Writing a great Personal Statement can be tough. With only 4,000 characters, there’s very little space to describe some of your more interesting experiences, or elaborate on your love for a subject. However, it is these features of your Personal Statement which will help your application stand out to admissions tutors and, hopefully, keep you in the tutor’s mind and push you to the top of the pile.
Consider that Oxford advises that they “want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university… you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college.”
The first thing you need to consider when beginning your Personal Statement is the structure. Although it is rather formulaic and bland, there is a general structure that admissions staff expect to see. This will help you in writing clearly and concisely, which is key. Try and start by writing down some of your key interests, achievements, and importantly, why you want to study the subject you are applying for and what enthuses you about the subject. UCAS offer advice and have developed a useful worksheet to help you design and structure your writing.
Once you have done this, you need to consider how you can fit your experiences roughly into the following structure:
- What do you want to study, and why?
- What are you currently studying, and how have your studies prepared you for University?
- How have your hobbies/achievements/volunteering/work experience helped you develop useful skills?
- What are your future job aspirations?
Which? University suggest that you focus about 75% on academics and 25% on extra-curricular activities.
This structure can be played around with a little. The main thing to try and avoid is using stock phrases, or plagiarising other pieces of work. Be concise, try and be different without always using a thesaurus, and be descriptive. Consider what James Seymour, Director of Admissions at the University of Buckingham, has said;
a well-written personal statement with a structure that has clearly been planned and refined will not only make the information within stand out, it will demonstrate to the reader that you have an aptitude for structuring written pieces of work, a crucial skill that’s required for all university courses.
Secondly, throughout your Personal Statement you should be referring to your love for the subject, and how the experiences you’re referring to are helping you develop into a well-rounded and confident student. Liz Hunt, undergraduate admissions manager at the University of Sheffield, has argued that the;
best statements will show that a student is interested in the subject; that they’ve studied it [or considered what undergraduate study involves], that they’ve developed an interest in it outside school, and that they’re developing their skills and abilities outside academia.
Remember, that this is likely to be the only impression the University will have of you, as most will not interview. You, therefore, need to make sure that your conveying that you’re interested in further study and that you have the right qualities and skills to progress. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, while not embellishing your experiences, you should be constantly aware of how your experiences are helping you develop into a great student.