Saturday, 26 September 2015

How to Write a Kick Ass Personal Statement


Rememeber how I mentioned in a post in August that I could write a whole post about personal statements? Well, here it is!

Now is around the time that university personal statements will be in the process of being written, so I thought I'd share some tips that I learned when I had to write my one! Your personal statement is your opportunity to present the best version of yourself to the universities that you have applied for, so it's a good idea to maximise every character to its full potential.

I'm going to reiterate once again that I am not an expert. I have only written one personal statement in my life, but my teachers really liked it and hey, it helped me get into the university of my dreams!

Think about why you want to study your chosen course. It's useful to say from the very beginning exactly what you're intending on studying and why that interests you. Was there a particular class/teacher that sparked your interest? Do you love to help people? Are you a fan of puzzles? Really think about why you find the subject so fascinating. The admissions staff are likely going to be from your chosen subject department, so by letting them know that you are committed to their subject, you're already going to be in good favour with them.

Make a list of all of your achievements. This is one of the toughest parts in my opinion, and it's right at the start which makes it even worse! People have a tendency to be quite modest about what they have accomplished in life, which is exactly the opposite of what you want from a personal statement! You passed a swimming exam? Write it down. You participated in a poetry competition? Write it down. You got a badge from the Scouts when you were 5 for kicking a ball? Write it down. It may not all be relevant to your personal statement, but it helps to see what will be useful to include. School awards and volunteering certificates are particularly nice tokens to have.

Give examples of times that your subject skills were useful. As I was applying for languages degrees, I played up on how I read foreign news websites or I'd casually mention French authors that I'd studied at school. Showing that you have taken the initiative to continue your learning outside of the classroom will show admissions that you might participate in societies related to your subjects too!

Mention experience so long as it's relevant. This comes back to the list I told you to make earlier. We were constantly reminded at school to only write about what's relevant to your degree, because you are given a very strict character limit on UCAS. Which means that if you want to write about your part-time job in a café, you need to explain why that has helped shape your suitability for your chosen degree. (popular, albeit contrived statements might include 'it has helped to grow my independence' or 'I now possess strong organisation and time management skills') So long as you always link each statement back to your overarching subject, you should be good to go.

Talk about interests outwith your degree. This may seem slightly counterintuitive after my previous point, but hear me out. In one of the personal statement workshops I attended in my last year of school, we were told that universities want to see that you are a well-rounded individual that will make themselves actively participative in all aspects of university life. That means that if you play a sport, they hope that you will continue to play on their university teams, or you will join a card-making society, or you will join the orchestra, or you will lead a volunteering project alongside your studies. Unfortunately being academically capable is not enough these days - they're looking for the whole package. (NOTE: it's probably best to keep this section to a minimum so that you can leave the bulk of the statement to talk about your subject achievements)

Structure it well. The style of your statement will also help it to be the best version possible. Personally, my statement started with a simile of what learning a language was comparable to for me. I then gave examples of times when I took language learning into my own hands. This included awards I'd won, quizzes I'd organised to encourage younger students to get involved with languages, and even family holidays where I'd met fellow tourists that would help teach me French or German! I followed this section up with some work experience, hobbies, and competitions I'd taken part in, all of which helped to grow my enthusiasm. I knew that my top choice degree was quite literature-heavy, so I emphasised my appreciation of all aspects of literature throughout my statement. Then I mentioned school-related positions of power (house captains, head team, leader of a group etc.) that I held and what I had gained from those positions. Finally I ended with some extra hobbies and a succinct summary of why I would be ideal for the degree (by linking it back to my opening simile, cause I'm a sucker for rounding things off with a reflection like that!) Find a way for the components of your statement to flow nicely, then polish it off with some snazzy vocabulary thrown in every now and then. (Seriously, will become your fave! So long as you don't go all Joey Tribbiani and use a thesaurus on every single word...)

Edit and re-edit (with the help of absolutely everybody!). Keep looking over your statement every couple of days. (Not all the time, because you'll go crazy and think it's awful when in reality, you've just seen it too many times to appreciate how amazing it actually is!) This can help you spot words that don't quite sound right, or a sentence that would work better somewhere else. Let other people see your statement too, as they can help you see things from a different perspective. Particularly your teachers and parents, as they can help you make it sound more sophisticated and remind you of other achievements you've accomplished that could be more relevant. And read other people's statements too if they'll let you. You can find a whole host of them on The Student Room.

Overall, your personal statement will be a reflection of who you are, so make sure it's a good reflection staring back at you! These are just a couple of points that I followed, and I'm pretty proud of how my statement turned out. Remember: it's all about the relevance!

Speak soon!

Chloe x