Taz: Personal Statement Tips


The three above links provide good information on how to set about writing your personal statement, and on common mistakes. I particularly like the podcast by the University of Nottingham. In truth there are tonnes of tips on the internet about UCAS personal statements and it can feel like you're being bombarded with advice, which can be counter-productive.

In my experience so far of reading personal statements these are the comments I've found myself making the most:

  • Don't be careless with spelling, grammar and phrasing. Slipping up on any of these creates a very bad impression - you are applying to an institute of higher education and so things like this are taken for granted. You have to be very particular about phrasing. If it sounds even slightly awkward then rephrase it.
  • Subject names and the word "university" are not proper nouns i.e. they don't require a capital letter at the beginning.
  • If you name-drop a person, organisation or project then provide enough information so that they won't have to Google it (because they won't) but absolutely no more. Your description only needs to be about five words long.
  • Don't be colloquial; be concise without cutting out your personality.
  • Drop in an opinion about something you have said, to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding, passion and capabilities. It may interest the professor to know what you think about something related to your course.
  • Leave out anything that sounds negative or pessimistic. You don't have any words to waste on trying to lift up the mood of your personal statement later on. If the information is crucial then rephrase it to sound neutral or positive.
  • Each of your paragraphs should end with something about you - it needs to feel as though everything you've said in that paragraph is building up to some big point about your wonderful ability and shining personality.
  • Avoid telling your life story - what have you done, and why is it relevant for this personal statement?
  • If you have lots of things to mention under your experiences and achievements, avoid writing a list, because it sounds boring and mechanical. Link some of your achievements in some way e.g. by theme, by age, by subject, by curricular/extra-curricular.
  • STRONG CONCLUSION. The final impression is formed with your last couple of sentences, and it's in these that you must convey why you are brilliant and why offering you a place could only be a positive thing!
Basically, 4000 characters is such a small allowance for you to be able to sell your suitability for that particular field so anything you write in your personal statement which is not fierce, concise, positive and relevant counts against you and is a waste of your precious space.
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