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How to write personal statements for university
Once you’ve decided which universities and courses you want to apply for, it’s time to complete your application. While the application process itself is pretty simple, ensuring you write the best possible personal statement can be pretty stressful, especially if you have lots of achievements and experience you want to talk about.
But before we dive into our step-by-step guide on how to write personal statements for university, it’s important you understand exactly what they are and why they’re important.
What are personal statements?
In short, a personal statement is an important document which individuals create as part of their university application process and is a great opportunity for students to set themselves apart from other students.
Personal statements allow students to highlight their academic achievements, extracurricular activities and any other relevant experiences that make them a strong candidate for university admission.
Beyond academic achievements, a personal statement allows students to present themselves as a unique individual and create a positive and memorable first impression. Students can also use personal statements as an opportunity to reflect on their personal growth throughout school/college, challenges they’ve had to overcome, and how these experiences have shaped them as an individual.
So, now you know what they are, here’s a 6-step guide on how to write personal statements for university:
- Brainstorm & prepare
- Start with an engaging introduction
- Show off your experience
- Highlight your personal skills and achievements
- Demonstrate your fit
1. Brainstorm & prepare.
Before you begin putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, it’s essential that you spend a good amount of time brainstorming what you want to actually put in your personal statement. Preparation is key especially when it comes to writing such an important document like this that can ultimately influence your future.
There are two main things to think about when you’re preparing your personal statement. Firstly, you need to think about the factual information you need to get across, as well as the more emotional, personal things that set you apart from everyone else applying.
Really think about the key things you’d want an admissions tutor to know about you, and brainstorm them down on paper. At this point, don’t stress about making your notes perfect – this initial step is solely about ensuring you don’t miss out any important information that might assist your application.
It’s also important that you spend some time analysing the course description as this will assist you with what to include and give you a good idea of what each uni is looking for from future students.
Once you’ve gathered all of the important information you want to include, you’ll be able to structure your statement. Outline the main points you want to cover in each section.
2. Start with an engaging introduction.
University admissions tutors will have to read through a LOT of personal statements, so it’s absolutely crucial that you manage to grab their attention right from the very beginning.
Personal statements are 4,000 characters long, which, if you’ve got a lot to talk about, can be a pretty limited amount of words. This is why you must be selective with what you’re talking about and ensure everything fits in.
Here are some top tips for creating a captivating introduction:
- Keep it concise – You’re limited on how much you can include so get to the point quickly and avoid long-winded explanations.
- Don’t overthink it – This first paragraph is all about introducing you, so show your enthusiasm for the topic and let the admissions reader get to know you. Demonstrate what excites you about the course and why you want to learn about it more.
- Avoid overused opening phrases – UCAS publishes a list of common opening lines each year that should be avoided. For example, ‘from a young age’, ‘I have always been interested in’, and ‘for as long as I can remember’.
3. Show off your experience.
Highlighting your work experience is highly beneficial when it comes to setting yourself apart from the rest. Even if you have fantastic grades, admission tutors want to find out what else you’ve managed to achieve and if you’ve gained any work experience during your time at school and/or college.
If you have carried out any work experience, volunteering, placements or internships related to your chosen field of study, it’s essential to highlight these experiences. Explain what you did, what you learned whilst you were there, and how it confirmed your interest in the subject.
Work experience is fantastic for helping students develop essential skills that are transferable to university studies and future careers, so remember to highlight any skills you obtained. For example, communication skills, time management skills and problem solving skills.
4. Highlight your personal skills and achievements.
You’ll also need to highlight your personal skills and achievements as Universities want to know the abilities you have that will help you on the course, or generally with life at university.
When it comes to talking about your achievements, don’t be bashful! Remember, you want to stand out from other applicants, so be proud of your achievements.
These achievements could include things like academic achievements, positions of responsibility and leadership both in and out of school/college, successful projects or competitive activities. Include anything that you’ve done that makes you interesting, special and unique.
Remember, always try to link any achievements to skills or qualities that’ll make you successful in the particular university course that you’re applying to.
5. Demonstrate your fit.
As well as explaining your experience, achievements and skills, a personal statement is also a chance to explain why you want to enrol on a particular course at the university, and why you’d be a good fit.
When demonstrating your fit for the university and course, make sure you answer the following questions:
- Why have you chosen to apply for this course?
- What excites you about this course/subject?
- Are my previous or current studies relevant to the course?
If you know what you’d like to do as a career after university, explain how you plan to use the knowledge and experience that you’ll gain from the course to kickstart your career.
It’s always a good idea to end the personal statement with something memorable, so that the admissions committee will remember you.
There’s no set in stone way to end a personal statement. However a good final paragraph should emphasise the points you’ve already made throughout and directly answer the question of why you should be offered a place on the course. Don’t beat around the bush, just get to it.
Talking about the future is another positive way to finish as it shows that you’re goal-oriented, and you’ve really thought about how this course fits into your future plans and career goals.
Finally, you want to analyse your personal statement for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Eliminate any unnecessary words or sentences and ensure your writing is as concise and error-free as possible. Bad spelling and grammar shows a lack of professionalism and writing skills, so make sure you check it over and over again for these inconsistencies. It’s even worth getting a friend or family member to have a once over incase they spot anything you’ve missed.
And there we have it! I hope this article helps when it comes to writing a high quality personal statement for uni.
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Written by Kate for Host.
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