Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament" and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima with her husband and young son.
When I first wrote my personal statement, I chose to show it to my history teacher. I knew he would be kind, but firm enough to give me honest advice and help with it.
In class, he gave us some textbook work to do while he read it.After a few minutes he turned around and said "Poppy, I think this is probably the best personal statement I've ever read."
I blushed as the other students yelled "wheyyy!", but I was thrilled. My teacher offered a few sentence changes, but nodded and smiled as he handed it back to me.
I went on the get five unconditional offers. Every place I'd applied to said yes.
How did I get these offers? I'll tell you. Here are six top tips you'll need to write a killer personal statement that will stick out from the others.
1. Sound Interesting
Anyone can say "Hello, my name's _____ and I want to study ______ at ______ university." They've read this sentence thousands of times, so much so that your name will be forgetten as soon as they reach the second sentence. You need to make yourself memorable. You have to give them a reason to keep reading, and to consider offering you a place on your desired course.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How am I unique? Do I have any unusual hobbies? Have I travelled or moved around a lot? Can I speak more than one language? Do I have any special skills? (Try and make these appropriate, though - don't write 200 words about being able to lick your tongue when you're applying for a Mathematics course)
- What have I done with my life so far? Have you created a video game? Written a book? Painted? Performed in a concert or a recital? All of these make you stand out from the crowd.
- Have I done anything extra at school? Are you a chairman of a club? Head of any sports teams? Contributed to the school newsletter? These show that you're willing to do extra at school and that you can organise a team.
2. Make Yourself Relevant
Explain how your hobbies are relevant to the course you want to study. For example:
- You want to study art. Do you like to draw, paint or sketch?
- You want to study English. Do you like writing? Have you ever won any writing competitions? Do you love to read books?
- You want to study history. Do you like visiting museums and studying your town's local history?
- You want to study theatre. Have you ever been in a play? (School plays when you were a kid count, too). Do you enjoy going to the theatre?
And so on.
3. Express Interest in the Subject
You may have said what course you want to study, but you have to explain why. Consider talking about:
- What got you interested in the subject. A chilhood experience? Previous studies?
- Have you studied it before, perhaps at A-Level? Did you get good grades? Did it make you want to take your studies further?
- Was there a particular aspect of the subject you enjoyed? A certain time period (history), a certain artist or actor (theatre/art) or a particular mental disorder (psychology)?
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4. Explain What You'll Do With Your Degree
Graduation may seem like a long, long time away, but it's something you'll have to start thinking about at some point, and it can't hurt to begin now. Think about the course you want to take. How will it help you in later life?
- What branch are you interested in? If you're studying medicine, a doctor would be the obvious choice. It would be helpful if you explained whether there is any particular field of medicine you hope to get into. Do you want to be a surgeon? A GP? A specialist in cardiology?
- What kind of job opportunities will your degree get you? Do you want to live or study abroad in the future? Do you want to be qualified to help people, work for a magazine company or participate in scientific experiments?
Talking about your plans after you obtain your degree will look excellent on your UCAS personal statement. It shows that you're taking your future plans seriously, and not just choosing any old course.
5. Talk About the Location
As well as talking about yourself and the course, consider adding a paragraph about what attracts you to the university.
- Is it in a nice location that's good for students?
- Do you like living in a big city or is the university in a smaller town?
- Is the university in a low crime rate area?
- DON'T talk about the cost of living, the shopping or the pubs!
- Does the university have a lot of clubs and societies?
- Does it have facilities you'd like to use (a gym, a swimming pool, a large library, etc.?)
- Does it hold special events such as concerts and fairs?
If you do some research about the university and its location, you're showing that you have genuine interest in the place and not just applying because the grade requirements are low or it's close to home.
6. Achieve the Character Count
It's very important that you hit the 47 lines or 4000 characters that UCAS ask you to use.
To do this, go to the bottom left of the screen where it says "Words: (a number)". Click it, and a box looking like this picture will come up. You want the "Characters (with no spaces)" to be as close to 4000 as possible (going over a little is okay.)
If they recieve something too long or too short, they may discard it before they even read it. If you can't follow simple instructions when it comes to writing your PS, how can they trust you to follow other instructions in the future?
Look at your personal statement so far. Is it too long? Consider this:
- Cut out any unneeded language. Repeating yourself, rambling, etc. can be cut to get your point across without fillers and fluff.
Is it too short?
- Think about how you can add (relevant) detail to bring up your character count. Are there any hobbies or interests you missed? How can you make your explanations a little more detailed (without rambling)?
7. Edit and Proofread
So you have a shiny new personal statement. Great! Now to make sure it's written properly and your chances of success won't be slimmed by something small like a grammatical error. Check out some examples of bad personal statements here.
- Revise it yourself. Does it read well? Have you managed to explain what you mean properly?
- Get a parent, teacher or friend to read it. Ask them to give you their honest opinion, and whether they see any spelling or grammatical errors (Microsoft Word won't always catch them all).
- Once you feel happy with it, get another teacher to give it a quick once-over and let you know what they think. If you get the OK from them, you're good to go.
Going to university is a life-changing opportunity, and this may feel like a high-pressure and stressful time for you. Get your Personal Statement done nice and early so you have time to check it with others before sending it off.
© 2016 Poppy