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24 Oct How to Write a Good Undergraduate Personal Statement

Many students have the same or similar high school grades so how do universities choose between the hundreds of people who apply to their courses when they have not met any of these people? The personal statement helps with this process.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is basically information about you but it helps admissions staff decide if they want to offer you a place on a specific course at their university. All universities have a certain image and they are looking for more than just your grades at high school; they want to know if your personality, attitude and life experience will “fit” with their university.

Think of it like a job application. When you apply for a job you have to write a personal statement which tries to persuade the company that you are the best person for the job. In the same way the personal statement aims to persuade universities that you are the kind of student they want.

So how do I know what universities want?

Start by reading about the university, the course you want to study and the “entry profiles” as these will give you information about the type of student the university is looking for. Universities also want the truth so do not lie about your abilities and they want your writing so do not ask someone to write the personal statement for you. Some areas to cover include why you want to study this subject, what your future career plans are, what you do in your free time, what skills you have (academic and non-academic), what’s interesting and/ or different about you.

Then look at some resources for writing personal statements and get some advice.

There are lots of websites which will offer you advice for writing a personal statement but it is best to look at websites from reputable organisations such as UCAS or student advice websites which are well used such as The Student Room. Remember to ask your teachers, friends and family for advice. A good question to ask them is “what do you think makes me different from other people? or “how would you describe me?” because the answers often give you some interesting information that you hadn’t thought about. The personal statement is not something you can write quickly so be prepared to think a lot about yourself, your qualities, skills, experience, likes and dislikes. You are unlikely to meet the people who read it so your personality needs to come though on paper; this is difficult.

OK, I’ve done some research and lots of thinking, now what?

Write down some ideas and topics that you think are relevant and then expand them into sentences and paragraphs. Next show your personal statement to as many people as possible to get feedback and advice and draft it again and again until you are happy with it. Always read it with a critical eye and imagine you are the admissions officer for your chosen course and ask this question:

Would you give you a place on this course after reading your personal statement and WHY?

What should I focus on if I’m an EU or International student and English is not my first language?

In some ways you are very lucky because your experience of high school, hobbies and life experience will already be different from many UK/ home students so you should take advantage of this in your personal statement. But you also need to make 2 things very clear. Firstly, why do you want to study in the UK and secondly, you need to show that your English is of a good standard (usually IELTS 6.0 or above). It is no good having IELTS 6.5 if you personal statement is full of grammar and spelling mistakes. But DO NOT pay for someone to write your personal statement for you on one of the many websites offering this service. If you have IELTS 6.5, you do not have perfect native speaker style English and universities may reject your application if they suspect it is not your writing.

Further reading and listening

The links below give you more advice but notice that the advice is not the same from each university which shows why you need to research the universities and subjects to match your personal statement the requirements.

http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/personalstatement/

http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/finding_out_more/podcasts/third_episode_the.html

Remember to use the Target English forum to ask for advice about different UK universities.



Fiona Aish

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