The Dos And Donts Of Writing A Personal Statement | Emily Bashforth

The Dos And Donts Of Writing A Personal Statement


Writing a personal statement isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world. It can be frustrating. You know what you want to say but not how to say it and, when you do figure out what you want to write, you’re usually over the word count. It can also be difficult to select the best things to say about yourself to make your personal statement stand out from the rest. Whenever someone tells you to talk about yourself, our minds go blank. But never fear, I am here to help…or at least try to!
This time of year, up until around November, is personal statement season. Everyone is working on theirs non-stop to ensure it is tip top because, at the end of the day, your personal statement could mean the difference between a place at university and no place at university. Even if your grades are impeccable, your personal statement gives you substance and proves to administrators that you are worthy of a place on your course. It also shows there is more to you than academic ability. Universities read thousands of them, so it’s important to make yours different and one they will remember.

Here are some things to do and what not to do when writing your personal statement; I hope you find these tips helpful!

Do:

Make it positive! Tell universities the good qualities you have, what you can do, why you’re a suitable student for them and what you have done that puts you ahead of the rest.

Use evidence. It is absolutely vital that you back up your points with evidence of your achievements. For example, if you’re applying to study Creative Writing and you’re claiming to be good at writing for an audience, give them evidence of when you have done this. Have you completed a task where you’ve needed to address people or has your work been published? Pretty much all of your personal statement is hard evidence of the things you have done which will benefit you in university.
Explain. It is no good simply saying you’re a hard worker; you need to go into detail of why you are a hard worker, what makes you a hard worker, in what situations in the past have you had to work hard? There is no point in simply writing a point in a sentence and then moving on to talk about something else, you’re wasting words and a valuable opportunity to sell yourself! Even if it only means you make three points throughout your entire personal statement, universities love detail and it isn’t always quality over quantity.

Draft, draft and draft again! Nobody’s personal statement is perfect the first time and, if they think it is, they’re wrong. It can always be improved on and things can always be added or substituted for something more relevant. Just keep working on it until you get it right. It may seem like a long, monotonous process, but it shall be worth it and you’ll never have to do it again!

Get it checked. Getting a second and even third opinion is crucial. Yes, it’s important that you’re happy with your personal statement but you must get it checked by someone else. It’s good to get your parents to read it to see if they reckon you’re selling your best qualities but perhaps a teacher too. I know my tutor, when reading personal statements, prints them off and cuts the name off the top so its anonymous, which she does so she isn’t biased towards the person and sees if she can actually create a picture of what they are like, then decide if she’d accept them. Also, maybe get your subject teachers to look at it. For example, if you’re studying Maths, get your Maths teacher to read it over to check if you’ve included all the relevant information.
Have subject knowledge. If you’re going to be spending three or four years studying something at university, you should probably do your research before applying. It’s important for you to know what the course entails but it’s also nice for universities to know that you know what you’re going to be doing. Of course, no one expects you to know the syllabus inside out, but it’s good to show some understanding as it shows you are enthusiastic. Also, it creates a good impression and benefits you too.

Be yourself! Universities use your personal statement to create a picture of you. They don’t know you when they read it so it’s important that you are yourself. Use some fancy, polysyllabic lexis but don’t go overboard with the jargon or archaic terms. It doesn’t have to be as formal as you think because universities want your personal statement to be real. Just write how you normally write.

Be honest. Even just twisting the truth slightly in your personal statement can lead to you getting caught out later on. Don’t lie or try and make things sound more impressive than they really are. Just be truthful about your achievements and what characteristics you have as universities want someone real, not someone perfect.

Have a structure. It’s handy for any piece of writing to have some sort of logical structure and it will make writing your personal statement a lot easier. Don’t just go chronologically through your life, what you did in primary school, then high school…mix things up but keep it orderly. For example, perhaps do one paragraph on what you’re studying currently, one on outside school achievements, one on extracurricular activities…there are no rules but don’t make it too messy.

Get the opening and closure right! These are the most difficult parts to write of any text but they are the most important. The introduction gives the reader an idea of what the rest of the statement is going to be like so you don’t want to make them switch off before they’ve properly started reading. Engage them and make them excited to continue. Likewise, the closure is the last thing they will read and will be what they remember. You don’t want to do all of that hard work making your personal statement amazing and then let yourself down right at the end. Really think about your conclusion and what you want the reader to go away thinking. What do you want to stick in their mind about you?

Don’t:

Be negative! No one likes a negative Nancy at the best of times but university administrators definitely don’t. Don’t be telling them what you can’t do or using phrases such as “I probably wont get accepted anyway but…” excite them and prove you have the self belief to do well on the course!

Use clichés. Now, im a firm believer in there’s nothing wrong with an idiom or a cliché every now and again, however, stay well away from them in your person statement. Opening with “I have wanted to study fashion ever since I was a little girl” or “I have been reading all of my life” is going to make the reader switch off straight away, plus, what you’re saying is false!

Tell them you’re passionate – SHOW IT! Anyone can write “I am really passionate about (insert subject name here) but its about showing it. If you can, try to avoid that word all together. Rather than bluntly saying you are passionate, say it through your achievements and by explaining what the things you have done which relate to the subject. For example, if you want to study Literature, show them you are passionate by writing about books you have read off of your own back at home, not because you were forced to at school.

Let anyone else write it for you. By all means, ask your parents to read your personal statement but don’t let them tell you what to write, to a certain extent. It is good to get their advice but you know you best and universities will always see through it if your personal statement doesn’t sound like you, especially if you are interviewed.

Plagerise. Software these days it absolutely topnotch when it comes to checking for plagerism so, honestly just don’t bother. If you even try to copy one sentence from someone else’s personal statement or online, you will be found out. This can then lead to immediate rejection from, not just one, but multiple universities. It really doesn’t look good and can be detrimental. Sure, as others for advice, but don’t copy. Plus, this is your chance to brag about yourself, not them!

I hope you found this post somewhat useful if you are in the middle of writing your personal statement! Be sure to let me know how you get on and share any tips I missed out!

GOOD LUCK! <3

Love, Emily :) xx
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