Five practical tips to help with your personal statement
Published on 09-10-2014 15:26
Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne
Throughout your life as a student you’ll face many daunting obstacles. Exams. Coursework. The conversation with your flatmates about who drank all the milk. But few can be as daunting as the blank screen facing you when it’s time to make a start on your UCAS personal statement.
Luckily, help is at hand. We’ve got lots of advice right here on The Student Room, and we also picked the brains of the team at Coventry University to give you some useful things to know before, during and after the writing process.
1 - Research
The first thing is to step away from the horror of the blank page. Don’t just start banging away at the keys; start by investigating the personal statement and what it’s there for.
A personal statement is your manifesto for your student career. It’s a chance to give unis a glimpse into who you are and what kind of student you might be. There’s no one way of writing it, so read up on a few different approaches - the Coventry and UCAS sites, as well as our personal statement section, can give you some ideas.
2 - Get help
Yes, you have to write this alone, but you don’t have to be lonely. Get all the advice you can from your teachers and talk to your friends and family too. Bounce ideas off them, or ask how they went about it. Every suggestion helps, even if you come away thinking ‘I will NEVER say that’ - it all contributes to working out your own unique approach. It’s a ‘personal’ statement, after all.
Social media like Coventry’s twitter feed or our forums can be helpful too, but beware plagiarism! Don’t show sections of your statement to anyone online, or copy sections of theirs. UCAS has anti-plagiarism software so ferocious that it may as well come with a ‘Terminator’ tag. Copy stuff and it WILL be back to get you.
3 - Be clear about the Why
Why you want to study the subject you’re applying for is the main question admissions officers want the answer to. So tell them! Be clear: what it is about the subject that inspires and interests you enough to dedicate several years to it? What do you hope to gain from your studies?
It’s vital to get this bit right, so take some time working out your reasons. It can be a hard thing to put into words, of course, which is why you shouldn’t rush a personal statement; you can use our study planner to stay on schedule.
4 - Who are you?
Go beyond your academic achievements and show them who you are. This shouldn’t be the main focus of your statement, but it’s good to talk about your interests, social activities and hobbies and - where appropriate - how they connect to the course you’re applying for. Just be aware that saying things like ‘my profound interest in illicit poker games will help my studies of maths and probability' will impress no-one.
5 - Check it, save it
If anything will stop that little stress vein on the side of your head from throbbing, it’s making multiple copies and backups of your statement. Just in case. Save it, then save it somewhere else, and then save another copy too. Starting from scratch is a woe you do not need. (Check out the Coventry team’s advice for more on this)
Finally, check the thing. Many times. Check the spelling until all words look weird to you, and then get someone else to check it; the same goes for grammar. But keep an eye out for other things: have you been accurate? Have you exaggerated anything, or underplayed something important? Build in enough time to put your statement in a drawer and ignore it for a few days (ideally more), so you can read it with fresh eyes before sending it.
A blank page can be a scary thing. But take these tips on board, follow the wise words from our friends in Coventry and rummage around our help sections, and you’ll be more than up to the task. Courage!