Off To Uni: Applying - Personal Statement

This weeks Off To Uni post is all about the applying process to University and mainly tips and tricks to writing your personal statement. As I'm from the UK this will be more aimed at UK students as it's the only process I personally know. Obviously there are different ways of applying most universities use UCAS to receive applications however, some universities are independent and use a different process. I know a few people who applied to these independent universities so I should be able to share a small amount of information on applying to these, but most of this post will be about the process of applying through UCAS.

From about July I think it is you can create a UCAS account on their website to apply to university, you can start filling in the basic information like your name, date of birth, address etc. The main bulk of your university application is the personal statement. I was fortunate enough that I was studying at sixth form at the time of my application therefore my tutor and many teachers helped me with my personal statement to help me get it to the best it could be. The personal statement is arguably the most important aspect of your application so it is important to get an early start. I didn't do this and completely regret it. I would recommend starting the basis of your personal statement during the summer so that when you return to studying in september you can hand it to your tutor to get an opinion. DON'T BE DISHEARTENED. You will make numerous drafts, and even though you think its perfect I can guarantee someone will find some small way to improve it. They are trying to help you. If you can get your personal statement done as soon as possible this a great advantage because it means you can send your application off before the deadline.

The Facts
Obviously with anything there are rules you must abide by when writing your personal statement. It must be of 47 lines or 4000 characters, whichever comes first. It needs to be personal and all about you. It must be passionate and enthusiastic for the subject you wish to study. You CANNOT copy a single line from another persons personal statement. UCAS have a strict policy and they do know if you have plagiarised and that can lead to serious consequences, it will never be worth it! 

Planning Your Personal Statement
Before jumping into writing your personal statement you need to have some ideas of what it needs to include and what you want to put into it. You should include(if applicable):

  • specific aspects of the course that interest you (but try not to make it university specific!)
  • work experience that is relevant to the course you are applying to
  • mentioning books or articles that are again relevant to the subject that have inspired you to learn more and want to study said subject
  • personal experiences that have helped your decision to study the specific subject
  • what you hope to get out of your degree
  • where you hope your degree will take you in the future
  • experiences that show you are a reliable and responsible person
  • any part time work - skills you have learnt from this
  • community and charity work
  • any awards you've gotten (Duke of Edinburgh etc)
  • what you like to do in your free time
  • sport and leisure activities
  • musical instruments you play (how long for? - can show your commitment)

Writing Your Personal Statement
Now onto actually writing it. I remember being in your position this time last year and thinking I have no idea how to structure it or anything. The best thing to do is take it one step at a time. I really struggled with the introduction as it's the bit thats the most important. You need to give the most amount of information in the smallest section to get them hooked and to continue to find out more about you. I left this to the last thing to do and just started writing the main body of my personal statement. I'm no expert at this so don't take everything I say as the be all and end all but if you do want some help there is this amazing website Studential which has information all about writing your personal statement and also has a page full of sample personal statements for loads of different degrees which should also help you if you still have no idea what you should put in it.

Structure of Your Personal Statement
Arguably there is no right or wrong way to structure your personal statement but with only 47 lines/4000 characters to use its important to make sure you include the important information. Personally I would use this structure and then adapt it if you need to.
Paragraph One Introduction to the subject and you, the aspects you are interested in and why
Paragraph Two and Three Work experience and any relevant activities at school
Paragraph Four Interests outside of school - show that you are responsible and reliable
Paragraph Five Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment

Tips and Tricks
A final little note from me on the personal statement front and some tips and tricks I've picked up from writing mine.
Write the entire personal statement in word, that way you have a word count and spell check and don't move your personal statement into your UCAS application until you know it is 100% completed.
Do not use any negative words like however, but, on the other hand, you are trying to sell yourself remember!
Try not to repeat using the same words, use synonyms or a thesaurus to use a wider range of vocabulary but without making it sound like would have never written it.
If you are saying you are reliable, responsible or anything like that make sure to back it up with evidence, they don't know you remember!

Anyway thats all from me today, next Off To Uni post will be more about the applying process and will probably be a much shorter post. If you have any questions make sure to leave comments below or feel free to email me at 

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