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Personal Statement: 10 Things You Need to Know

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Why is Personal Statement Important?

You, like every A-level student plan to get good grades, so why would you need to tell universities your life story? The UCAS personal statement is actually a crucial part of the application process to UK universities. It’s the first impression your university will have of you, so it’s important that you do it right! If you have similar grades to dozens of students, the personal statement will have a huge effect on who exactly the admissions officer wants to choose! 

But how do you write a great personal statement? Well, there is no formula for the perfect one, however, there are tips to consider and mistakes to avoid when writing. ✍️

How to Make your Personal Statement Stand Out

What Should You Include in Your Personal Statement?

1. What do you want to do in the future and how it relates to the course

2. Your accomplishments – any related work experiences, internships, or extracurricular activities.

3. Why are you interested in the subject, what made you choose the course?

4. Why you chose that particular university?

5. Relevant hobbies, interests, and passions that showcase your personality and what skills they gave you that are useful.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement is one of the most important factors to consider when writing it. Don’t make it too short or too long. The general rule of thumb is that it should be between 400 and 600 words, one side of A4 paper or a maximum of 47 lines. The character limit is 4000, including spaces and blank lines.

You get only one chance, so don’t go over your character limit. Admissions officer has to read many of those, so they should not get bored reading them. It’s better to have a little shorter personal statement that is interesting and informative about you as a person than a long one which is clearly full of aimless sentences. 📝

Prepare Notes Beforehand

Start writing key aspects without reading any of the other personal statements. It’s easy to copy someone else’s style without even realising it. Hence, try to write a harsh draft by yourself. However, it’s not a bad thing to get inspiration from others, after you write down a draft, you can read others’ good examples of personal statements and use insights moderately.💡

Before you start writing, it is important to make sure that you know exactly what you want to say. Write down the main things you want to talk about and then think about how you can bring them all together.

How to Start a Personal Statement?

You should start with something that will get the reader interested and engaged. Therefore, the first sentence is really important. Some students even write the whole statement first and then think of a good opening. You can write several of them and ask others for feedback, on which one was more attention-grabbing.

You should open with a strong, eye-catching sentence. This is your chance to show the admissions committee that you’re not just another applicant with a standard-issue personal statement. Ask yourself: What would make my life stand out? What would be so special about me as an individual that it would compel someone else to read on?

“It’s much better to engage us with something interesting, relevant, specific and current in your opening line… Start with what’s inspiring you now, not what inspired you when you were six.” – says the admissions tutor.

Starting with Quotes – Yes or No?

There is no definite answer, but it’s better not to! If you still want to, you should make sure it’s relevant and don’t use cliche openings. Ensure that it almost perfectly matches your essay. The general rule – a quote should be something that is not easily found on a “motivational” Facebook page! It should be original and not overused.

Don’t make the opening sentence too long. It is one of the most important parts, but it should not be filled with everything you want to show the admissions officer. 

How to Write a Perfect Personal Statement

How to Write a Perfect Personal Statement - Students Helping Each Other
How to Write a Perfect Personal Statement – Students Helping Each Other

✅ Give your personal statement a personal touch. It should show what kind of person you are. Pick one style and stick with it. It’s better to talk in the first person to make it more human-like.

✅ Include your most important and relevant achievements, and try not to forget any of them. Make sure that whatever achievements are mentioned in your personal statement are real ones – don’t exaggerate them by making them sound bigger than they actually were! This will not only make your statement less effective, but it can also cause problems with the admissions committee later on. Make sure that they are real and relevant – don’t just list them out because you think they’re impressive.

✅ Use a conversational tone when writing about yourself, so that it feels like you’re talking with someone who knows you well and can relate to what you’re saying. This will help readers feel more connected with your story, which will make them more likely to want to read on.

✅ If you feel like it could make the essay better, use headlines and bullet points to make it more readable and interesting.

✅ Pay attention to the grammar. Use Grammarly whilst writing, double and triple check and ask others to read it too. Even one mistake can undermine all of your efforts.

✅ Talk like a human. Don’t use long words or overly complicated sentences just for the sake of it. It’s always visible when someone tries to sound smart.

✅ Pay attention to the word count. Don’t write too much just to make your personal statement longer. Write just enough.

✅ If you are applying for several different courses, try to make your personal statement as broad as possible. If your first few choices are maths and then suddenly comes engineering, you don’t want your last choice of university to read your essay about just maths. Basically, don’t make admissions officer feel like their university is anything but your first choice.

What not to Do When Writing a Personal Statement?

❌ Don’t use cliches when describing yourself. It’s best to avoid using phrases like “I am smart”. It’s good to express your strengths, but it should be done in a humble way. 

❌ Don’t be too casual. It’s good to convey your personality. However, your jokes might be misunderstood by the admissions tutor. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The personal statement is not the place to be too funny, ironic or witty. They should see that you are ready for university and can write appropriately.

❌ Don’t be too robotic. You should not put only your experiences there like it’s a CV. They might already know your work/study experience. Talk about it briefly and other than that, showcase your passion, interest in the subject and your worldviews. The personal statement gives you the opportunity to let the university know why you are so passionate about studying that subject. (Try not to use the word “passionate” though, it’s one of the most overused words in personal statements). If you are a hard worker, don’t just write “I work hard”, give an example, and talk about your experience.

❌ Don’t add irrelevant experiences and hobbies. Everything on there should be a reflection of you and why you want to study there. If you want to study maths, don’t just write that you love reading. Mention it in a way that corresponds to the skills that are required to be good at maths. For example, “One of my hobbies is reading, which helped me to increase my attention span even higher and now I can focus on one thing for continuous hours without taking a break. When I’m stuck on a maths problem, I see it as an opportunity to learn and can focus on it without getting discouraged.”

❌ Don’t use cliche quotes. Remember, this year alone, admissions officers will have to read tons of personal statements. Don’t use quotes, examples or the same sentences as someone else might use. Quotes are not a no-no like some people might tell you. However, you should be really careful with them.

❌ Don’t focus only on the negatives. It’s good to portray how well you can overcome obstacles and hardships. However, don’t use your personal statement to just whine about your life. You want to be respected and not pitied! If you want to write about something bad that happened in your life, write it in a way that shows how you grew and how much you learnt from that experience.

❌ Don’t make someone else the centre of the essay. It’s okay to mention someone in your life that had a big influence on you. Nevertheless, you should be the main character, not them!

❌ Do not plagiarise or just hire someone to write it for you. Plagiarising checker apps are getting better and you won’t get away with it. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It is okay to use others’ essays for inspiration, but at the end of the day, it should be all you!

❌ Don’t use characters like – é, à, è, ù, backslashes, curly brackets, or currency symbols. UCAS is actually very picky, so try not to use any symbols that you would not use in regular essays.

How to End Your Personal Statement?

In the end, you want your personal statement to be a summary of all the things you have learned and accomplished over the course of your life. However, don’t just repeat everything, it will make your essay longer. Just try to tie your story together to make a logical ending. If you want to, you can also end by talking about the future, what you are expecting to get from the university 🎓, or what are your study and career goals.

Who Can Help with Writing Your Personal Statement?

You, of course, can write the whole personal statement by yourself, but it’s not always the best idea. If you’re writing a personal statement for Oxford, Cambridge or other top UK universities and don’t know what to say, it might be better to work with someone who knows how to write a winning personal statement. But remember, you are not asking them to write an essay for you, you’re working together to include all your accomplishments and goals and stand out from other applicants’ essays!

You can get help with your personal statement from many. Tutors, friends, family members (especially if they’re close in age) or anyone who has been accepted to a top university and knows how to write a perfect one.

There are also tutoring websites where you can find someone who can help you, we highly recommend – Edumentors. Only the best student-tutors are teaching there. Tutors from Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick and other Russel Group universities. They already went through the same process as you and know exactly what helped them to get into their top choice.

Below you can find a list of great tutors who can assist you with writing your perfect university application essay:

✏️ Adèle from the University College London – She is incredibly helpful when it comes to personal statements. Especially after writing a winning essay herself and getting into UCL.

✏️ Conall from the University of Cambridge – Getting into Cambridge takes extraordinary efforts, discipline and knowledge of how to communicate your story. Conall is best at it.

✏️ Jenny from the University of Oxford – If you’re dreaming about getting into Oxford, talk to Jenny. She is known for her success rate in helping students write great personal statements that stand out.

What to Do if None of the Universities of Your Choice Accepted You?

You wrote the perfect personal statements and are expecting to get good grades, but you are still nervous. It’s okay! 🫂 There are many options even if none of your choices of universities accepts you. You can always take a gap year and resit an A-level exam. You can rest during that year, find an internship or apprenticeship that corresponds to your future goals or prepare for the next year’s exams. Check the UCAS career finder.

Here’s a guide in case you need to appeal A-level grades. Another comfortable option, where you won’t have to wait a year is clearing. The clearing is a great way to match you with the universities that still have places. Be prepared for clearing beforehand even if your predicted grades are high. Some universities are very rigid in their admissions, so it’s nothing to be self-conscious about.

If you decide to take a gap year try out tutors from Edumentors.co.uk. There are plenty of A-level tutors from the UK’s top universities who can help you with acing your exams next year or help you with your personal statement. They can also give you emotional support throughout the learning process and stand by you before and after the A-level results day. We recommend requesting a free introduction call with the tutor of your choice to see if that person is the best one to be your mentor!

Summary

Writing the perfect personal statement is not easy at all. However, you’ve worked too hard to get where you are, and now it’s time to make your next move. It can be hard to find the right words, even if you are just talking about yourself.

Whether you are staring at a blank screen or just want your essay to be reviewed by professionals, check out how can Edumentors can help you with your personal statement. Tutors who already got accepted into Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick and other top UK universities know how to write a winning essay. They can help you write a personal statement from scratch or review your essay and give you suggestions to make it perfect!

Anna P. – “Edumentors tutors have helped me improve my personal statement, making it more relevant to the course I want to study. They’ve also made sure that all of my skills and experiences are listed in a way that makes sense for an admissions officer!.” – says Anna who got into Cambridge!

Visit Edumentors and grab your seat for the personal statement review now.


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