As the school term starts, Year 13 students will be anxious about writing the Personal Statement for their university application. Many schools set an early deadline for completing them in order to send off the university applications, together with references, as soon as possible. But what should go into the elusive Personal Statement?
First of all you need to be absolutely sure what you want to study. This means you need to have chosen five similar courses to study. Hopefully, you will have visited some universities by now and will have a fair idea about this. If you have not visited any then it is not too late to visit in the coming weeks, and many universities have excellent websites which can take you on virtual tours. Your recent AS results will probably have steered you in a particular direction, but if you still have no idea what you want to study, it is imperative to get some professional guidance, either at school or privately. Parents are not always up-to-date with their well-meaning advice, and choices need to be made in an informed and rational manner.
Next, you should write some sentences about why you want to study your chosen course. Is it similar to an A-level you have already taken and enjoyed? Is its novelty appealing? Or does it hold the key to a specific career path that you are planning to pursue? Have you read some books or journals about your subject and found them interesting? University admissions officers want to be sure that you have the appropriate skills for their course and it is important to highlight those which you have already developed at A-level. These may include analysing sources for History, sustaining an argument for Politics, paying attention to detail for Chemistry and gaining an awareness of a different culture for foreign languages. Apart from the actual content of each A-level, try to think about what else you have learnt along the way.
Work experience is valuable for many reasons, including informing or confirming your choice of degree. An enjoyable placement in a law firm may have helped you choose to study law, for example. As well as this, employers often try to give students small projects to do, on which the Personal Statement can draw. You may also have been given opportunities to interact with clients or attend meetings which will have been a new experience for you which could be worthy of comment.
Everything you write should evidence why your chosen course is suitable for you and why you would succeed at it. However, admissions officers also want to know that you would be a pleasure to teach on a more human level. You could write about how you have engaged with your community such as through being a school prefect, fundraising or being on a sports team. Briefly outlining your personal interests and hobbies can also make you seem more three-dimensional.
Finally, you should sum up in a sentence what you hope to get from the course and from your university experience. Do not try to tackle all these points in a set order. The important thing is to start writing. A good introduction can be written a later point, and takes some thought, which is why you should allow yourself plenty of time to draft and redraft your statement. Show your statement to your family and teachers and, if you can, a specialist, but remember that the statement is yours, and you do not to take on board everyone’s suggestions.
Natalie is the founder of myuniapplication.com. She can discuss your university and career options in one-to-one sessions and give you expert guidance on your personal statement and interviews. She also offers subject-specific mentoring.
Natalie’s Top tips for writing a winning personal statement:
- Decide on the courses you wish to apply for first, and gear your statement towards them.
- Describe why you want to study that course and what you have done to show that the course is suitable for you, such as reading a relevant book.
- Describe your work experience and how it benefited you.
- Start by writing the main body of the statement and consider your introduction later.
- Allow plenty of time to redraft your material and show it to your family, teachers and, if possible, a specialist.