5 tips for writing a stand out personal statement
UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the standardised, online application process for all British universities. The UCAS is made up of several stages including your personal details, your chosen universities and courses, your educational and employment background, and your references. However, the most important part of the application is the personal statement. The personal statement is your chance to tell university admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college. You only write one personal statement, and it’s the same for each of the five courses you apply for. While that means that your workload is somewhat lessened compared to some other countries' systems, it does mean that you need to keep the statement fairly general. You must avoid mentioning any universities, colleges or course titles by name, for example. And, if you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, or courses that differ slightly, you'll need to write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.
Whatever subjects you’re applying for, the personal statement is your chance to show admissions staff your passions, motivations and potential. You must show your keen interest in the course or courses you have chosen, and the reasons behind your decision. Admissions staff read hundreds of applications for each course, so it’s vital that you make sure yours stands out. Below, I’ve listed my 5 tips for writing a stand out personal statement.
- Tell admissions tutors why you would be a great asset to your chosen institution. Why you and not someone else? Admissions teams want to know what you will bring to the course and the campus that another student won’t. This one is particularly important for international students. It is important that you explain why you want to study in the UK, why you would rather study abroad than in your home country, and what you can bring to the UK based on your international experience. What is your unique selling point?
- Include your career goals and aspirations. Don’t solely focus on your first few years of studying at undergraduate level, think about the big picture. Do you wish to go on to study a masters degree? Do you have a dream career field in mind? Where do you see yourself going? Include these details! It’s really important that you give an insight into how this stage in your education can help you achieve your end goal and dream career. Focus on the past and the present, but be sure to mention the future.
- Demonstrate your knowledge and experience in a unique way. Most students will talk about a project they’ve undertaken or a book they’ve read, so how can you show admissions tutors that you are knowledgeable in your field in a different and more current way? Have you started a blog or a podcast discussing your area of interest? Created a small start up or initiative that supports your interest in the chosen subject? Maybe you’ve been running a small business alongside your studies that raises money for a cause you’re passionate about. Try to think outside the box, and give tutors something they haven’t read before.
- Write about things that aren’t to do with the course. If you’re applying to study law, for example, a personal statement entirely about activities relating to the legal sector would be quite repetitive. Universities in the UK present students with a plethora of activities and opportunities outside of the lecture theatre, and universities want students that have diverse interests and passions, and will add to their university environment and community. What volunteering are you passionate about? Do you plan to join a sports team or society? It doesn’t matter if there are elements of your statement that are not about your course, what matters is that you show what attributes and skills the experience gave you.
- Make it personal. This one might seem obvious, given the name, but you’d be surprised how many students get so caught up in listing their achievements that they forget to show tutors who they are. Let your personality shine through! Show the university exactly who you are and who you want to be. It can certainly feel uncomfortable writing about yourself sometimes, but don’t feel embarrassed to show a little passion. Be loud and proud about your achievements!
Don’t forget - the deadline for applying to most undergraduate courses is early January, but be aware that certain institution and course deadlines are sooner. I advise you to get your application in as soon as you can, so take advantage of the summer break to perfect your statement. The statement is only 4,000 characters which isn’t a lot at all, so you must show who you are in a concise way. Start writing, write as much as you can, and go back with a fine-tooth comb later on. Good luck!