Answering Your Personal Statement Questions
Do you have any pressing questions about your personal statement that you need answered now? Here’s ten answered questions about writing the dreaded essay of university admissions (aka. the personal statement!).
When should I start writing my personal statement?
The right time to start is not tomorrow, not next week but now! The sooner the better.
Give yourself plenty of time to write your first draft, you will need it. You might find yourself erasing everything you have written or, worst case scenario, chucking it in the bin completely. However, if you start well in advance you will be able to write multiple drafts and give yourself plenty of time to review and reflect on what you have written.
Remember: a personal statement is rarely written in one go. You might edit it 10 times and still find something to change. Create a schedule to organise yourself and don’t try to rush the process.
How should I structure my personal statement?
Like a normal essay. Make sure to include a strong introduction and conclusion as these will be the first and last thing to be read. You want to make sure the person reading is interested and that they will remember you.
Be careful to not use the same opening sentences as everyone! It can be hard to think of something original to open your statement with, but you have to remember that admissions tutor will be reading hundreds of personal statements and yours has to stand out. Curious about some of the most common openings? Here’s some of the most used.
For the main body make sure to have notes written beforehand. Look at the course description. What are they looking for? Write notes to address the main points and make sure to include these in your personal statement.
Don’t forget to always make it personal. If one of your friends can (in theory) also use your personal statement to describe themselves, then it’s not personal enough!
Remember: having a strong opening line is good as long as it’s not cliché (like using a quote), but it’s always better to have an overall consistent and good quality personal statement.
How much of my reading should I include in my personal statement?
This will depend on the course you’re applying for. If you’re applying to a course like English Literature, the university will expect you to be a student who has read a quite extensive list of books and is aware of some of the main contributors to literature. On the other side, if you’re applying to a sciences degree this will not be as important. Instead, the content of what you have read will be the most relevant thing to include.
Remember: to actually talk about your reading rather than just naming books. Universities are interested in knowing about what you have learned by reading certain authors. Use your personal statement to briefly discuss theories that have led you to pursue higher education in a certain area.
What exactly should i include in my personal statement?
The list below shows a few of the things that you must include in your personal statement. You should consider these sections equal and dedicate about the same amount of words to each one. There should be a clear balance between sections and no single section should overpower the others. We have included below how much of each topic should your personal statement have as guide:
Once these things are included you can start writing about more personal things. At the end of the day, a personal statement is all about you! Similarly, to the point made above, try make these sections balanced. The last thing you want is to use up 200 words talking about summer school and then rushing through the clubs and societies you have participated in. Here’s some of the things you can include:
Remember: it can be tempting to include everything about yourself so try to keep it as relevant as possible. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t think of a relevant skill for your course that you have acquired whilst doing any of the activities mentioned above, then it’s not worth including.
I have no work/volunteering experience. What Should i write about instead?
Work experience is not a requirement for many courses so before you stress yourself out look at the university webpage for your course.
However, if you’re applying to courses like Medicine and you have no work experience, this is when your passion for the subject really needs to come through. It’s tough to get relevant work/volunteering experience for some courses – almost impossible for certain subjects.
Make sure to focus on other things. Do some further reading and keep up with current affairs. You can also attend Virtual Medical Sessions if you’re applying to Medicine.
Remember: universities are aware that work experience can be extremely hard to come by, so don’t panic if you don’t have any.
Should I mainly write about the course in my personal statement?
No! Regardless of your reasons for applying make sure you demonstrate your passion for the course but also why you’re a great fit for the universities you’re applying to.
Remember: you want to come across as genuine. Avoid thinking strictly about what they want you ‘to be’!
How long should my personal statement be?
Funnily enough, there isn’t an actual word limit! You will have a maximum of 47 lines (or 4000 characters) on the UCAS online system. It adds up to about one side of an A4 page (500 words) so you’ll quickly find yourself running out of space.
If you can include everything you need and stay below the 4000 characters limit, well done! But if you’re struggling to write everything within the limit, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Think about what you have included. What’s the least relevant thing? Remove it. If you can’t completely delete it, then try to think of ways to optimise. You might also find yourself over-explaining simple things, so try to identify these areas and improve.
Remember: keep it as relevant as possible to your course.
Should i include a quote on my personal statement?
No. This was a “technique” so overused that became one of the biggest mistakes to avoid.
You are writing about yourself and why you will be a great fit for the course/university. It seems counterproductive to use someone else’s words to describe you or your interests.
Remember: part of keeping your personal statement relevant is avoid adding superfluous things such as quotes.
How do i write my personal statement if i'm applying to two courses?
Well, it depends. Are your courses connected in any way? For example, are these courses both under the business school? If yes, then you can find similarities between the courses and focus on these.
If the courses are completely unrelated and don’t have a common link, then the best course of action would be to focus on the one you are most interested in. This is a common issue with a lot of medicine applicants. Since you can only apply to 4 universities (for medicine), students usually use their 5th choice to apply to Biomedical Sciences.
Remember: if you’re applying to two completely unrelated courses it might be worth re-thinking your subject decision.
How many people should check my personal statement?
Ideally you should have at least 2 people check your personal statement. You can ask more people if you think it’s necessary, but two opinions should be more than enough.
Something to bear in mind is the people you ask to review your personal statement. Think about potential bias if you ask a friend or a family member. Do you want an honest review or a benevolent one?
Remember: it’s important to consider other people’s opinions on structural issues of your personal statement, but keep in mind that it’s still your personal statement.
We hope these 10 things help you write your personal statement. It’s definitely a challenge but the sooner you start working on it, the quicker you will have it finished. As long as you keep it relevant and personal, you’re on the right track!
Before you go, the below menu will give you access to 10 personal statement examples. Just click on the one that applies to you and start crafting your personal statement now! Or, you can view them all, plus our expert guides in our Free Personal Statement Starter Guide E-book!
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