How to craft a personal statement that will set you apart
Hands down, the most searched-for area on The Student Room when it comes to course applications is help with writing your personal statement. So we got some expert advice from Warwick Business School (WBS) to help with that.
Even if you're not applying for business, you'll find plenty of useful info below. Here are the seven essential things you need to include...
1. A memorable introduction and conclusion
Aim for a punchy (and cliché-free) opening line, but try not to spend days puzzling over those first few words.
“Don’t overly stress about having the perfect opening line,” says Danni Ning, undergraduate recruitment manager at Warwick Business School.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be a bold or outlandish statement. It should flow nicely into the main body of your personal statement.”
Think about your closing paragraph in the same way. Your conclusion should succinctly summarise what has come before - if it does that, it’s done its job.
And don’t forget the basics: spell everything correctly and check for typos. Avoid humour, too, as you don't know that the admissions tutor reading your application will get it.
This is about more than hitting caps lock and bellowing OMG I HEART BUSINESS SO HARD. “Don’t just say that you like a subject,” says Danni. “Demonstrate how you have an interest for the subject.”
Be specific: you're so enthusiastic that you've done extra studies, or work experience, or written blogs, or interviewed current students... Actions will demonstrate your enthusiasm, and don't be afraid to talk about what you don't know, but want to learn. That's why you're going to uni, after all.
3. Extra-curricular activities
Use the things you do outside of school to support your application. “It’s good to include what extra curricular activities you have done as this can demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual,” says Danni.
So when you talk about the sport you take part in, the instrument you play or the Saturday job you have, explain the skills they're helping you develop. Team sports teach resilience and communication. Music requires patience and application. Any job demands ambition to be good at it, and can teach you about business. Make the things that you do your personal cheerleaders.
4. Personal examples
This is linked to points two and three. Whatever you talk about, give specific examples that are relevant to you.
If you talk about work experience, talk about a particular day or challenge that taught you something, rather than just saying 'I did work experience, gimme a place'. Same for sport, or a book you read, or a holiday you went on.
“This is crucial,” says Danni. “Much of your university work will need to be based upon evidence, so it’s useful to demonstrate this in your personal statement. We do understand you have a word limit so keep your examples clear and concise.”
5. Knowledge of the programme you're applying for
Similarly, talk about the subject you're applying for in the context of what you hope it will give you. How is it going to help you get to where you want to go?
This really comes back to enthusiasm - your potential university is going to want to see that you already understand a bit about the benefits of studying your chosen course.
You don’t have to go into tons of detail here: nobody expects you to already have a specific post-graduation job in mind. But if you do have ideas around a particular role or sector, by all means include it.
6. The 'why' of your application
When you've written a draft of your personal statement (at midnight, while eating all the cookies, crying, if you're anything like most of us), leave it alone for a day if you can, then come back to it and ask yourself this: does it explain why? Why you want to study business, why you want to do it at uni, and why you'll be an ideal student?
If it doesn't, it's tweaking time. That killer conclusion? Add the 'why'. Your choice of subject? Add the 'why'. Again, be specific. Include why you’re passionate about business and what motivates you to do it.
We've saved the biggest one for last. Everyone is interesting, everyone has something to contribute, but it's not always obvious to a complete stranger reading an application hundreds of miles away.
Show them who you are. What do you love doing? What do you want from life at uni? Really writing your personality into your personal statement is essential: in this way it becomes unique...and outstanding.
So there you have it (and you’ll find more help here if you need it). Be yourself, be bold, be curious. Go get 'em.
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