Getting into university is something that many of us dream of, but there are many obstacles and challenges to overcome before we can finally accept a place. One of the biggest of these is writing your personal statement. Indeed, if you’re somebody who is currently completing an access to higher education course at college, chances are you’ll be spending plenty of tutorial time refining your statement until it closely resembles something that your college tutor deems acceptable.
But do you really need to make your personal statement as perfect as everyone would have you believe?
Well, as somebody who has just recently accepted an unconditional offer for my first choice of university I say no. Forget spending countless hours trawling the Internet researching what others might have you believe to be the type of personal statement that universities are looking for. Your personal statement should be just that. Unique and personal to you. Reflective of what makes you tick as an individual and not a comprehensive list of books that you’ve supposedly read and had a life changing experience because of.
Telling a university admissions department what you think they want to hear rather than what you actually want them to hear isn’t going to do you any favours in the long run.
The first thing you need to do is to throw any misconceptions about writing a personal statement out of the window. Honestly, any university worth it’s salt isn’t going to turn you down flat because your statement doesn’t flow well or because you’ve failed to mention the title of at least ten Shakespeare plays. They want to know about you as a person and how your journey has led you to apply to study at a higher level.
Remember as well that your personal statement will be seen by every one of your university choices. So don’t make it too personal to any establishment. You might very well prefer to attend university ABC but university XYZ needs to believe that they are your first choice. So keep things generic rather than specific.
The next thing to think about is why you want to go to university and study your choice of subject in the first place. What led you to develop a keen interest in your chosen subject and what has inspired you to pursue it as a career?
I’m going to be studying for a degree in Creative and Professional Writing and what interests me particularly about the subject is the process of using words, manipulating them and constructing them into sentences and paragraphs that then communicate my thoughts and ideas to the reader. Whether that is to inform them, entertain them or simply to make them think. I enjoy extracting that one little spark of an idea at the back of my mind and converting it into a piece of work that hopefully others will get something out of.
I would love to be able to write professionally in some capacity and and so to spend a few years spent at university, surrounded by others with the same mindset and learning from the professionals is to me a no brainer.
So if you are hoping to head off to university to study one of the sciences. Like biology for example, it’s worth spending some time writing out why biology is of particular interest to you. What led you to develop a keen interest in biology as a subject? What aspects of the subject are particularly pique your interest? What career do you hope to pursue once you’ve gained your biology degree? Do you have a roadmap of the next five or ten years of your life planned out in your head?
Essentially, it’s all about pre-empting the types of question that you are likely to be asked at a university interview and including the answers within your personal statement. Okay, so you might very well have a keen interest in biology or English literature or a particular strand of mathematics, but what sets you apart from everybody else that shares that interest with you? What makes you unique and what makes you deserving of that highly sought after place on the course over hundreds of others?
Keep it punchy
Another thing to remember when it comes to writing your statement is that you are extremely limited in the amount of characters that you are able to use. I wrote what I believed to be a concise and rather punchy statement as a Word document. Yet when I came to transferring it onto the application form on the UCAS website, I found that I had to somewhat brutally cut it down for size. Although I felt that I has written the best statement that I possibly could, I essentially had to rewrite it to fit within the confines of the space available. The current limit is 47 lines or 4000 characters. Believe me, that’s not very much, so try to keep space at the forefront of your mind when you’re working on yours.
Lastly, as hard as it might be, try not to get too het up about your personal statement. It doesn’t need to be perfect and it doesn’t need to conform to a particular ideal. Yes, it’s an important part of the application process but so are the A-levels that you’re studying for and so is the life experience that you’re continuously gaining.
So, stay focused on the end goal and keep your statement relevant, keep it concise and above all else, keep it personal.