Tag Archives: PS

WHERE DO I START WITH MY PERSONAL STATEMENT?

Firstly, don’t try to start at the beginning. It is easy to waste hours trying to craft a gripping opening paragraph but your opening paragraph is bound not to be the bit that gets you into university. Also, invariably, when you’ve gone over the 4000 character limit, your first paragraph will be where you look to trim down the length. 

To get into university you need to prove to an admissions tutor whom you’ve never met, that you are knowledgable (without being arrogant) about their subject, that you are passionate (without going over the top), that you still have much to learn (without appearing ignorant) and that you’ve taken some steps towards understanding what it is you’ll be studying. 

My advice here is PROVE IT! 

So you say you are intruiged – prove it! What have read, seen or researched?

You claim to have read ‘the man who mistook his wife for a hat’ or ‘the selfish gene’ or ‘the economist’ every week for the last six months. Well write about something you read. Demonstrate that you have read what you claim to have read and, by the way, what is your opinion on it? 

You say you did work experience – ok, so what did you learn, what do you know now that you didn’t know then? 

You claim to love art – which artist? What do you know about him or her? What is it about their work that impresses you?

You say you want to be an engineer, but what engineering projects do you know about and have impressed you?

Treat this part of your personal statement like a piece of academic writing. Ditch the vacuous platitudes. Anyone can claim to be ‘passionate’ ‘determined’ ‘creative’ ‘intruiged’ ‘committed’ but fewer people can prove it. 

Once you’ve written this section – the real ‘meat’ of your personal statement, it is easy to top-and-tail it with paragraphs about your initial interest in a subject and your overall commitment to studying. 

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DON’T START YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT WITH A CLICHÉ

“Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be a chartered accountant/engineer/medieval historian (insert degree of your choice here)…”

“I have always been fascinated by particle physics…”

“I remember being a small child and overhearing my parents discussing the balance sheet of our family business, it was at this moment that knew I wanted to be an accountant.” 

I’ve read so many variations on this theme in the past. It makes me cringe more and more every time. I take two issues with this approach:

1. There is no way it could possibly be true. No one wanted to be a chemical engineer or a pharmacist or architect or whatever when they were five years old. When children are five years old they want to be a fireman or an astronaut or a ballerina or, as one student said to me this week, a butterfly (good luck with that one!)

2. Even if it is true, just because you have wanted to do something for a long time, I doesn’t mean you’re going to be any good at it or that it is more likely to happen. For example, ever since I was a little boy, I have always wanted to play centre forward for England at the Word Cup. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a little boy, in quieter moments as a grown man, I still do dream about it and given this year’s World Cup performance, I rather think I may as well have been playing. However my dreams are unlikely to make this more likely to happen. 

Instead, when opening your personal statement, focus on not why you want to study a subject but firstly, what interests you about it and then, the take home point if the day, write about why you believe you are able to study it. There’s a big difference be wanting to do something and actually being able to do it and it is this difference that a university admissions tutor is looking for you to demonstrate. 

Here is a useful link to the UCAS website:

http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/undergraduate/filling-your-application/your-personal-statement?gclid=Cj0KEQjw4uSgBRDZveXz9M-E1aoBEiQA2RMP6tc2jF4RF_Dv5rpe5EOehVSovmMtEHK4odRLk1o9phMaAiVf8P8HAQ