Trying to figure out what you want to do after your A-Levels can be a daunting experience for many.
Forget having to write a 4000-character statement to sell your credentials to a multitude of universities! However, it is not as difficult as it may seem so on the surface. Below are the few tips I would give from my experience to budding engineers when writing their engineering personal statement;
1. Avoid the cliches
An obvious point but such a recurrence by so many students unfortunately. No university lecturers want to constantly read about how much the applicant loves maths and physics. Or how they were so inspired by the likes of Faraday and Newton. Avoid picking the typical famous (dead) personalities to draw upon as your inspirations – how does your statement stand out. Thus, do your research, learn what the currently trending topics are in the industry and discuss them. Learn about the current (preferably alive) inspirational high achieving engineers of the 21st century whose work has sparked your interest to pursue this profession. Excerpts like this show the university that you are not only well-versed with the field but also deriving learning from it.
2. Understand your ‘transferable skills’
Everyone has transferable skills, however, not everyone realises they do and thus many miss out on the ability to use them to their advantage! For example, in your time at school/college, there must have been dozens of times that you will have worked as a part of a team on a project or activity. Using an example of how you positively displayed ‘team work’ in can greatly gain you some credibility with the university because 95% of engineering, in my experience, is all about the TEAM. What have you achieved together with others? Similarly, to be an effective engineer you have to be a good communicator as well as problem solver; thus ensure you include examples that clearly demonstrate this. Whether it’s summer work experience in retail, being in the school sports teams or even taking part in academic competitions. Use examples that are unique to you and highlight your skill set. Show the tutor that you can adapt to the dynamic and fast paced life that engineers lead.
3. It’s not all about the A*s
Albeit it being important, it’s never all about 100%’s and A*s. Universities also look for well-rounded individuals who demonstrate the ability to find a balance between study and life. Be it through sports or arts, travel or voluntary work. Lecturers try to find students who, as well as getting the grades, will also bring their vibrant personalities and energy to the institutions. Work hard, play hard, right? So, ensure to dedicate a section in your statement towards your life outside of school and college. What have you done extra-curricular that makes you stand out from the crowd? Volunteer at soup kitchens on the weekend? Trip to Far East Asia with teams to help build schools and hospitals? Tutor younger kids in maths and physics in your spare time? Play regular sports and competitions? The list goes on.
4. Don’t always need to focus on speciality
Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to decide straight away what kind of engineering you want to do. It’s never as simple as Mechanical, Electrical, Civil or Chemical – there are over a dozen different types of fields that you can pursue within this industry. Although it’s essential to show knowledge and interest in the subject, it is also eye-catching for tutors to read that you’re flexible to all the opportunities that the course can allow you to pursue. The skill of adaptability is key to any engineer, so much so, many students will take a generic course and tailor their modules through their degree according to where they see their strengths.
5. Understanding YOUR criteria
It’s not always about what the university wants! It’s also about what you are looking for in the institution that you will spend the next 3-4 years of your life. Make sure you do your research of the university well and understand where you can get the most benefit out of as a potential engineer. For example, if you want to go into industries such as automotive, there is a heavy focus on being able to speak an additional European language due to the extent of supplier relations with the EU. Thus, does the chosen university offer language classes or even run semester long “exchange programs” with other universities in the EU? Similarly, if you want to go into oil and gas, is there an opportunity of a year long placement in industry to gain first-hand experience?
Therefore, whether you’re one of those who is already on their 5th draft of their personal statement this early in the year or still trying to figure out where to take your career – remember that the personal statement is as much about what you want as well as what the tutors are looking for. As important as it is to highlight your skills and “sell yourself”, there must also be a balance which ensures you encapsulate your requirements.
There is no one right way, that’s why it’s called a “personal” statement – it’s your chance to show tutors who you are, what your capable of and why you will be an asset to their university. This is the beginning of the many times you will be presenting yourself in writing through your academic as well as your professional career so make it a worthwhile one!