How to write a personal statement for university? First, it is important to realise that writing a personal statement for university is a difficult exercise. Below are some key tips as to how to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.
Keep your personal statement short and concise
The biggest problem people have with their personal statements is writing too much and not knowing what to cut. There’s a line limit, equivalent to about 500 words. Bear that in mind before you start writing pages and pages! When writing, think carefully about the key words you want to express about a particular topic. When editing, go through and try to cut repetition and extraneous description.
Keep your personal statement ‘personal’
A personal statement is not a depersonalised, academic essay. Use “I” and “me” as much as you can! Don’t just list books you’ve read or work experience you’ve done, link it to yourself, your passions and your interests. The university needs to see why you’re prepared to work hard on your chosen course, independently, for three years or more.
Relate your personal statement to the course and modules
It’s great that you have a passion for 20th century American theatre, but is that actually a module offered in the English degree you’re applying for? If not, why are you applying for that course? If it is a module offered, it’s unlikely to form even half of the three year course, so it shouldn’t form half of your personal statement. Find all the modules that you’re interested in taking on that course (remembering you can’t take them all) and explain why you’re interested in them.
Write about your A-levels
What A-level topics have interested you the most? How are your A-level choices helping you prepare for your chosen degree? Universities love students who understand the demands of the course they’re applying for, and see the degree as a natural continuation of their current academic work.
What work experience have you done and how has it prepared you for university or a career? For job-specific courses like medicine, this is crucial, but even for arts subjects like English and History, universities like seeing how your chosen degree relates to work experience and your thoughts about future careers.
Mention any positions of responsibility and prizes
Things like being a prefect, running an extra-curricular club, and receiving prizes, all show organisation, enthusiasm and determination. These are highly relevant and desirable traits in all potential university students.
Write about your non-academic self
If you’re applying to study Chemical Engineering, you may find it hard to make your passion for animals and live jazz seem relevant to the course. However, if it’s a really big part of who you are, it’s still worth mentioning at the end, since it shows you to be a well-rounded and interesting person who will have a life outside of studying hours. Just remember, the personal statement is primarily about studying for the degree, and you don’t have many words to convince them of your character.
Keep your personal statement positive
There’s no room for negativity in such a short personal statement, and it conveys a non-enthusiastic character. Instead of “I’ve found the plant studies aspect of the A-level course very boring”, try, “During the A-level course, I have been most interested by how disease affects animals and humans on the macro level, and would love to be able to study this further.”
Everyone hates their personal statement
Ask any graduate to read out their submitted personal statement to you, and the chances are they will cringe so hard they may not be able to finish. The personal statement is an important step towards getting an interview, and it deserves your time and effort. But remember that the finished product is unlikely to be your masterpiece! Don’t stress about it too much; it’s just one piece of the detailed picture that universities will receive about you. Keep your writing clear, stay within your comfort zone and… be yourself!