Personal Statements – It’s all about you!

How often have you heard the phrase “it’s not all about you”? Well, you won’t hear it used in the context of a personal statement because, guess what, it is all about you.  A subject that you are the world-renowned expert in.  But, beware, this is not your chance to curate your Wikipedia page; writing a personal statement requires a more subtle approach.

In many ways writing a personal statement is like writing any essay – you want to be as clear and concise as possible while showing off what you have done. Of course, it is slightly contrived and no matter how self-obsessed you are it is a bit odd to have to write a document entirely about yourself. One strategy can be to think of it not as a personal statement but rather an essay entitled “why you should let me into your course”. This can help put you in the right mindset for writing.

Where to start

No-one is interested in where you were born and how much you weighed, so perhaps drop the chronology.  One effective way to start a personal statement is by stating in one or two sentences what it is about the subject you like and why you want to study it at university. Take a moment to think clearly about what it is that attracted you to that subject and find a concise way of phrasing it. An example of this could be: I want to study politics because I am interested in how intellectual concepts can affect a person’s day to day life. Another example could be: Biology interests me as it dominates every aspect of our lives.

Generally, admissions tutors will be faced with too many personal statements to read, so may just focus on the first line. Avoid cliches like the plague; every tutor has read them before and may simply stop reading if they come across them. Some of the most common cliches are: Since a young age I have wanted to study… or, I have always been fascinated by… Keep well clear of anything like this!

What is the main content?

In the main body of the personal statement, you should focus on the things you have done which show your enthusiasm for your subject. One good way of doing this is to talk about books that you have read about the subject. This can simply be a summation of the book and then some thoughts you had about it. It can be effective to write this as a narrative showing how questions raised in one book caused you to go and read another. This can create a nice flow through your personal statement which helps it reads well. Of course, you don’t only need to talk about books – if you have done anything else such as like online courses, essay competitions or relevant work experience show them off!

It’s also important to write about some non- academic interests you have. You don’t want to go too much into this as you are applying for an academic course and not writing a tinder bio, but it is important to show that you are a well-rounded person with a variety of interests. These interests can be anything you do in a non-academic setting and could range from sports to musical instruments but preferably don’t focus on your passion for Love Island! Just drop in a paragraph briefly outlining these things and move on.

How to Finish

You want to conclude your personal statement in a style which is similar to your opening – summarising the main reasons why you want to spend three years studying a particular subject. Think carefully about how you phrase your concluding paragraph, it could be the last thing an admissions tutor reads before deciding whether to give you an offer or not, so probably best not to end with “That’s All Folks”!

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