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There’s no such thing as a perfect personal statement, but the good ones are clear, informative and above all, relevant.

Capturing your personality and hopes for the future in 4000 characters can feel daunting, but remember, a personal statement is a functional piece of writing, and you just need to tell us about your skills, experience, how they relate to your future studies, and why you are ready for university.

Before you begin writing you need know which courses you want to apply for. Your statement has to be appropriate for up to five courses but you’ll find that most of them ask for similar characteristics, so make sure that you emphasise them wherever possible.

Your statement will go to the admissions tutors at the universities you apply for. They are responsible for reading applications and working with the teaching staff to decide who will be offered an interview and/or a place. They want to know why you want to study a particular subject, what skills and experience you have, and what you hope to gain from your degree.

A successful statement has structure, so organising your statement under appropriate headings is worthwhile. The following headings could help you get started:

  • Why you want to study your chosen subject at university  - this could involve your career aspirations or a particular interest you want to pursue
  • Your current studies and the skills they have given you
  • Work experience
  • Other relevant skills or experiences – they don’t have to be specifically related to your chosen course, think carefully about any transferrable skills

Once you’ve got your headings sorted, make a list of what you want to include and arrange it under the headings. Congratulations, that’s your first draft done.

When you’re ready to start writing, it can be tempting to use overly-complicated language (you want to sound impressive after all), but this may make your statement sound stiff and formal. Whilst it’s vital that your statement is well-written, it’s also your opportunity to share a little of your personality with the admissions team, so it’s even more important that you sound like yourself. If your enthusiasm and commitment are obvious, you’ll sound impressive without trying too hard.

Avoid sentences like ‘I have been passionate about animal welfare since an early age’ as they aren’t particularly effective in demonstrating your commitment to your subject area. Be specific and provide examples e.g.’ I have been interested in studying biology since completing my work experience at an animal shelter last year’. Don’t be tempted to apologise for skills or experience you don’t have, focus on what you have done, and explain how you hope to extend your learning further. In short, keep it positive.

Strong personal statements aren’t written in a day. Give yourself time for each stage of the process. If possible take a day or two between drafts (making sure you meet your school, college or employer deadlines of course) as you’re more likely to see typos and possible improvements with fresh eyes.

Resting between drafts will also help you avoid common pitfalls such as repeating yourself. It’s tempting to write the same important point in a range of different ways, but not only is it a waste of valuable space. If you have said something once, that’s enough.

Your statement may take several weeks to complete, and it can become hard to spot mistakes, this is where enlisting the help of friends, relatives and, of course your tutors can be very useful. Asking someone else to read your statement will help you to find any mistakes, and they may be able to offer suggestions for improvement.

Reading your statement out-loud may sound odd, but is one of the most effective ways to that your statement ‘flows’ well.

Keep going until you get it right –drafting, checking for mistakes and asking other people for their input is all part of the process.

So, make yourself a list of what you want to include, and start writing!

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