Admissions tutors read literally hundreds of Personal Statements every year and they must have reached saturation point with people who say they “want to save the world” or “fell in love with fashion in childhood”.
Stop and think before you write a word, and ask yourself what you want the university to know, and what evidence you have that you are a good candidate to study the course you have applied to do.
Forget about listing the teachers at secondary school who inspired you, or the wonderful aunt who showed you how to sew. They are irrelevant, because the Personal Statement is about YOU.
So, let’s start considering how to take advantage of the opportunity to make a strong impression, to stand out from the other applicants – and this means planning. Spontaneous writing is not what we are aiming for, so begin by looking at four core questions:
- Why do I want to study this subject?
- Why am I a good candidate for this course?
- How do my current studies prepare the ground for the course?
- What are my skills and achievements to date (include work experience)?
Once you have thought this through, remember that you can apply for five universities through UCAS, but only submit one Personal Statement, so make sure that what you are saying applies to each university. You are limited to 47 lines of text or 4000 characters, including spaces, and this means that every word must count. Most universities expect your Personal Statement to be correctly formatted: 3-5 paragraphs, with a line between each paragraph – since UCAS won’t allow you to indent your text.
Make sure that your first paragraph is strong and to the point, so the admission tutor is interested and wants to keep on reading. Using the template above, and start off by writing down answers in note form, then read back the notes and make sure you haven’t forgotten any relevant facts. Try to keep a good balance between academic and extracurricular achievements and, whatever you do, remain factual and avoid arrogance and exaggerating your abilities. Phrases like “I was the best ” “I did amazingly” or “I knew more than…” are OUT.
Be positive and enthusiastic, show energy and a real interest in your field, and back this up with examples. In general, humour does not work in Personal Statements, and references to money are totally inappropriate, too, so try to link any career ambitions you may have to personal satisfaction rather than huge wages.
Personal Statements have to be grammatically correct, so proofread your work and ask someone else to give you feedback on what you have written. Listen to their views and, if necessary, rewrite or change the emphasis in your Personal Statement.
Finally, do not plead for a place, or suggest some kind of bartering exchange along the lines of “if you take me, you’ll be getting a wonderful student”.