After getting accepted into one of the top universities in the UK, I had tons of questions from friends and strangers about getting accepted into such universities, and if their grades were good enough. Whilst grades do play a big part it is not the only thing that matters. There is no one size fits all type of answer, but there are a few things you can do to stand out from the crowd and write the best personal statement.
Get involved in your school activities
Most people swim through their school years without taking part in anything, they simply go to school and go home. In order to build your character, your personal statement and to stand out, take part in something at school. At my school, we had Duke of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise, Math competitions, Drama competitions, fashion shows, sports clubs and so much more. If your school doesn’t offer such activities, start one! This could be even more beneficial for you as it shows you have the initiative and drive to start something, plus it’s a great example of being a leader.
You could start a society that correlates with your interests or the field you want to enter. For example, medicines society, chess club, debating society, Economics society, fashion society or tea society. Anything you feel like, the world is your oyster!
Volunteering is an amazing way of giving back to the community and learning new skills. Depending on the type of volunteering you do, it can help you to be more patient, strengthen your communication skills, raise business acumen and build teamwork skills; all of which are crucial for university and post-grad life.
Start a blog/ write an article
If you know what you want to do in university, why not write an article about that topic and get it printed in a journal. To have such an achievement will really set your personal statement apart and clearly show how passionate you are about the field. However it may not always be possible to get articles printed, in this case why not start your own blog.
A blog is a great way to share your ideas and your passions. It’s cheap and easy to set up and all that is required is some effort on your part. Similar to the article, if you have a blog to talk/discuss about your course of interest, it shows your passion and your dedication. Plus, if your blog does well it can be a huge bonus.
Talk about your hobbies
If you have something you have excelled in or really enjoy, talk about it in your personal statement. For example if you have passion for fashion and your online blog/Instagram account has done really well, why not talk about that. Make sure you focus on what that has taught you, e.g. time management and commitment to succeeding. This shows you are a holistic person who has interests outside of academics and an entrepreneurial spirit- which is always a plus.
Tell a story
When writing your personal statement, you want it to be personal. Write it like a story, with a beginning, middle and end. How did your interest begin? How did you delve into the interest? How did you develop your skills? How do you plan on furthering it? Write it like a story and make sure you relate your experiences and skills back to why you have an interest in the course, or how it helped to corroborate it.
This makes your personal statement more interesting and shows the reader how much thought and effort you put into your statement instead of using basic templates almost everyone uses.
Research preliminary reading for your course
On most university websites you can see the course outline and readings required. Sometimes they even give you some preliminary reading material. If you want to stand out and gain the attention of universities, talk about the preliminary reading. Give your opinion on the subject and how it shaped your thoughts and interest into the course. Of course, in order to do this you will need to read it! Don’t lie or name drop- add some substance to it!
Keep it precise
If it doesn’t add value remove it. That should be your mantra. Read, read and then re-read what you’ve written, if you feel it adds no value, remove it. Don’t add something for the sake of adding, keep your personal statement as precise as possible. Make sure each sentence makes a crucial point and isn’t irrelevant. You’re only allowed a certain number of words so use them wisely. Sometimes you might have to cut out text that you once thought were crucial such as your work experience, however if there is something more compelling and more relevant to the course then remove it. Be harsh with your editing.
When I wrote my personal statement, I had 10 drafts before I settled on one I liked. For my first draft, I ignored the word limit and wrote down everything I could think of. I used it as the skeleton statement, I then changed the structure, sentences, narrative, and everything else till I was happy with the final draft. Then I got my teachers and friends to review it.
Proof read.. A LOT
Make sure to get your statement checked by people whose opinion you trust the most e.g. a teacher at school, your family, friends etc. Ask them to proof-read and for tips on how to improve, or something else you can add. It’s so easy to miss details such as spelling and grammatical errors because you’ve been looking at it for so long, thus getting a fresh perspective can really help. You really do not want to send a personal statement with poor punctuation or grammar.
However, when you’re getting opinion from your peers, make sure not to ask too many people. Too many voices can weaken your judgement and make your personal statement worse! Choose only a handful of people, and as mentioned, only people whose opinion you trust.
Overall, when writing your personal statement really think about why you want to study that particular course. Then answer the following question:
- Why this course?
- What made you interested?
- What have you done to research this interest?
- How have your subjects in A-level helped with this course?
- How have your extra-curricular activities in school helped?
- What have you done outside of school?
- How to do plan on furthering your interest?
These are very basic questions, use these as guidelines to help build your personal statement. As mentioned in the points above, you want to keep your personal statement precise so edit harshly and only add points that add value. Most important of all, make sure it represents you and who you are.