I have written several personal statements over the years besides, editing those of my senior year students. In all essence, personal statement writing is a skill every student will have to master, especially, in your senior year. However, it does not end there – it is actually the start of a lifetime of personal statements as you progress into further education studies and much later in your search for a dream job.
The type I am focusing on is . . .
The UCAS-based Personal Statement
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities. It is the central admissions service. UCAS is a highly reputable organization with over 121,000 people from outside the UK applying through it, to study full-time undergraduate degree courses in the UK every year.
What Is A Personal Statement?
Most students in their senior year will have to make applications for further studies. Among many things, a personal statement may be defined as having some or all of the following:
A personal statement is a special type of essay that you typically write when applying to school or scholarship programs. Personal statements are an opportunity to share a little bit about who you are as you demonstrate that you’re a good fit for a particular program.
A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It’s a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.
A personal statement is an account of your achievements, talents, interests and goals often included in job or university applications or on resumes. Personal statements for university and jobs have similar content, but university personal statements are usually longer and more detailed.
At High School, you will have to write a university personal statement. Typically, this is written in four paragraphs; five would be a maximum number and is rarely done that way. When included in job applications and resumes, these statements are generally a single paragraph.
Note that some universities may have their own requirements to a personal statement, so make sure to heed any word or character limits.
University Personal Statement
It is certain that many students who apply to university have achieved the basic entry requirements and many more students apply than there are places available. Admissions teams at different universities can just use your personal statement to get to know you and decide why you’re more suitable than other applicants.
It is a well-known fact that some universities read every personal statement and score them, using them alongside your qualifications and grades to decide whether to offer you a place or interview. Other universities put less emphasis on the personal statement and use it with students who have borderline entry requirements.
Still, there are other universities that might refer to your personal statement again on results day if you don’t get the grades you were predicted to get. So a good personal statement could clinch you a university place even if your grades aren’t what you hoped for.
As such, a Personal Statement is a key part of the UCAS application process, and a way to sell yourself to prospective universities. It is much more detailed – and longer – than the one you write for a job application.
UCAS offers guidance on how to write an excellent personal statement for undergraduate studies. There are four key categories – four paragraphs – to look for under which are several questions you will need to address.
- Why do you want to study at university?
- Why do you want to study this subject?
- How did you become interested in this subject?
- What career do you have in mind after university?
Consider this . . .
It all started when my grandfather bought me a Lego truck for my tenth birthday. The whole experience of putting it together never escapes me; the intricate gears, the miniature pistons, and the mechanism in general were very much intriguing. Reflecting upon myself before this turning point, as I would name it, I was quite apathetic over what I would grow up to be. Then came the Lego truck and, despite how trivial an effect a simple toy may have on one’s life, literally changed my thinking and how I viewed my future life. It was then that I knew which career I would pursue, one that required determination and hard work along with imagination and creativity; I knew I was ready, and this was but the beginning.
Academic Ability And Potential
- How have your current studies affected your choice?
- What do you enjoy about your current studies?
- What skills have you gained from your current studies?
- How can you demonstrate you have the skills and qualities needed for the course?
- What qualities and attributes would you bring to the course and university?
Now, consider this . . .
The following years found me developing a profound ardor for the many fields of mechanical engineering. I began reading about the works of many famous engineers, and was quite fascinated with those of Henry Ford and Karl Benz in particular. I marveled at how Ford managed to industrialize the wearisome, time-consuming production process of automobiles, making drastic improvements in its efficiency and introducing what was to become the modern assembly line. Far-fetched as it seems, I’ve had aspirations of building my own automobile factory as I was greatly inspired by Ford, and the fact that Egypt has no automobile brands of its own only augments my unfulfilled desire to become the first to take this great stride in the industry. When, in High School, the physics class involved mechanics and hydraulics, which was the closest it ever was to mechanical engineering, not only did I achieve the highest grades in physics, but also took great pleasure in studying the material, a pleasure I did not find studying other courses. This high performance was consistent throughout my high school years and further solidified my choice of majoring in mechanical engineering.
- What work experience (including part-time, charity and volunteer work) do you have and what have you learnt from it?
- What positions of responsibility have you held? (For example, prefect, captain of a team or member of a committee)
- What relevant hobbies or interests do you have and what skills have they helped you develop?
- What transferable skills do you have, such as self-motivation, team working, public speaking, problem solving and analytical thinking?
Consider this. . .
During my high school years I participated in several activities and trips, which added a great deal to my experience. The first large-scale application of mechanics I ever witnessed was the Aswan High Dam, and what an experience it was! The dam was much of a neat, practical application of hydraulics and electrical power generation, which added to my understanding of the fields. In addition to the High Dam visit, in my previous summer holiday, I went on a trip with my family to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen. I had the opportunity to have a look behind the scenes and watch the manufacturing process of the cars. It was a dazzling experience from which I learned a lot.
Research And Reading
- How do you keep up with current affairs or news in your chosen subject?
- What journals or publications relevant to your chosen subject do you read?
- Which people have influenced you, such as artists, authors, philosophers or scientists?
SOME TAKEAWAYS: What Do You Write About?
It is about You!
You’re telling admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college.
Your personal statement should be unique, so there’s no definite format for you to follow here – just take your time. Here are some guidelines for you to follow, but remember your personal statement needs to be ‘personal’.
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise, and natural style – nothing too complex.
- Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes, or anything unusual. – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
- Structure your information to reflect the skills and qualities the university and colleges value most – use the course descriptions to help you.
- Check the character and line limit – you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines (500-550 words) – that includes spaces and punctuation. As your word count is limited, everything you write should be relevant and add value to your statement.
The Do’s and Don’ts Of Personal Statement
Do . . .
- Do show you know your strengths, and outline your ideas clearly. Tell the reader why you’re applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show you’re interested in the course, it may help you get a place.
- Do expect to produce several drafts of your personal statement before being totally happy with it.
- Do ask people you trust for their feedback
- Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you’ve gained from education, work, or other activities.
- Focus on yourself – It can be tempting to focus on your own attributes, and where you want to go in your career. But the best personal statements cover what skills you would bring to the company and what you can offer them that no other candidate can.
- Include any clubs or societies you belong to – sporting, creative, or musical.
- Mention any relevant employment experience, skills or volunteering you’ve done.
- If you took part in a higher education taster course, placement, or summer school, or something similar, include it.
- Look at course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experience it requires – you can use these to help you decide what to write about.
- Proofread aloud, and get your teachers, advisers, and family to check. Then redraft it until you’re happy with it, and the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.
Don’t . . . .
- Don’t Exaggerate – if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
- Don’t rely on a spellchecker, as it will not pick up everything – proofread as many times as possible.
- Don’t leave it to the last minute – your statement will seem rushed, and important information could be left out.
- Don’t let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement.
- Be too generic – It might take a little more time to tailor your statement to each position, so be specific with your skills and examples.
- Don’t be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement, or share yours. All personal statements are checked for similarity – if your personal statement is flagged as similar to other applicants, it could affect your chances of being offered a place.
- Confuse it with your cover letter – Your personal statement is meant as a short introduction. Keep it that way. Use your cover letter and employment history to elaborate on your achievements and your personal statement to grab their attention. Don’t get confused between the two.
- Think of it as a list – ‘I am experienced. I am qualified. I am a good communicator. Elaborate and be specific!
- Forget To Read It Out Loud– Read it. Read it again. Get your friends and family to read it. And, most importantly, read it out loud and make sure it flows (and there aren’t any spellings and mistakes). Not only do you want it to impress the admissions team in terms of your achievements, you also want it to be well-written.
- Other things not to do: Confuse tenses, forget to spellcheck, make it too personal, speak in colloquialisms, such as “ain’t” and “gonna”
As an international student there may be are a few extra things you should mention:
- Why you want to study in the UK?
- Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken.
- Why you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country?
Consider this . . . .
I aim to study in the UK because of the country’s many top-ranking universities, especially in the field of mechanical engineering. I believe that receiving an education in the UK would help me on with my later life, and would build the strong framework of knowledge needed to handle any related job later on, allowing me to benefit myself and my country as needed. I’ve also been to London for more than ten times until now and have been very fond of the city. My grandfather had bought me the aforementioned Lego truck during one of his visits to London, and its essence has ever since rested in my memory. Now, my grandfather is deceased; the truck lies in pieces, but what was left was the ambition, the infatuation my grandfather had left engraved in my memory
It’s important to remember you can only write one personal statement – it’s the same for each course you apply for. So, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name.
If you’ve chosen similar subjects, talk about the subject in general, and try not to mention course titles. If you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, just write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.
If you have to say more, then any additional material needs to be sent directly to the universities to which you have applied. Wait until you have received your Application Number from UCAS so that you can include this with your papers.
DEAR READER, a personal statement should be just that – personal. It is an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the University by expressing your interests, experiences and ambitions.
Wishing you all the best in your endeavours.