Writing your personal statement

Writing a winning Personal Statement
Adrian Dutch
Head of International
What is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is:
- a piece of writing about you
- a summary of your academic, personal and career achievements and
- a marketing tool to advertise your best qualities
Why do I need a personal statement?
• A chance to sell yourself in a well-ordered way
• An opportunity to give details in support of your application
• To justify your course choices
• To make your application different to others
• It puts you in control of what the reader knows about you
• If done well, it makes a good first impression
Is It Really That Important?
Admissions staff in universities place high importance on personal
statement to:
- Sift out candidates
- Assess candidates motivation/knowledge/reasons
- Evaluate the candidates written communication skills
- Decide who may require an interview
The Basics
General good practice guidelines:
Ensure that your personal statement has a structure
Write enough to fill the space
The content should be relevant and current
Avoid repetition and try to take an analytical approach
Demonstrate a broad awareness of a subject and its implications on
the bigger picture
Proof read for sense, structure, grammar and spelling
Proof read it again
And maybe one more time!
Key Questions
• Why am I choosing this course/subject?
• Why am I the right candidate?
• What am I going to do afterwards?
(A) Structure
1. Why have you applied to study the subject
2. What you have learnt from your current studies or career
3. Positions of responsibility held in/out of school/college or in work
4. Other experiences/skills gained
5. Interests and activities that you participate in
6. Possible career aims
7. What you are particularly looking forward to at Uni
1. Why I chose my subject
• When/how did your interest in this subject come about?
• What proves that you are a genuine enthusiast?
• Have you taken steps to find out more about this subject area? What
did you do? Do your research!
• Put the subject into context within society – what are the topical issues
at the moment?
Don’t just put, for example, “I have applied for a computing degree,
because I like computers”
2. Current Studies/Career
• What knowledge have you gained on your chosen subject through your
current/previous studies or through work?
• What relevant projects/assignments/research have you undertaken?
• What have you learnt from this?
• What study skills have you developed as a result of your
current/previous studies?
• Which aspect of your current/previous studies ,or your experience in
industry, have you enjoyed the most and why?
3. Previous responsibilities
• Have you held any positions of responsibility in/out of school or college
or in work?
• Are you already working? If so, what is your role?
• How do you successfully juggle the demands of work and study?
• What skills have you developed?
• Is the job related to your subject choice? Don’t worry if it is not – still
include this experience
4. Other Experiences
• Are you a volunteer?
• Have you ever been in a sports team?
• Have you ever taken a role within a school/college production/event?
• Have you taken part in a charity event? Have you helped organised an
5. Other interests
• What are your interests?
• Sports, music, gigs/concerts, film, theatre, literature, nature, geology,
history, dance, drama, religion, singing, politics, etc.
• The admissions staff will want to find out more about YOU as a person
– what makes you different?
• Always provide examples of your interests, e.g, what books have you
read and what is your opinion on them?
6. Career Aims
• How does your choice fit into your career aims?
• How do you hope it will help you achieve your aims?
• What do you know about the career/industry that you want to enter?
• What work experience do you have?
• Career aims will vary depending on age and experience and subject
7. Final Paragraph
• Finish your personal statement by highlighting what it is that you are
particularly looking forward to at University
• Avoid putting ‘going to loads of parties’ or other inappropriate phrases
• Instead use ‘meeting people from a variety of backgrounds’ etc
• Also mention the subject at some point in the final paragraph
Example 1
“My name is Agnieszka Rybeczko and I was born in Warsaw in 1967. During my
studies at college I focused on Management-related subjects and I do really feel
very well prepared in order to study a management degree course.
I would like to point out that UK Universities are very well known for their good
reputation. After my own research on which university to choose and after the
recommendation of my college, I must say that I am very happy with my
University choices as all those schools are very well known for their academic
I hope you will choose me as one of your students and help my dreams to come
What Was Wrong With It?
• Poor use of the English language. Remember this is a formal
• All subjects equip you with useful study skills. Do not underestimate
• No clear objectives about why the person wants to go to University
Example 2
“Performing is a passion that I realised at a young age. My ultimate goal is to work professionally in the
theatre and I hope that by studying drama at university I will gain a rounded understanding of the
profession. I would, for example, relish the opportunity to explore directing, film and stage management,
as well as further my interest in acting.
Acting is something I love to do and something I find I can never learn enough about or find tiresome.
During my Theatre Studies A level course, Stanislavski and the techniques he developed have
particularly fascinated me. I feel that I have benefited greatly from using his techniques when
approaching my practical performances. For example, I used the “magic if” when developing a character
who had to be quite aggressive and intimidating, something I found a challenge. It helped me to really tap
my imagination and focus my energy on the role.
My study of Theatre Studies had encouraged my love of the theatre and literature. I really enjoyed
reading and exploring Checkov’s The Three Sisters and went to see a production of it. I was surprised
that it was performed in the round, something that I thought was quite unusual for a realist piece.
However, I thought that this unusual setting really worked well. The details ofthe set were extremely
convincing and I felt that the power of the performances and the quality of the play absorbed my attention
to such an extent that I was not aware of the audience that could be seen on the other side...”
Example 2 (cont’d)
“...As well as participating in school productions from a young age, I enhanced my talent in the
performing arts though ballet classes and music lessons, and then through extra-curricular lessons in
both acting and verse and prose as I grew older. I know that I still have much to work on if I am going to
succeed in the acting profession, in particular I am looking forward to working hard on movement and
mime. My experience of being on stage come both from school and independent productions. I was
Gwendolyne in The Importance of Being Earnest and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of creating my
own interpretation of such a well-known character. I have also acted in productions of plays written by
friends, a process that I find very exciting. I would very much like to work further with people who are
experimenting in their writing.
I also have a love of film, something that I have further explored in my Film Studies A level course. I
enjoy analysing films, giving close attention to the details of production that help create the overall effect.
I have found studying New Wave cinema extremely exciting and think that A Bout de Souffle directed by
Jean Luc Goddard and Y tu mama tambien directed by Cauron are impressive films in the way they
demonstrate innovative film techniques. Last year I wrote an extended essay on suspense in The Matrix
and this year I am looking forward to writing on Alfred Hitchcock as the master of suspense.
My love for acting and increasing interest in all that surrounds it means that I am eagerly looking forward
to fully committing myself to the study of Drama and Theatre Studies at university.”
A Winning Statement?
• Demonstrates a background interest and knowledge of subject area
• Discusses skills gained from other subjects
• Part time work experience used effectively
• Hobby ends the statement on a positive note
• Good use of English language
Some other “rules”...
Don’t make jokes
Don’t mention things that aren’t relevant
Only use words you know and are comfortable with
Don’t use txt spk
Don’t repeat yourself
Don’t lie
Don’t express overly political opinions
Don’t be boring
Don't repeat things already on your UCAS form, e.g. predicted exam
• Don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar
• Don’t use the words “esteemed university” (Everyone does!)
And Finally…
This is YOUR personal statement – make it unique
To make it interesting and relevant
To present it professionally
To link it to your degree choice
If done well, it will help persuade the University to give you an offer
[email protected]

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