Help! I need to write my personal statement and I don’t know where to start…
Hey, don’t panic - we’ve got you covered.
So first thing’s first, let’s talk about what a personal statement is, and what it’s for. Once you understand this, you’ll be better equipped to start thinking about how you can shape your personal statement to fit its purpose!
So, what is a personal statement?
Essentially, a personal statement is a document that supports your university application. It’s your chance to explain why you’d like to study a specific course or subject, and what it is about you and your history that makes you the perfect candidate to consider.
What is it for?
Universities will look at your personal statement and try to identify how passionate you are about the subject you’re applying for. If you can prove how excited you are by the prospect of studying, then you’ll be flying!
And don’t think that unis don’t bother looking at personal statements! A strong personal statement can be the deciding factor on whether you get an offer. And as universities start to consider applicants that don’t come from traditional education routes, the humble personal statement is becoming not so humble!
What should I include?
Your ambitions, your passions, interests, and of course - your achievements! And if you can link each of those things back to the subject you want to study - then you’re well on your way to showing just what a great fit you are.
What experiences do you have outside of school? Have you worked part-time? Volunteered? If so, what skills did you use? And how does that circle back around to your subject area?
What are your hobbies or interests? And how do they link back to your subject of choice?
Have you taken part in any experience days, taster sessions or community projects? If they’re relevant - stick 'em in!
What are your ambitions and goals? Be bold! If you want to be CEO of a global company by the time you’re 30 - say so! Explain why, and then say what steps you’ve already taken to get there (no matter how small).
And finally, if you have any personal circumstances or challenges that may have affected your educational performance, this is the time to highlight them.
What shouldn’t I include?
Try not to mention uni’s or colleges by name, nor the course name if it differs between your selected unis - you’re only allowed to submit one personal statement to all your potentials so it needs to apply to all of them. And besides, a personal statement is all about YOU, not them!
How do I make my personal statement ‘pop’?
Once you’ve got the main points of your personal statement down, it’s time to start refining it. You want this thing to shine bright like a diamond, right! So let’s get to work.
Think about your opening statement. “I’ve always been interested in ‘x’” might seem like the obvious opener, but you want to stand out, not follow the herd (don’t worry we’ve all done it). If say, environmental science is your passion, maybe you could try talking about what’s happening in the industry right now that excites you. Perhaps a striking statistic or opening fact to make the reader stop and think for a moment.
There are lots of ways you can jazz up the opening of your personal statement - try to find a way that makes the person who reads it go, “Wow, ok, interesting!”
Next, let’s take a look at your language choices.
Enthusiasm is key here. Keep your language simple and sharp (you only have 47 lines to get everything in) and beware of giving your personal statement a sense of humour (your admissions officer may not have one).
Now, go through your statement and look at your word choices - is there a punchier way of saying that? Is there a simpler word that has a bit more bite?
If you’re not sure what we mean, here’s an example:
“The luminescence of the lightbulb was confounding my ocular vision.”
“I was dazzled by the lightbulb - blinded, in fact!”
Which has more ‘pop’ do you think?
OK, I’ve written the thing. Now what?
You may think you’re finished, but trust the process here…
Hide your personal statement.
That’s right! Put that document somewhere you can’t see it for as long as you can. If it’s a week, that would be fantastic, if you’re on a last-minute deadline dash, then a couple of hours will do.
The purpose of this is to help you get some distance from your work. You’ll find that the more you work on a single document, the more easily your eyes will jump over mistakes, and somehow manage to make it all flow when perhaps in reality it kinda doesn’t!
Brains are incredible things!
So to combat this, we put our work away for a while, let it rest, and then when we’ve gained suitable distance, we can look at it again with fresh eyes.
Trust us, you’ll be amazed by the number of errors you find or changes you feel compelled to make!
Our final tip…
One last thing we think will really help you finalise your personal statement and make it truly shine.
Read it out loud.
By reading your personal statement aloud, you’ll be able to find those tricky sentences. Remember - if it’s difficult for you to say, then it’ll be difficult for your admissions tutor to read.
Once you’ve ironed out all the kinks, we’re confident you’ll have a personal statement to be proud of!