Personal statements: the do’s and don’ts

Student at a laptop working

It can feel a bit overwhelming when you suddenly have to fit all your academic achievements and interests onto one page of A4.

So, before you get going, or as you’re nearing your final draft, look over our checklist for what’s essential to include and how to avoid the personal statement no-nos.

Do: 

  • Plan your statement before you write it! Use the structure on our personal statement blog and jot down your ideas under each paragraph before you get to work.
  • Ask friends, family and teachers to remind you of activities you’ve participated in. They might remember successes you’ve forgotten about!
  • Explain and evidence everything. It’s easy to say you have a skill, but it’s better to demonstrate it with an example of when and how you’ve used it
  • Print off your statement and proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors by reading it aloud. You won’t notice mistakes by reviewing it on a computer, especially as you’ve been looking at it for such a long time!
  • Ask friends, family or a teacher to check it for you. A fresh pair of eyes always helps.
  • If you’re applying for a joint honours degree, give equal time to each subject and try to find similarities that will pull your writing together.

 

Don’t:

  • Include lists in your application. Focus on 1 or 2 points and talk about them in-depth to show their relevance to your application
  • Use clichéd lines such as, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a teacher’. They are overused and say little about your motivations or experiences.
  • Use quotations unless they support your statements and have a real purpose.
  • Be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement – plagiarism software is now very sophisticated and if you’re caught out you won’t get a place
  • Use complicated language or make things up to sound impressive. Write in your natural style.
  • Use ‘I’ too often when starting a new sentence. It’s tricky to avoid as you’re writing a personal statement but try to vary your sentence structure to avoid repetition.
  • Mention a particular university. Your statement will be sent to all 5 of your UCAS choices so it must be unbiased. For example, it’s best to keep a university anonymous if you’re referencing your attendance at one of their lectures or summer schools.
  • Use your statement to explain any mitigating circumstances. Ask your tutor or teachers to include these in your reference.

Good luck and happy editing!

 

This is a guest post written by the Content Officer at the University of Kent.