WHY is the Personal Statement important?
The personal statement is a 4,000 character (one page) document in which you have the opportunity to show admissions tutors that you are ideally suited to study your chosen course at undergraduate level. The lion’s share of a UCAS application is formulaic (e.g. grades and academic references) and as such the Personal Statement can often be the only differentiating factor - your opportunity to stand out from the crowd! It really can make the difference between receiving an ‘offer’ or not.
WHO is going to read my Personal Statement?
Your personal statement is likely to be read by an academic or a trained admissions officer. They will be subject specialists whose priority is to offer places to candidates who demonstrate academic potential to do well on a degree course.
WHAT should I include in my Personal Statement?
One of the biggest misapprehensions about the personal statement is that you are involved in a personality contest with other candidates. This is not the case! Academics and admissions tutors are interested in the way you think and your understanding of a subject. They are less likely to be swayed by autobiographical details. So …
- Show don't tell. Time and again students think that they will impress tutors with rhetoric. Telling a tutor that you find a subject "thrilling" or "wondrous" is pointless. You need to show your enthusiasm through actual work. Depending on your chosen subject, this means examining specific texts, experiments, or ideas.
- Don’t just describe: analyse. Simply re-stating a piece of existing information has little value. University is all about being able to think independently and analytically so being able to demonstrate this is important.
- Listing books or activities is not going to show your academic ability. Just providing a list of texts you have read or topics you are interested in does not prove your enthusiasm or aptitude for a subject. It is much better to talk about a couple of selective ideas, texts or experiments.
- Develop your analysis of work experience. If you are lucky enough to have gone on relevant work experience, then go into detail. Simply listing multiple placements won't help your application. You need to analyse specific observations or ideas, or use the work experience as a starting point for further research.
- Keep it subject focussed. Admissions tutors mainly use the personal statement to try and get a sense of your academic potential and interests. Going into great detail about your sporting or musical exploits is likely to waste space which could be used to showcase more relevant skills to undergraduate study. As a rough ratio, four fifths of your statement should be used to explore and develop specific analysis and one fifth should be used for extra-curricular activities.
WHERE to look for help with my Personal Statement?
Your first port of call should be your tutor, teacher or designated member of staff in charge of university applications. They will have seen hundreds of personal statements and will certainly be able to provide you with advice. If you are applying independently there is a wealth of helpful information accessible online, not least from the UCAS website itself.
WHEN should I start working my Personal Statement?
Leaving your application to the last minute is just not advisable. Schools will often set their own deadlines – make sure you keep to them! However, should you wish to be organised it is advisable to start writing over the summer holidays before your last year at school. This will allow you to go back to school with a version that your teachers/tutor will be able to comment on quickly giving you plenty of time to refine it before being ready to submit. Finally, it is worth noting that the deadline for all applications to Oxford, Cambridge, and most courses in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine/science falls on 15th October each year. The deadline for the majority of undergraduate courses is on 15th January.