5 Steps to Writing a University Personal Statement

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I know that lots of you are submitting your personal statements in the next couple of weeks and months, and may be confused or unsure where to begin, I’m going to simplify it down for you into just five components.

So there are five sections that make an excellent personal statement; if you’re able to input information in these five sections, which I’ll break down for you, you’ll have a draft of a personal statement by the end of this article, and in less than 15 minutes read, you’ll have drafted your own personal statement.

Section 1 – Brief Introduction

Highlight

  • Why do you want to study your chosen subject?
  • How did your interest in the subject begin?
  • What do you find interesting about the subject?
  • If you have an ideas, let’s say, of the subject that you are going to apply for, just write it at the top of the page. So let’s say we’re going to apply for science, engineering, law etc. just outline it at the top of a page. So you’re just aware of what it is, what subject is that you are tailoring your personal statement towards.
  • So summarize why you’ve chosen that particular subject. Now this is not a section where you add cliché statements like; “I’ve always wanted to be” or “ever since I was a child”. Think about a point in your life and more point in the past couple months or weeks or years that really defined what it was that made you want to apply for this specific subject.

So it could be something to do with a family member, an experience, something that you’ve read, something you did, something you saw someone else that you know, that has done that subject that has inspired you. And that’s what you want to start off with.

You want to really grab the reader’s attention and show them how enthusiastic you are about the subject without using cliché statements. Think about how your interest in the subjects began and that could probably give you a storyline for you to use.

Side Note:

Pause this article here, take 1-2 minutes, just to jot down a few notes. Do not write full sentences, just jot down a few notes, and a few bullet points as to what you’re going to write in this section.

Section 2 – Highlight your suitability

Highlight

  • Do you have evidence of wider reading or work experience?
  • How have you taken your interest further?
  • Mention the specific interest and why
  • Provide detailed analysis and reflection.
  • Mention key professional qualities e.g. working as a team.
  • Show your suitability for the course by demonstrating interest in the chosen subjects, what have you done in order to learn more and find out more about that specific subject.  
  • So here you want to add something about work experience and your experience that you’ve done, any reading that you’ve done, I know that this has been a quite a tough time for getting work experience. So there are alternatives and other ways that you are able to go around this.

So for example, if you’re looking to apply for maybe a health science course, or maybe a medicine, you might want to do volunteering, but virtual volunteering, there are a number of different apps where you can sign up, and you’re able to help someone in your neighborhood.

And you can see that’s what you did, how you were able to be a companion to maybe old people, or vulnerable people, you maybe go to shopping for them or something like that. I actually found, when I was looking for this and amazing resource from the University of Hertfordshire.

They give a list of how to gain experience during lockdown. And from a range of different fields. So for example, if you’re applying for something to do with business.

  1. Have you read a book written by a CEO? And did that inspire you?
  2. Did you read an article?
  3. Did you maybe phone or have an interview or email conversation with someone who setup their own business or maybe did you attend a virtual event?
  4. If you’re in the creative, did you visit a museum online
  5. If you’re in the educational field, have you may be taught a sibling having one online course?

So if you do any of those things that I’ve just mentioned on the list, you want to be very specific about how that inspired you or how that has led you to understanding and wanting to study that subject even more.

So it’s not good enough to just say I visited the British Museum virtually. And that’s why I love history. What is it about that visit that inspired you? What’s different? What parts of the museum inspired you? What specific thing? Is it that you saw that you thought, Wow, that’s really cool. I’d love to study that. You have to be very specific. It’s not enough to just say, this is what you did.

It’s important in this section more than any other sections to be extremely specific when describing why you fit the role and what interests you.

Side Note:

So again, take a moment, have a little think come back in two minutes, what things have you done that you can add to your personal statement, worry about whether you’re going to include it or not, if you have lots of things, just write down everything that you think you can include that is related and is applicable to the subject that you are going to be studying. If you don’t have anything in this box, then that is a good sign that you need to get something.

 Section 3 – Academic Skills

Highlights

  • Highlight relevant chapters of your current course related to the degree.
  • Identify learning approaches (e.g. presentation skills, note-taking)
  • You now need to show that you have the relevant academics for the course. They do not need to know that you’ve got an A in English and you’ve got a B nurse and you got a C in etc. that’s not necessary because that’s on your application form, they don’t need the repeated information.
  • In this section, you need to describe the different parts of what you know so far, that is applicable to your course, for example, you’re applying to biochemistry gets a research heavy degree, you might want to pick out and mentioned the research skills that you learned during your A level.

So you might have learned about what a PCR is and what a Western blot is. And those things will really help you during your degree. So pick those different parts out and try to relate them to your degree that you want to be applying to.

  • You also want to think about your approach to learning, so what learning styles do you think will help you with your degree? So if your degree is research heavy?
  • Have you done any research so far during your A Levels?
  • Have you taken lots of notes before?
  • Are you good with teamwork?
  • Are you good with collaboration?
  • Have you presented work before?

Again, all of these are academic skills. It’s not just the subject specific things. It’s also the skills in general that will help you with your academic journey.

Side Note:

Take a second again, just jot down any first thoughts that come into your mind, you can come back to this later and add to it but just jot down some first thoughts. What I want, by the end of this article is; for you to have basically a draft of your personal statement. So take a minute, pause this article, write down a few thoughts and come back.

Section 4 – Personal Qualities

Highlights

  • How will you cope with the university demand?
  • Details you extracurricular activities.
  • Refer to the activity and how it specifically developed a skill
  • Any positions of Responsibility?
  • In this section you want to add the personal qualities that you have that will make you a good candidate for studying at that university. Let’s say it’s demanding so you need to be able to cope with those demands.
  • In this section, you want to talk about extracurricular activities that you might have taken on. So during your A levels, you not only did your A levels, but you were also involved in X, Y and Z.
  • Think about communication when you were a good communicator. And again, this can be based on either what you’ve been doing in school, or maybe some experience that you’ve got from elsewhere.
  • Think about time management. Think about how you motivate yourself, for example, something like law or medicine, you need to be a very good communicator, written communication or oral communicator. So where have you shown that before? And how can you show that, you are able to transfer what you know, into your degree. So this is more to do with your personal qualities than anything else.

Don’t just state what skill you have to just say I’m a good team player, I’m a good communicator, okay, how have you learned from that, maybe what barriers and what limitations happened and what problems occurred and you learn from those things and now you’re a better communicator.

It would be much preferable that you mention two or three things in depth, than mentioned a list of 10 qualities, and not really explain how you actually approach those qualities and how you actually tailor them into your characteristic.

Side Note:

So again, I’m going to give you a couple minutes, pause this article, and write down a few, I’m going to say I’m going to give you a number just to be a bit more helpful.

Write down three qualities that you have that you think will be applicable to your degree that you’re going to be applying for, but you can actually describe in a bit more detail. So I’m going to give you I’m going to give you example to just start you off;

  1. Communication and teamwork.
  2. leadership, self-motivation, or
  3. Time management,

Something along those lines.

Section 5 – Final Close

Highlights

  1. Mention something new to stay with the reader.
  2. What are your career goals?
  3. Where do you see this degree taking you in 5 years’ time?

You want a few statements to kind of close your personal statement. So think of it as a story of starting off by saying what it is that drove you to the passion of your subjects, what experience did you gain to feed that passion.

You want to mention what academically you have to support your passion. And then you want to describe yourself and your characteristics. And lastly, you want a closing statement. So you really want the person to be able to understand who you are as a person, once they read through this personal statement.

So finally, closing thoughts it could be either maybe two sentences or three sentences about your future career, your aspirations. So after this degree, what it is that you want to do?

And I would say the statements important even if your degree is obvious, professional degree like medicine, then important to be able to kind of wrap up the personal statement and say, I want to be a doctor because X Y and Z and I’m really excited for X, Y and Z or you can say what you’re looking forward to the most in your subjects or in the degree.

So if you’re doing let’s say history, what is it that you’re looking forward to in in that degree? Mention that and to get idea, look at the University website and look at what their modules are and pick out what looks the most interesting to you and mention that as something you’re looking forward to.

You have such a limited number of words. I’m going to give you a minute or so. Just for this purpose, so you have kind of a finished draft, write down your career goal; what is it that you’re looking to go into in the future with that degree, but hope that was helpful.

And I hope that you can look down at your sheet of paper and actually see that you’ve jotted down in that in the past 10-15 minutes, you’ve jotted down all the different points that fit into each of those 5 boxes. And you’re basically done.

Now all you need to do is write that out in four sentences, your first draft is done. Now you need to do the second draft. It definitely is a working progress. You’re constantly editing and constantly changing things up, get feedback from other people, ask people to read your work, ask your questions, and make sure that everything is clear.

The biggest misconception that this research found is that actually admissions tutors would much rather you went into a lot of depth about one aspect than talked about three or four different things quite vaguely.

So for example, if you read a book by a CEO, and you’re applying for business, talk about what concept is it that you really admired about this, this book, and it’s much better that you have a paragraph of that detail, where you’re able to go into some critical thoughts, and you’re really able to sort of disseminate what you’ve just read than just saying you read a book, watch a podcast, you spoke to someone.

It doesn’t really say very much, it doesn’t explain that you’re able to write academically and you’re able to think academically so do try our best to be as specific as possible, and less is more sometimes when it comes to writing a personal statement.

Can you leave me a comment down if you’d manage to get through this and have your first draft for your personal statement, so leave a comment let me know if you were able to get something down on paper. If you’ve got something on paper, you’ve done the hardest bit genuinely.

So let me know if that was helpful, and I’ll see you guys in my next article.