With the UCAS deadline only a couple of months away, I thought some pointers on the do’s and don’ts of the personal statement could be insightful.
Besides the reference and your predicted grades, your personal statement is the only thing universities receive (unless you have to do admissions tests as well). This statement actually builds the first impression to the admissions tutor of how committed you will be to your chosen degree.
The 47 line limit is a pain, however it’s also your chance to condense everything you have done for the past years down. Typically it can be said that the personal statement should contain about two thirds about extra curricular e.g. work experience, volunteering, sports etc, and one third about academic qualities. Although when it comes to Oxbridge applications, the rule of thumb is that the majority of your personal statement should be about your academics.
There are so many things you could mention in your personal statement – you could talk about your personal skills and how they link in with your chosen degree course. It could also be mentioned which skills you have developed from extra curricular activities such as organisation from deadlines set, or teamwork from being part of a sports club. Another attribute worth mentioning is your passion towards the subject you have chosen to study. For example, attending open days, taster sessions, further reading or even having had a thorough look at specific modules. Throughout the whole personal statement you should sound confident that you’d be suited to pursue this course and this is a portrayal you’ll have to build to the person reading this piece.
Talking about academic characteristics isn’t necessarily easy as you don’t want to sound academically weak, but also you don’t want to come across as stuck up. To find the balance between both, it’s best to bring up the relevance of the A Levels you chose with the degree you want to pursue. If you have particularly enjoyed a module in a subject make this relevant to your chosen course. Here you have to be careful not to bring irrelevant content up e.g. when applying for a Physics degree, the fact that you enjoyed studying about Weimar Germany in History is probably not going to be received well by the admissions tutor, but again this depends on their personal perception. Some people might like all-rounded individuals.
Something I’d definitely recommend is writing the personal statement as early as possible and to keep changing words and phrases around until you’re happy with it. Send it to as many of your teachers or other contacts as you can to ask for advice on how to improve it. With competition rising for university places, you can’t afford to lose out on a place because of a grammar or spelling mistake on your personal statement (which has happened for very competitive courses).
Personal Statements can be stressful, but also intriguing, because it makes you realise what it particularly is that you like about a course you’ve got your heart set on – the struggle is only putting that passion into words. Good luck to all those writing personal statements and going through the UCAS process right now. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me on S.Saravanabavan.firstname.lastname@example.org.