The Complete Tutor House Guide to Help You Write Your Personal Statement
Writing a good personal statement – why bother?
Writing a personal statement for university is probably the most challenging and important part of your application. Your grades and qualifications will speak for themselves. Your personal statement, however, is where you can really set yourself apart.
This is your chance to show the university that you are passionate about the course you are hoping to study. It is also an opportunity to show that you care about the university you are applying to, and that you will be able to give something back.
Many universities require a certain level of academic achievement to consider students in the first place. However, simply meeting the academic criteria doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a spot.
Competition for top universities is fierce, and every course can only take so many students. If you understand that your chosen university is particularly well-known for the course you want to study, it is of particular importance to make your application as robust as possible to ensure you secure yourself a place.
How to write the perfect personal statement
Remember, you will be one out of thousands of other prospective university students all pitching their own case for getting in. Therefore, whatever you end up writing needs to be great.
Preparation is key
The more prepared you are before you start to write your personal statement, the less of a chore and a challenge it will be. This way, when you begin, everything you write will be carefully structured, completely relevant and well-thought out, too.
Here at Tutor House, we can help you devise the perfect personal statement. So, if you want to talk to one of our expert team about it, get in touch. The below step-by-step process serves as a starting point:
Personal statement checklist – do’s and don’t’s for writing your personal statement
Use this list of DO’s to make sure you get your personal statement right the first time around. Similarly, check through our list of DONT’S to give yourself the best possible chance of progressing your application.
DO – Here are some basic tips to help you when writing your personal statement
- Set spacing to 1.5
- Keep it to a maximum of 4000 words in length or 47 lines
- Use consistent, professional and neat formatting
- Make sure your opening sentence delivers impact
- Write with passion and interest. Writing a personal statement isn’t just something you ‘have’ to do. It’s your chance to really get across why you want to go into further education.
- Showcase what you’ve done to date that’s relevant to the course
- List key skills have you picked up through work experience
- Offer details on other activities and how they make you a more rounded person
- Mention what inspired you to choose the course
- Write from the heart – give them a glimpse of what really makes you tick
- Ensure it’s free from grammatical errors
- Be 100% honest. Even the smallest of white lies could prevent you from gaining a placement if found to be untrue!
- Make it attention grabbing
- Get second, third and fourth opinions. Show your statement to teachers parents and teachers, and ask them to help you, listen to their advice and get them to proofread your final version
- Sell yourself, make it so that your university can’t resist picking you for a place
- Make sure your spelling and grammar are error-free
DON’T – Personal statement mistakes to avoid
- Include poor grammar and spelling
- Plagiarise in any way
- Use formulaic templates – it’s fine to use a template as a guide, but your personal statement needs to be unique so make it so!
- Be negative
- Come across as arrogant – while it is important to talk about your strengths and achievements you must never seem boastful or arrogant. Show the reader that you are excited to learn more – not that you know it all already.
- List various books or places you’ve been to. Again mentioning one or two and why they are relevant is fine, but endless lists of countries you visited on your gap year won’t impress anyone.
- Use quotes – these are cheesy. Make every single word come from you.
- Write any untruths or lies -even stretching the truth or writing a ‘white lie’ that may seem harmless could backfire on you if you get found out, so it’s best to keep your statement 100% honest.
- Use humour – trying to be funny is very risky. You might think what you are writing is witty and hilarious and will make you stand out from the crowd, but you simply can’t predict that the university will find it so. If they think that you aren’t taking the process seriously enough this could massively backfire – is it worth it?
Before you start writing your personal statement
Tailor your personal statement to your institution
Although your personal statement is a representation of yourself, it is important that it is tailored for the course and level of institution you are applying to. If it is obvious that you have just substituted one course/university name for another, it will indicate that you haven’t given proper thought as to why that specific course/university is right for you.
Take your time to research each university you are applying for, gain a thorough understanding of what the course is about and really think about why you are applying.
People reading your personal statement will want to know:
Why are you applying for that specific course?
Why should they choose you?
What can you bring to their institution?
Therefore, before beginning to write your personal statement, it is important to answer these questions yourself first.
Be specific here. Make sure that the reader is convinced that you have taken the time to find out about the university and what it stands for as well as the course you wish to study. Convince them that this is the right place for you, and there is nowhere else you’d rather go.
Make a list of all your experiences, extracurricular activities and achievements
Once you have your list, you can begin to filter by those you believe the institutions you are applying to will want to know about or those most relevant to the courses you are applying for.
Personal statement – Your opening sentence
Your opening sentence is arguably the most important one you’ll write. It should set the tone for the rest of your personal statement and draw the reader’s interest in. Around 40% of the personal statement should be devoted to why you want to study the chosen course.
Ensure that your opening sentence/paragraph introduces your reasons and is suitably backed up by the inspirations behind them.
A good example of an opening sentence may be: “Reading Professor Stephen Hawking’s `A Brief History of Time’ first awakened my interest in natural sciences, and in particular, physics”.
Try to avoid writing generic sentences and phrases such as “I am passionate about learning.” and “I am very hard-working.” In truth, these types of statements mean virtually nothing, they can sound cheesy, and most importantly, they waste precious words!
How to start writing your personal statement
Divide the overall content into five main sections:
- Why you want to study the chosen course at that particular University
- Previous Academic Experience
- Extra Curricular Experience, (& the key skills you’ve picked up)
- Hobbies, Interests & Other Activities that could make you stand out as well rounded person
Why you want to study the chosen course at that particular University
Always write from the heart, and be credible. If it’s not obvious, you need to sit down and really work out why you have chosen this degree. Did you read a book, see a TV programme or do some work experience? Maybe you’ve always been interested in this degree, and it’s been a lifelong passion?
Once you understand why you want to spend 3 – 4 years studying your degree, present your reasons concisely, personalise what you say, and relate your reasons to your past experiences.
You should always avoid making throwaway comments like “Because my dad’s a doctor”, or “It was the one thing I could think of that interested me.” As you write, demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the course and make sure what you write supports your decision to study it.
Previous Academic Experience
This section of your personal statement should inform the reader what you have been doing with your life to date that’s relevant to your chosen course.
If you get to this part of your personal statement and find yourself questioning why you even want to study this particular course in the first place, it might be worthwhile to stop writing and go back to the drawing board.
Alternatively, let’s assume you’ve got this far, and are still enthusing about your chosen course. Note down what aspects of your life including your studies, hobbies, work and leisure experiences are relevant to the course. For example, if you’re applying for Economics, mention the positives of taking Mathematics as an additional A level. Mention work experience that is relevant, such as shadowing an accountant, working in a corporate environment.
The important thing here is to really get a grasp on what’s impressive and relevant to your course, and then make sure you include it. Remember to sell yourself and include everything, but also that your tone is enthusiastic and passionate, not arrogant or boastful.
Extra Curricular Experience
In this section, you’ll have to draw in non-specific work experience and all other academic achievements such as Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) qualifications and instrument grades. It doesn’t matter how long ago or how briefly you worked or trained to get that skill. What’s important is how you bring it into the statement.
For example, if you didn’t complete the DofE award but you achieved parts of it, mention it if you can demonstrate how it gave you a particular relevant skillset. There’s no need to lie, but don’t overlook the team-building skills of a weekend stomping the dales, the commercial skills of working in a supermarket or operating the tills in a charity shop.
Hobbies, Interests & Other Activities
In this section, you should discuss any other hobbies and interests you have that you think are relevant to the course and university life. These are different to awards or certificates you’ve gained, but show the reader a little more about you and what you love. Always try to explain what you have gained from these hobbies and interests. For example, how playing hockey once a week has taught you about the importance of teamwork and strategy– both of which are crucial when learning how to run a successful business and are therefore relevant to your business studies degree.
Personal statement – Your conclusion
In your conclusion, you can draw together the experiences, skills and knowledge you’ve presented with a concluding statement. End with a strong, decisive and positive statement: “I’m a well rounded and motivated person, who will thrive in a university environment and would be thrilled to join the University of Bath this September.”
Once you’ve finished, check, check and re-check that what you say is relevant, well presented, grammatically correct, and is delivered with passion and enthusiasm.
Getting accepted onto the University course of your choice is a fantastic achievement. However, to give yourself the best chance, you must pay attention to your personal statement. There is so much to consider, and we understand that you want to get it just right.
Many institutions will use your personal statement as an opportunity to gain insight into who you are, what you have to offer and your experiences to date. Therefore, it is crucial to have a personal statement which accurately reflects and represents you to the institution in the best possible way.
If you’re stuck on your personal statement and need help getting started, or you simply need someone to look it over or offer expert advice, Tutor House can help.
With over ten years of experience in helping students perfect their personal statements and a strong track record for getting students into their desired courses and institutions, Tutor House has a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer.
Talk to an expert – if you want to discuss how Tutor House can help you with your personal statement, why not get in touch?
UCAS Personal statement template – use this handy template to help you write your personal statement.
Personal statement final checklist – print out our Do’s and Don’ts checklist to tick off as you write your personal statement.