Our Head of Education, Fiona Mckenzie, has advised 100’s of students on how to write a competitive personal statement and here she shares her top ten tips.
1. Start with a big brainstorm to help you think of all the ideas that you might want to include. This will give you lots of information to pick and choose from and help you work out the ‘story’ you want to tell the admissions team.
2. This is your only chance to communicate with the admissions tutor about why you are so passionate about studying this subject further. Focus 80% of your statement on your academics and experiences relevant to the course. Use the remaining 20% used to talk about relevant extra-curricular activities.
3. It is much more valuable to reflect on what you have learnt rather than list all the things that you have done. Played a team sport? Think about the practice and dedication this has required, as well as the verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Taken part in MUN? How has this prepared you to think on your feet, to form an argument and to listen to another person’s point of view?
4. Keep it honest, do not claim to have read books or speak languages or to have written competition entries if you have not done any of the above. You will certainly get caught out if you are called for interview and unless you have genuinely done these things it will generally be obvious when you cannot justify them with contextual information.
5. The character count is tight so avoid ‘waffling’. Be careful about working your way through the Thesaurus and using every simile you can find for ‘passionate about’.
6. Every sentence has to count and make good, clear points. Remember PEE - Point, Example, Explanation, all three should feature in each sentence.
7. Whilst the overall tone needs to be formal, use words that are familiar and that you would use everyday. This is your personal statement and needs to have your voice and sound authentic.
8. Resist the temptation to use phrases you have found in online statements – every application is checked for plagiarism and if detected the application may be withdrawn.
9. A well written personal statement will take several drafts. So, start early! Don’t worry about the character count in the first draft, rather get everything down on paper. It is easier to start with a huge character count and then edit it down.
10. Always work offline and check, check and check again before you paste it into the UCAS application. Make sure there are no grammar, spelling or punctuation errors as this will not create a favourable impression.