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How to: Personal Statements

These are a really important part of the application process. Here’s how to make the most of those few hundred words:

What They're Looking For

Admissions tutors want to know that your child will do well in their course, and contribute well to the university. They will be looking for enthusiasm, commitment, original thinking and proof of the skills required to succeed. In other words, why are THEY perfect for THIS course?

Doing the Research

Research the subject further. Institutions’ websites will have admissions information showing what they are looking for, either generally or under the specific subject. Also check ‘Entry Profiles’ on the UCAS website, found by searching for a course. These are written by the admissions people. Read all this information to find out what they’re looking for. Next, your child should brainstorm why they’re exactly what the admissions people want.

Why this course – what’s an original reason? Admissions are going to read many applications all saying roughly the same thing. Stand out! Talk about a non-standard book, show in depth knowledge, etc.

Prove they are perfect for the course – show understanding of the course, commitment, creativity, have the skills and experience. How they will contribute to the university?

What is special about them? - learning beyond school, voluntary or paid work, hobbies & interests, project work, sports, extra responsibilities (prefect, etc)?

Structuring the Statement

There are many ways to organise a statement but one university suggests:

Opening: Why the subject, show understanding of the course & show commitment / enthusiasm. Why are they more interested than someone else with the same grades? Hint: showing extra research into the subject helps!

Middle: About you. Relate all your experience and skills either to the course or to the demands of university life. Your child should argue persuasively why they are ideal.

End: Tie your points together, repeat your interest and end positively

The Content

A personal statement is like a sales pitch, so they should keep it relevant, interesting, and use examples. Avoid just listing personal qualities or hobbies. Do include these things, but relate them to the course or university/college life.

For instance, you wouldn’t write: ‘I play football at the weekends’, but you could write: ‘Playing football has provided me with the experience to successfully balance my academic and social life, and I plan to continue this balance whilst at university.’

Also keep in mind these hints:

Keep it Broad

Don’t speak about a specific college or university.

Be positive!

Young people often undersell themselves on personal statements

Focus on the course

Mentioning their desired career is good, but remember you’re applying for the course, not the career so they should focus mainly on that

Don't repeat info

Don't waste space by putting in school or grades, etc

Deferred Entry?

That's OK, but explain what they're going to do and what they hope to gain

Joint Course?

Try and find a common theme between the two

You can look at other peoples’ personal statements for inspiration, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be hard to know which ones are good. Never buy a statement, or copy someone else’s statement. Admissions tutors are very experienced and will spot this in a second.

Reviewing

They should write several drafts of the statement. Once they’re happy with it, check the spelling and grammar, and for mistyping that a computer spellchecker won't catch.

Get lots of people to read it, especially school guidance teachers, and get feedback. Putting it aside for a couple of days and coming back to it can help you have a valuable fresh perspective. Finally, keep a copy of the statement. If invited to interview, your child should be prepared to answer questions on anything they’ve mentioned!

Core Pupil? Ask us for help! If your child is a core LIFT OFF pupil, we’ll be happy to read over their personal statements and give feedback. Just drop us an email –lift.off@abertay.ac.uk

Official guides: UCAS Guide St Andrews Uni Advice Manchester Guide Durham Guide
Unofficial Guides: Whatuni guide REAL Uni Guide Tips Persuasive Personal Statments
Other Help: Example of Poor Statment Do’s and Don’t’s