According to Which? University, a personal statement is like a short reflective essay you write about why you are the perfect candidate for the undergraduate degree course/s you are applying to join.
It is one of the main parts of the UCAS Application, alongside your grades at GCSE and A-Level, BTECs and other qualifications and is read by admissions tutors at the universities you apply to, who will ultimately decide whether to offer you a place or not.
So how do you go about writing one?
Before writing a personal statement, it is important to treat it as you would an important piece of academic work. Take time to brainstorm ideas and think carefully about the content you want to include and how you want to structure this content. Some techniques for brainstorming could be:
- Word association
- This worksheet, provided by UCAS themselves
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2. Create a draft
It is vital that you turn off the character counter for the first draft. This is because you need to get all your content written down. It is later that you can then re-word sentences to make it more concise. "Later" can be a day or even a few days later, as fresh eyes will allow you to spot areas for improvement easily.
3. Focus on your strengths
In the 4,000 characters that UCAS provide, you are trying to promote yourself to the university. The nature of the application is for a course of study, so aim to focus at least two-thirds on academic motivations and interests. Show that you have an understanding of the subject and a genuine interest in it:
- Demonstrate why the subject area is important to you.
- Show that you have a knowledge of what the course involves.
- Elaborate on any specific interests you have within the area, to show your enthusiasm.
- Mention any work from the industry that you have read,studied or participated in before and highlight why it inspired you/ why you liked it.
- Place an emphasis on any transferable or study skills you have gained from current subjects that could benefit you at university.
4. Begin with something engaging
Starting with something interesting, unusual or surprising will give a good first impression. Some ideas could include:
- A bold statement
- An anecdote
- A quote
The perfect opening sentence must be relevant to you, but also to the industry you are working towards and the course you are applying for. Remember, universities read hundreds of personal statements during application times, so make them want to read yours!
5. Demonstrate any career ambitions
It is important to mention what you are working towards in the future and how you think that this course is going to equip you with the skills and experience required to get there. If possible think back to relevant past encounters you may have had, such as:
- Work experience
- Work shadowing
- Taster days
- Networking events
Do not worry if your career plans are still undecided at this stage, this is a university application not a job interview!
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6. Be honest
Being truthful is key in any application, but especially a UCAS one. Why? Because you could be caught out at a later date. Some universities have an interview stage, especially when you apply through clearing, so it is important that your personal statement is truthful so that you can answer questions relating to what you've written.
7. Include any extracurricular activities that you take part in
Your academic motivations should form the majority of your statement, but admissions tutors are keen to attract applicants are well-rounded and demonstrate involvement in extracurricular activities. They see these aspects of your life as elements that shape you as a person, even if they do not relate to your career plans. Things to include could be:
- Part-time work
- Clubs and societies
- Awards and achievements
When mentioning any of the above ideas and interests, it is important to ensure you explain what relevance it has to the course and the industry, and any transferable skills that are required for the course.
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8. Make sure that it is your own work
Copying someone else's work is plagiarism, which is never a good idea. Anti-plagiarism software can pick up on statements containing as little as 10% of previously used sentences and phrases; this is not only going to discredit your work, but also it's bad practice for when you start your degree. So, be original!
9. Ask someone else to proofread
When you have been working on a piece of work repeatedly, it becomes more and more difficult to spot mistakes and find ways to rephrase or improve your work. Therefore, it is really helpful to get someone to proofread, such as a parent or teacher and they can find improvements for you. Perhaps read it out to others or ask someone to read and make notes.
10. Don't leave until the last minute!
This is an important statement, so unless you really need extra time to make decisions, applying early shows willing and enthusiasm and will generally make a better impact on admissions staff and university tutors. This is especially important if you are studying A-Levels as the further you get through the year, the more exams you will have and the more intense study will get. Therefore, getting it done will help reduce stress later on in the year, especially with mock exams.
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Following these 10 top tips should help you to write the perfect personal statement and get you the university offers you desire.