How to Write a Personal Statment + Extra Tips for future English Students

Do you feel like you’re late with this? Everyone started writing their personal statements early, like in summer or something crazy, and here you are, nearly at Christmas and still have no idea what you’re doing. No pressure, right? Hopefully this short guide will help you out, I’ve been there myself. My school was rubbish at explaining the UCAS application process, they even told us the wrong character count. I didn’t want this to set me back, so I looked through countless websites and books to get ahead. Feel free to use what I’ve learnt. I’ve shared these tips with lots of friends, helping them edit their statements to perfection.

The Basics

  1. Make sure you’re writing formally and in standard English. This means that you should write in a respectful tone, without slang terms or contractions, for example write “I am” instead of “I’m”.
  2. Plan the statement. I can imagine that starting your personal statement this late you’re like me – you hate planning. They tell you to do it in essays and on longer written exam answers but you just totally ignore it. Don’t do it here. Having a good plan will help you write the statement in no time at all, so you can get to perfecting it word for word quicker.
  3. Avoid clichés, especially if you’re going to do English, Creative Writing, or any other creative subject. Explaining and proving how creative you are in your personal statement, just to write in overused phrases isn’t going to go down well. I believe that you’re creative, don’t be afraid to show the real you. Your future university tutors want to see it.
  4. For those with English as a second language, do NOT write in your first language and then translate. I’ve seen my Polish friends do it and it just ends up a mess because not all words have direct translations.
  5. Don’t start with a statement “Since a young age, I was interested in…” it’s the most used starting phrase in Personal Statements and is probably not true. I don’t believe you were interested in Criminology in nursery Louise, and if you were than I’m a tad scared.
  6. Make sure to spell check and grammar check regularly. Keep your spell checker on and if you like, use software like grammarly.
  7. This is not an essay. The way your write it should be different. As you’ll read later, your personal statement will have a similar structure, but we will get to that soon.
  8. Don’t lie. Even when it’s about small things, because in the end the tutors want to know what type of person you are, not just what you’ve done.

Let’s plan it out together-step by step

Trust me, when you’re done reading this you will know exactly what to do, I guarantee it. If not, feel free to ask me anything in the comments. Get yourself some paper or a notebook and note the important stuff down.

  1. What subject are you applying for? Open your browser. (Do not open facebook or twitter now, come on.) Search for personal statements in that subject. If you’re doing a combined course with two or three different subjects, look for statements in each individual one. Get a feel for how they’re written and what parts of it are specific to your course. Looks specifically at how people begin the statement, and how they describe their passion for their chosen subject.
  2. How would you describe the course you’re applying for? You can use a quote here, make sure it isn’t overused and it belongs to the person who you attribute it to. It’s best to avoid a quote as much as you can, but you can use it as a last resort. Think of the reasons why you want to do your subject. Is it altruistic? do you want to do medicine, law, education or midwifery to help people and make society better, or provide a service with the expertise you might learn? Or is it a fascination? Would you want to do physics or chemistry because it describes the way our world works-form the smallest particles to the scale of the universe and has amazing potential in research? If it’s English Language, or another humanities subject that you love, you can talk about how that set of human behaviour (writing literature, creating art, societies etc) make us unique and that’s why they should be studied and not forgotten. How important they are for us to advance as moral, creative or social beings, how they are the things that set us aside from all other creatures on earth. This will form the start of your personal statement.
  3. What does the course expect from you? The purpose of the personal statement is to prove to the tutors and the admissions team that you’re capable of taking the course and, most importantly, that you won’t drop out. Prove to them that you won’t drop out. Think about what skills they would like to see in their ideal student, is there any way you can prove to them that you have these skills? Think of your A-levels or BTECs first, any project that show an interest in research or a specific are in the course? Don’t think about structure yet, we’re just making notes for now, it will make the writing up an easy A. Try thinking of every possible skill you have, the proof for it (school project, volunteering, hobby) and how that will make it easier for you to pass your university course. That’s going to be the basic structure of your personal statement.
  4. Have you done any additional learning on your own, either about the subject you are going to study or any other subject that interests you. Have you watched or attended any lectures or read any books about your course or one similar to it? This would be good to use to show that you know what university is like and that you are academically minded.
  5. Who are you? I know, a bit of a big question, but try and talk a bit about your hobbies in your statement. Do you like blogging? Do you enjoy watching philosophical videos in your spare time? Any sports? Do you like to indulge in trying new make up looks with your creativity?
  6. What are your plans after uni? Do you want to go straight into employment? Are you thinking about further study? Dream of starting your own business? Or are you hoping to get suck in at university and get a taste of different careers where you could use your love for the university subject chose.
  7. Check twice for whether you’re not using figures of speech which mean the same thing twice, this is very common and kills your character count. for example, are you writing “As well as science, I also enjoy…” instead of “I enjoy… as well as science.”

Now lets put it all together

Hopefully you now have a good amount of notes to start writing the actual personal statement thing out. Don’t feel forced to get it perfect first time, let’s admit that that’s difficult, if not pretty much impossible to do, All the best writers draft. I heard that sigh, I hate re-drafting to, but it works and it seems to be the way to go. ( I promise it won’t get too boring. )

You want to split your statement into about 4 sections, the second of which should take up most of your character count. The key is to make each sentence run smoothly into the next one. Remember that when you paste in your persona statement, it not be in paragraphs, but a block of text. Try and make that block of text appealing by story telling. Try and make each point naturally follow the previous one.

  1. The first section is the introduction, where you will talk about what you think your subject is and why you love it. Don’t be scared of over doing it, it’s under doing it that might be a problem.
  2. This is your longest part. This is your selling point. Try and smoothly explain how it’s great that your subject requires x,y,z skills, because it just happens that you did a certain project that taught you these skills, or you constantly use them in one of the a-levels you’re studying. Try and make it flow, by not jumping topics too much in each sentence. I know how difficult it can be, I applied for a joint honours and had to even this out between two subjects. You can try talking about each one of your a-levels and qualifications one at a time to make this easier. Explain how studying psychology improved your essay writing but you also learnt the importance of the scientific method and then go on to talk about how you will apply this in your university course.
  3. This is essentially the same as section 2, but concerning everything you do outside of the subjects you’re studying, whether that’s baby sitting, writing in your spare time or ballet classes.
  4. Now rap it all up with a pretty note of what you hope the course will teach you and how you will apply that to your future. Or in case you haven’t come up with anything, about what you hope to learn and how you plan to use university to explore personal careers.

Pro-tips if you’re applying for English or Creative Writing

I have asked my tutors and admissions service at university, most of the time the tutors themselves will take a look at your personal statement to see your level of writing competence and if you really are passionate and practice writing and reading a lot. It is crucial for you to get the personal statement to be as smooth sounding as possible. Try showing off some of those semi-colons and mention as many books and as much writing that has inspired you. Don’t lie, but prove you are well read and show them what your interests are.

If you’re applying for creative writing specifically, it’s not just poetry and prose that counts, tell them everything. In section 3, mention how much you love writing fanfiction, it shows you can get a fan base and career focused courses will love that ( what use is fancy writing when you can’t pay for food?) it will be an indicator of a uni that can help you get a job.

I appreciate you reading, as this was a very long post and took me 3 days to write to get right. What are your thoughts?

Would you like me to post my personal statement? Would you like some honest truth about how to choose the right uni for you? Would you like further explanation or specific tips? Feel free to ask anything personal statement related.







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