Your Detailed Personal Statement Guideline
Having read many a personal statement over the past few weeks, we at Personal Statement Service have spotted a good number that demonstrate aspects which work, yet also those that don't. We therefore thought a more detailed list was in order, so that you can make a check-list and use it as a guide when writing your personal statement.
- Start with your motivations
We are often asked, 'how do I start my personal statement?' The most important thing to say is when, and why, you became interested in your chosen subject. If it arose from realising your academic ability in that area, say so; if it came from a personal experience, say so. This is the start of your personal statement, so it is obvious that you should say how your interest for your subject began.
- Structure your points
If one point relates closely to another, don't put it in a different part of your statement, but link them. For example, instead of 'I worked with diligence and dedication when carrying out my work placement', and later writing, 'I built commitment in my Duke of Edinburgh challenges', say: 'I feel that the diligence and commitment built during my Gold Duke of Edinburgh challenges aided my ability to offer more to my work placement'. There is therefore a sense of development and you portray an understanding of why you are more able than others to do something.
- Don't repeat yourself
This point relates to that above, and is perhaps more obvious. If you want to say you have learnt the same value from two separate work placements, e.g: how important team work is, don't structure your personal statement so rigidly that you can't cross-reference across your content. There is nothing wrong with saying 'I learnt the importance of team work in both placements', rather than making the same point twice in different parts of your statement. This way, you will save those valuable character spaces.
- Change your conjunctions and starting phrases
And, but, however, although, in addition, not only, though, I'.. Over-use of these is such a common flaw in people's writing. It is especially important to avoid this within a personal statement because they are short and compact. If you use 'however' at the beginning of every other sentence, your statement will turn into a list, and it may well seem to tutors as though even you are bored with what you're saying. Try to mix it up and think of new ways to introduce your sentences and clauses.
- Be focused
With universities and courses being highly competitive, tutors want to make sure they're accepting the most academic and hard-working students. Their interest in 'what you do to relax' is, to be honest, therefore very low. The more competitive your course, the more you should focus on what it offers you, what has motivated you to study this area and what areas of work experience have increased your interest in it. Writing that you horse ride in your spare time is unlikely to persuade tutors that you're right for the course.
- Include other activities
Despite the previous point, you're not a machine, and tutors want to see something different about you. The way to do this is therefore to make sure you leave enough space to include any extra-curricular activities you have undertaken or awards you have achieved. Using the ideas from point 1, you should be able to link this to why this makes you worthy of being accepted by tutors. If you think they are genuinely impressive and say something about you, include them. If not, they are unlikely to impress tutors.
- Check your spelling and grammar
As writers, we are particularly fussy about this, but we can assure you that tutors will be too. Make sure you proof-read your personal statement and ask someone to check it for you. To give you a few of first-hand tips that can eradicate hugely common flaws, we also thought we'd note the following:
-'''''' Less does not mean fewer. Less relates to singular, fewer relates to plural. Example: Despite being young and therefore believing you had 'less chance than others of becoming school council chairman', when you were selected to fill this post, there were 'fewer disputes than in previous years because you took on a diplomatic role'.
-'''''' Brought and bought: different words, different meanings. You 'brought so much energy to the work placement' that your colleagues 'bought you a thank you present'.
-'''''' 'You're' is only ever in replacement of 'you are'.
There are so many more common mistakes; these are just our pet hates. Make sure you get your personal statement double-checked before sending it to tutors.
- Don't try to be clever
You need to be you: possibly a slightly more mature version of you, but not an invented character. Stay away from 'big words' you wouldn't use normally. These will undoubtedly sound out of place and taint the rest of your personal statement with unreliability.
- Relate Everything
It's important to say what you did during any work placements, but it is even more important to say what it was about these tasks that particularly interested you, what you learnt from them, or how they influenced your decision to apply for your chosen course ' it may even be that a work placement changed your career ambition. Lists are boring and don't say anything about you as a person. Tie up loose ends and give meaning to facts.
10. Wrap it up
This does not mean conclude everything you have said ' the point of wrapping it up is not to repeat yourself, but to finish on a concise note. Perhaps you have completed four work placements, are the captain of your school football team and do on-going voluntary charity work. Having covered these in the main body of your personal statement, mentioning how you would like to bring your hard-working and enthusiastic nature to university is enough. Tutors will relate any attributes or future ambitions to the rest of your personal statement. Therefore, as long as you have demonstrated these, highlighting wrap up your character nicely rather than sounding random.