Click the link for some top tips from the people who matter:
Grammar and spelling must be checked and checked again before submitting your UCAS form and your Personal Statement should be written in full paragraphs
Rebecca Lee (undergraduate recruitment and widening participation officer at Manchester University)
It is also always vital that you proof, proof and proof again your statement. It may sound obvious but it is really important. Write your statement as you would an academic essay, using paragraphs, avoiding repetition and thinking about how it might be read. We are looking for you to demonstrate your ability to write longer essays once you come to university.
Dr Abigail Harrison-Moore (admissions tutor for seven years at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, where she is now head of school)
Remember to draft and re-draft your personal statement. Watch out for spelling mistakes (spellcheckers are not a guarantee) and missing or repeated words: doing this shows your commitment to the application and attention to detail. An admissions tutor will be impressed by the use of good English; a personal statement needs to be well written, in straightforward English, and laid out carefully. If you try too hard to impress with clever language you’ll normally make your statement harder to read and your reasons for wanting to study a particular programme less clear.
Richard Emborg ( Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions, Durham University)
Universities are reading a lot of personal statements and so I really like the first few lines to clearly outline the intended area of study and the reason why. The end of your personal statement should also reinforce this. Although you are working in a restricted space I find it helpful when students use paragraphs so that the statement flows well and it’s easy to identify key points. If you’re going to be interviewed for a course, the interviewer will read the statement beforehand and may even refer to it during the interview so a well-structured statement is imperative.
This is brilliant, from Altrincham Girls’ Grammar School. I wish I’d done it:
And here’s a guide from Essex University which, among other things, includes some example statements with comments on strengths and weaknesses:
Don’t forget there’s lots of other useful guidance elsewhere on this blog. Click ‘Personal Statement’ under ‘Categories’ in the sidebar.
Still struggling for things to include in that Ucas personal statement? How about: “I showed my teamwork skills by, along with 499,999,999 fellow citizens, winning the Nobel Peace Prize recently.”
Actually, maybe that wouldn’t be such a great idea, but showing that you are up-to-date with recent developments in your proposed area of study, or how it relates to areas in the news, could be impressive. Referring to transferable skills such as teamwork and communication is also often recommended, but too often it feels like an awkward add on, or too far of a stretch from the experience gained to the situation it is related to. “I gained valuable teamwork skills working in McDonald’s which will be valuable as I hope to be involved in international diplomacy after my politics degree” is likely to sound more comic than impressive. On the other hand, a paragraph like the following makes a realistic and thoughtful link between the skills required on the course, and the applicant’s recent experience:
Physiotherapists need to be caring, understanding and tolerant with their patients of all ages with different abilities. I have shown similar skills helping in a maths booster class for year seven pupils who found maths difficult, which also helped me develop my skills of patience, flexibility and a sense of humour.
I strongly suggest you research carefully the ‘entry profiles‘ that many courses list on the UCAS website, and also check for any further descriptions of the skills and qualities that universities are looking for in applicants for individual degree courses that are published in their prospectuses and websites. Tailor your personal statement to address those specific profiles, and submit that information, along with your personal statement, to the person writing your reference. That will help them to confirm the appropriateness of your statement when advising you on how to improve it, and they can also use the information to help ensure the relevance of the reference that is written for you.
Make sure you avoid these:
Archived Q&A session with three university admissions tutors: