Political Promise

How to Write a Personal Statement

1. The Preparation Process

Get a blank piece of paper and draw three even columns, leaving some space at the bottom. At the top, the headings should be:

  • The Course
  • How I suit the course as a student
  • How I suit the course as a person

In each column you need to write in whatever way you find most comfortable (bullet-points, spider-diagram, one long rambly paragraph) and take your time. It will take you a couple of hours, maybe days to fully be happy with what you produce. Not everything you write will be needed in the end, but don’t rub or cross anything out. You don’t know what is useful until you’ve finished.

Column 1 is the hardest one to fill. Talk about the course you want to take, the course description, what qualities you have been told you need, your perception of the course and what you want to get out of it and what you can achieve with a degree in this subject. You will need to consult numerous websites andprospectuses NB: make sure you have a range of information on the subject, from lots of universities, from teachers and student websites such as The Student Room.

Column 2 is about what makes you, as an academic student, perfect for this course in terms of your academic skills and experiences that will achieve the aims you set out in Column 1. Relevant work experience or courses should be mentioned in this column, although if you feel they have affected you personally, leave that for column 3. Column 3 is setting out why you, as a person, are suitable for this course. This is in terms of how she has developed as a person, what ‘added value’ can she bring to the course and to the university, and what makes her more interesting than the next candidate in terms of her personal traits and hobbies.

This information will form the basis of your personal statement.

In big letters at the bottom of the paper, write down a few golden rules, not just mine, but whatever general advice you have had about your personal statement from teachers, fellow students or from guides such as this. In this box, I would write (personal advice from me here) to get it done as quickly as possible so you can forget about it and to write in your personal style, not imitating one person or another. You will receive other pieces of advice on your Statement, so log these notes here. They will help as a guide.

2. Writing the Statement

I would not recommend writing your statement on a computer. As I have noted before, you shouldn’t rule out anything you have written, you might come up with a gem, and whatever you don’t save on a computer you lose, whatever is on paper is still visible. Also, it sometimes it is easy to get distracted.

It should have a clear beginning and a definite conclusion, where your motivation for studying the course should be apparent. Do not go on about how clever you are, as your writing style, wide-ranging vocabulary and multi-clausal syntax should prove this. But don’t show off. “As one of my school’s four head prefects, I dutifully carried out the task of apprehending recalcitrant peers from the lower echelons of the school.” does not sound as good as “As a Head Prefect, I took responsibility for the welfare of younger students.”

Sound active. Do not make it seem as if the opportunities and experiences you describe were handed to you, or obligatory, but stuff you really wanted to do, so went out and did it. You were elected to the captaincy of the Debating squad by your fellow debaters, for example, you did not simply assume the role.

3. Proofing the Statement

Too many opinions will simply confuse you. Set aside three people and ask them to read it through. A close (and educated, preferably) friend to check through spelling and grammar, a teacher of your chosen subject to question the subject matter you mention and another teacher who has “been there done that” with the UCAS application system, and knows what admissions tutors are looking for.

I hope this has been good advice, good luck to anyone applying this year. If you have any tips you want to share, then comment below.

By Charlie Edwards

  1. Good but a few nitpicks. Though not a student I imagine that trying to sell myself for column 2 would be the more difficult; myself at that age and my current impression of this year’s cohort is that such a self-analysis might be demotivating as the future seems so uncertain. On a separate point your advice on using a computer may come across as counter-cultural – all the young people I see have one stuck in their hand and often next to their ears.

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