Application Advice - Preparing Your Personal Statement
While the UCAS University application deadline is still a while away, January 15 will soon be around the corner. Getting started now on your personal statement means you’ll be well prepared and won’t have the sudden stress after Christmas!
Your personal statement is just one part of the overall UCAS application process, but it’s an important part where you get to make the most of expressing yourself and your interest in the course, and to leave a lasting impression that will make a University want to offer you a place right there and then. But remember, what you write could be the deciding factor between you and another candidate for a place on your perfect course.
Sure, there’s no set way when it comes to writing a personal statement, and sometimes, that makes it even harder to get started, but we’ve produced some handy tips to help you on your way, and to signpost some of the elements which make a great personal statement so you’ll know exactly what we’re looking for.
Fail to Prepare…
If you really want a well-structured and considered personal statement, you should first make a plan of what you’re going to write. Writing about yourself can be daunting, scary, and difficult even at the best of times, but no one knows you better than yourself.
Start by a little free-writing. Jot down your key achievements, hobbies and interests, your strengths, your experiences, future plans and subject area knowledge. Once you have a long list, you can then start to group them together into sub-categories. For example:
Academic: A Level grades. Highest exam score in England. Special accreditation for course work. Led a student study group to explore subject area in more depth. Completed work experience at a chiropractic clinic.
Extra-curricular: Physical fitness training including swimming and aerobics. Captain of the handball team. Volunteer at a local charity which helps disabled children access sports. Actively participate in the College’s student committee to improve teaching and the physical environment.
Personal: Held a perfect attendance record for College. Was voted the most helpful student by peers. Became interested in health sector after visiting several medical museums. Travelled.
Fleshing It Out
Now, you can start to decide which are relevant to your course and flesh your points out into more cohesive sentences. Remember to use the points to explain and support why you want to study the course. Reflect on your related experiences and demonstrate how you’re the right candidate by showing you’ve researched the course/profession and understand what studying at a university level will involve.
Using this method, by grouping sub-categories, means you almost have your paragraphs constructed for you! Start writing in a separate document – don’t draft your personal statement in UCAS as the application will time out. Save your working document frequently and don’t be afraid to return to it after a while… this masterpiece won’t be written in a few hours!
Tip: Turn off the character and word-count initially. Write as much as you want and try to get down everything you want to say. It’s easier to go back and edit than to try and come up with ideas and inserting sentences while keeping it under 4,000 characters at the same time.
Sell Your Strengths
Feel like you don’t have much to say? Well, it’s time to set those thoughts aside. Talk to family and friends who may be able to point out your best achievements, or ones you may have forgotten. Think about your aspirations for the future and what excites you about going to university. Let these inspire your writing. Avoid using stock phrases and vacuous statements, such as ‘I am a people person and I’m committed to doing my best all the time’. These kind of sentences seem to say a lot whilst actually saying very little. At the other end of the scale, avoid exaggeration of your achievements and any white lies – it will quickly become obvious if you’re invited to interview.
Tip: If you’re struggling to match up your strengths to what we’re looking for, refer back to the course information and specifications. Take a look at what the course involves, what the focus is, and where opportunities in that field could lead. View our website or prospectus and jot down some phrases about the course; think about how they may relate to your strengths, and then reword them in a way that shows you off.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Now you have the 7.000 word brain-dump, you can refine your personal statement into the 4,000 word gem. The first edit will usually mean crafting the sentences, making sure they make sense and that you’re communicating effectively and efficiently. On the second edit, carefully read over your work. You’ll spot the odd spelling and grammar mistakes and catch those sentences where you ramble on and on and on and on, and those times you’ve repeatedly used the same words. On the third edit, read your work aloud! You’ll be surprised at how useful this little trick is at helping you hear any sentences that don’t quite make the grade.
Tip: If you can get someone else to also proofread your statement, even better! The more people you show it to, the more feedback you will receive, and the better the final version will be. Of course, don’t take everyone’s advice - it’s better to ask many people and then set apart the useful comments later.
Tip: Set your work aside for a couple of weeks and come back to it at a later date with a fresh perspective.
Effort Now, Reward Later
If you put the effort into writing your personal statement now, your reward will be plenty of time to check over your work later, and that means every chance of success. For more information and direction on how to write your personal statement, check out the fantastic UCAS guide.
Ryan Grimshaw (Mktg)