 30% similarities to others a report is sent to all your university choices. They decide the outcome, which could be to revoke your offer.

Using the Plagiarism report from UCAS in 2018 we know the following phrase was used 234 times…. "Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have had a passion for science"

Don’t be too worried though. If you honestly write an original statement and the software still picks it up by fluke the university will know to what to do.

4)  Consider your strengths – what are you good at?  What have you done that could help demonstrate that skill?

Consider your weaknesses – what might be an area of concern or needing development?  What is your greatest weakness? (This is one of the hardest questions to answer at interview) Be honest and recognise what you haven’t had experience of or aren’t as confident at – and consider positive ways that you can develop in that area. 

5)  All work experience is good and will be one of the most important experiences to help you succeed. “I don’t need a job because my parents pay for everything.” - This message implies that someone is not independent. But work experience highlights you as capable and productive. You gain so many skills at work, this puts ahead of many other university applicants, so make sure to highlight these skills.

6)  Don’t forget to expand on your points. You may consider writing “I participate in my college’s debate society and therefore have excellent public speaking skills.” Then consider what else you do in debate. You will conduct research, strategise, plan and collaborate. These actions mean you to develop skills in flexibility in approach, time management and public speaking.

7)  Keep an eye out for typos, these will be picked up. Double-check your work, try reading it backwards to help spot mistakes and ask someone else to check it for you too.

 

Good luck to everyone writing their personal statements. Remember, this is your chance to shine and tell your chosen university why you would make a great addition to their cohort.

 

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