The process of applying for a university place in the UK is controlled by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service which is commonly referred to as UCAS. Your teachers will start to talk to you about this as soon as your start in the sixth form. You should spend some time in the lower sixth (Year 12) checking out courses and visiting university open days. When you start in the upper sixth year (Year 13) you should have a clear idea of what you want to study, where you want to study it and what you have to do to get there.
However, if you have not laid down the foundations for your UCAS application in Year 12 you could find yourself unprepared once it comes to writing your personal statement. A lot of students get very worried about completing their personal statement but it is no more than an extended essay with you as the subject.
It needs to be impressive! There may be many candidates with the same predicted grades as you trying to get on the popular courses. Your personal statement is what is going to get you to stand out and, hopefully, get you a good offer. Here are the top 10 things that every personal statement must have.
A good reason why you want to study the course.
Saying that you find the subject interesting is not enough. You need to show that you have a clear career path mapped out and that the course for which you are applying is a vital step on your journey. This shows your commitment. Universities are trying to keep their dropout rates as low as they possibly can and so they need students that are totally committed. If you show them that you need the course (rather than just liking it) they are more likely to select you.
Additional skills that you have invested time gaining
All candidates will have A levels or BTECs but you will impress universities if you have something extra. If you have achieved Grade 8 in violin or have been awarded an online CPR certification, mention it in your personal statement. Then go on to relate that to the course that you want to study. Talk about commitment, time managements skills, and meeting deadlines. These are all important when you are studying for a degree so you need to be able to show that you have them.
Expand on your transferable skills
Look back on what you have done over the previous two school years. Make a list of every extracurricular activity that you have been involved in. Now write down a list of the skills that you had to demonstrate when you were taking part in that activity. For example, think about any particular projects or assignments that you did well because you were willing to put in some extra effort. List all of the positions of responsibility that you have held. Were you the head boy or girl or a member of any committees? Did you have to use networking skills, leadership skills or team working skills to make a success of it?
It is not good enough to write that you have good leadership skills. You must be more specific about what you did to show that you had them. For example, if you were a member of a committee that organised a fundraising event at school, specify exactly what your role was. State that you were in charge of purchasing supplies or if you had to liaise with local organisations who were donating prizes. If you had to pick up the phone to speak to them or if you had to email people you should say so.
Stick to the truth
There is absolutely no point in lying about something on your personal statement. If you get called for an interview you will be asked to expand on what you have written and it will become obvious that you did not actually do what you claim you have done. This will not go down well with admissions tutors!
Keep it in your own words
Your age will be clear on your application. If you are a 17-year-old boy or girl, it must be clear that the statement was written by a person of that age. You can pay other people to write your personal statement but the best ones are where the candidate’s personality shines through. This can’t happen if someone wrote it for you and it may become obvious at interview.
Focus on the positive
We all have weaknesses and it is a good idea to recognise what they are but a personal statement is not the place to dwell on them. Focus on what you can do well and what you have achieved.
Make it technically correct
You must write your personal statement yourself but you are perfectly entitled to seek support and to get someone to advise you. All schools offer mentoring and support to students who are going through this process so make the most of it. It’s free!
Eliminate all errors
It is essential that you check over your statement for grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. Your parents can help here but if they are not experts in proof-reading it may be best to turn to the teachers in your school or college. It is vital that every single word is perfect. A poorly written personal statement shows that you are not capable of producing high quality written work and that you do not pay attention to detail.
Get the length correct
Your personal statement will have to be uploaded to the UCAS website and there is a limit to the number of words that you can use. If your personal statement is over the limit, it will not upload and this involves a lot of last-minute shifting around which can ruin the whole thing so it’s best to get it right at the start!
Have you written a personal statement before? Did it get you into the uni you wanted? Share any advice in the comments below