Updated: May 22, 2020
Everybody remembers the hardship of their personal statement, however, most also remember how proud it made them when they were finished with it. Everyone starts just as equally confused and stressed as the next person, relying on a hundred different sources to piece together a personal statement. After getting onto a course that is arguably one of the most difficult in the UK, I hope to shed some light on how to write a personal statement and share some tips along the way.
Make a personal statement PERSONAL
The most important thing to understand is that everything about a personal statement is in the name; it has got to be PERSONAL to you and is a STATEMENT about why you are a worthy applicant for the course you have chosen. If this is the only thing you take away from this article you are already doing better than some.
How to structure a personal statement
The formatting and flow of a personal statement is just as important as the content. The first section has got to capture the person reading it, much like the opening of a book. You need to tell them why you’re a good candidate, why you are interested in the course and why they should give you an interview or a place. It has got to make the admissions team want to continue reading and want to learn more about you. The middle section should be about work experience, the initiative you have shown outside of school and academic interests. The last part should cover other bits about you including your character and basic information that might not fit anywhere else. Also try and end on a good line, something that brings them back to why you are a good candidate for the course.
What to include in a personal statement
A personal statement is all about how you sell yourself. On average, people recommend 80% of the 4000 characters to be about your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include everything from work experience to how you have kept up with any current news or research in the field. For each of the weeks of work experience completed try to write at least three lines about what you learnt from it, how it benefited you or how interesting and motivating it was to be a part of. Also, for the placements that were particularly good I would recommend writing about specific cases you saw. Even if you have done work experience in an area that is not directly related to what you want to study, you can still use it to demonstrate any life skills that you have acquired (time management, organisation, customer service). For most degrees however, work experience is not a requirement so you can also use this section to talk about any extra curricular activities, positions of leadership you’ve upheld or wider reading you have undertaken. When mentioning these make sure to link them back to why you should be selected by the admissions team. Think about the qualities they have helped you develop and how they will be beneficial for the degree and profession you are applying for.
How to make sure a personal statement stands out
One surprising thing a lot of personal statements lack is a clear demonstration of the individuals PASSION. Shocking as it is, many personal statements end up being devoid of emotion as the writer is more focused on trying to include all their achievements. The admissions team who will read your personal statement will be employed in the field you wish to work in. They see thousands and thousands of personal statements every year; so you have to make your one stands out from the crowd.
Checking and re-checking your personal statement
Finally, a finished personal statement is just the first draft. It’s extremely important to have other people look over it and give you feedback. Often you can become ‘snow-blind’ to your work and not manage to pick up on mistakes. While you should always value any advice given to you, you should remember that at the end of the day your personal statement still has to represent you - not those who gave you the feedback. Ultimately, multiple versions of your personal statement is ok (I had 17!).
Written by: Francesca Di Franco
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