Personal Statement Do's and Don'ts
I’ve had a few asks about personal statements and university/college applications so I thought I’d make a post about what to include and what not to include for all you applicants this year!
DO be enthusiastic! This is the number one most important rule - you need to show the university how much you love the subject and want to study it!
DO demonstrate your knowledge. Grades are one thing, but applying your knowledge is another - talk about specific fields of your subject that you’ve explored or wish to explore at university, or discuss an interpretation or particular idea you have formed whilst studying it.
DO show prior research or reading if the subject is something you haven’t studied before. Universities won’t want to accept someone who has no idea what they’re letting themselves in for!
DO link everything to the course you’re applying to. Only include a qualification or achievement if it’s relevant - your Duke of Edinburgh Award isn’t going to make you a more suitable candidate to study history or physics! For example, instead of saying ‘I did Spanish at AS level’, say something like ‘studying Spanish equipped me with a more highly critical method of reading and close analysis’.
DO research the course you’re applying for - there’s no point in talking about how interested you are in 16th century French history if one of your chosen universities doesn’t offer it as part of their course!
DO be yourself (it’s cringe, sorry) - admissions staff are human, and reading hundreds of applications written in the same identical formula must get incredibly boring. Don’t try to be overly funny or too unique as that can be very risky - just write from the heart!
DO get help from your teachers/ anyone who’s willing to read it! There’s nothing better than a fresh pair of eyes to check for spelling and grammar errors, and teachers usually know what they’re talking about.
DON’T say you’re ‘passionate’ about the subject - practically every student writes this in their personal statement and all the admissions tutors I’ve spoken to have said they’re sick of the word! It’s a given that you enjoy the subject - SHOW them you enjoy it by demonstrating your knowledge rather than stating the obvious. Avoid clichés at all costs!
DON’T include a quote unless you fully engage with it throughout your personal statement. They’re a bit pretentious and most universities will completely ignore them - it’s your own words they want to hear!
DON’T name drop - simply listing off all the books you’ve read around your subject isn’t going to impress anyone. Engage with the books - discuss a particular theory or theme that interested you, or even challenge something you’ve read! Its more impressive to fully explore two or three books than to simply list the titles of ten.
DON’T use fancy words or metaphors - write how you would talk! As long as your basic grammar and spelling is right, the university will be far more interested in what you’re saying than how you’re saying it.
DON’T waste valuable words talking about things that are already on your UCAS application. They know your grades - your job is to prove why you got them!
DON’T make any silly mistakes - spelling something wrong, mentioning the name of a specific university etc - universities get thousands of applicants and any mistake will more than likely get your application tossed in the bin. Read and re-read your personal statement!
DON’T plagiarise - UCAS have plagiarism detection software and anything you’ve copied could be seriously detrimental to your application.
DON’T panic! The admissions team are just trying to see if you’re suitable to their course. Your personal statement isn’t the be all and end all!
I hope that was somewhat helpful - if you have any specific questions about personal statements or uni applications, my ask box is always open. Good luck!