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Convincing Personal Statement: Tips, Tricks And Most Common Mistakes Students Make

A personal statement is a chance to express your personality and say a bit more about your skills, experience, and motivation so that tutors would choose you from other applicants with the same grades. Your personal statement should be a cherry on top: a well-thought-out text selling your professional and personal traits the right way. In this article, we are going to give you a clear idea of what a convincing personal statement should look like. We are going to mention top things that are necessary for a successful personal statement and most common mistakes in writing one.

Why personal statements play such a significant role?

Other applicants are not you, even if they apply to the same course and have the same grade. Admission tutors find personal statements very helpful when they have dozens of students to select from. We are not machines. So, besides formal entry procedures, universities need additional information about students to make sure they are going to deliver knowledge and expertise to motivated people.

A personal statement is a chance to make a big presentation of yourself and leave the right impression during the rapid selection process – so use it!

Personal statement: tips and common fails

Yes: Take your time to write a few drafts before you create the last version. Show it to your friends or family for proofreading and make use of their comments and advice. Use assistance from teachers and career advisers, if you can. Even if you are good at writing, do not expect you can do this a few hours before the deadline. This issue requires a time investment. By the way, for most courses, the deadline is 15 January, but for some universities, the internal deadline may vary.

No: It’s not a clever idea to demonstrate your sense of humor in a personal statement. There is no need to make it funny. Avoid showing informality or quirkiness: this is very dangerous for written communication. A careful and appropriate joke can be saved for an interview, but not for a personal statement.

Yes: Students, who have applied in recent years, say that it’s much easier to start writing a personal statement having chosen your 5 Ucas courses. Starting it without a clear idea of your degree subjects is like traveling to nowhere or applying for a random job: what advantages, interests and skills are relevant? Search for course modules and learn what a course includes to make up your mind and find the answer to this question.

No: Avoid quotations and over-used clichés. Starting your personal statement with a quote without even explaining it is a major failure – tutors say. Most of them are sick and tired of reading what Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King or ancient Chinese philosophers said. Even more of them are fed up with all these ‘nowadays’, ‘I’ve always been interested in’ and ‘since I was a child’. Do not include phrases or sentences that are likely to cause yawning.

Yes: Make a personal statement as personal as you can. By saying ‘personal’, we don’t mean you should try making friends with an admissions tutor or writing about your skeleton in the closet. We mean, it’s a smart idea to prove why you are the most appropriate candidate: say about your experience, skills, and ideas. Personal in this case means unique. Emphasize not the places outside the classroom you attended, but things you learned there or skills you want to implement in the future. Avoid long lists and speak about your reflections and understanding.

No: A firm and steady ‘no’ to plagiarism. Even if you are an advanced re-writer, do not underestimate tutor’s experience and machine analysis. Ucas system marks all personal statements that partially or fully consist of plagiarism and notify universities about this fact. It’s up to you to decide if it is worth googling for templates or asking your friend for a favor, or not.

Yes: Write about your motivation to study the course: speak about the source of your interest to it, mention that you have researched this specific course or field and have a general idea of what it will include. Show that you are prepared for discussion by providing examples. If you are considering some career development paths, you can mention them too. If you have nothing to say at this point – it’s okay too.

No: Including random lists or boasting with sweeping statements is a terrible idea. Provide details, examples, and facts, while tutors are interested not in numbers, names, places and titles, but how all that influenced you and your professional motivation. They want to see you in this text, not read about countries you visited or positions you’ve held.

Yes: Critical thinking is one of the most valuable skills provided by the university education. Admission tutors would be glad to notice your readiness and first steps to develop independent and analytical thinking. You can explain, how academic involvement, A-level subjects, additional studies, etc. helped you develop critical thinking and how you plan to work on it if they select you.

No: Avoid negative statements, excuses, long explanations why you dropped this or failed to complete that. This leaves an unpleasant impression. Keep positive, concentrate on what you achieved, what you are interested in, what are your long-term goals.

Yes: Help yourself stand out by showing some enthusiasm and interests outside the school or college. Expand the most relevant ones that can relate to selected course and give specific examples:

  • positions of responsibility - how they improved your skills in teamwork and what you achieved?
  • awards - which of them was the most challenging for you and how you deal with challenges like this?
  • working part-time or volunteering – how it was helpful in developing your skills?

No: Avoid listing irrelevant facts or positions. Never make a reader think “so what?” You have only 4,000 characters and 47 lines to make an impression. Even more: you have just one paragraph to make a reader genuinely interested. Think of every word. Do not waste a line. Use certain facts, only if they contribute to a good idea of you and your experience. If they don’t – backspace is your best friend.

Summary

The key to a successful personal statement is uniqueness. We have mentioned a lot of dos and don’ts, but you should understand there is no clear structure or guaranteed way to write a ‘winning’ personal statement except for being you, showing your advantages and strengths and backing it up with your achievements and experience.

Finding the right balance between ‘too academic’ and ‘too informal’ is also very important.

Remember that written language should not contain ambiguity as it is not supported by non-verbal signals: avoid jokes or difficult verbal constructions that may lead to misunderstanding.

Think of what would you appreciate in an applicant, if you were an admission tutor? Would be impressed by quotations, clichés, plagiarism or random lists or irrelevant facts? For sure, you wouldn’t. It can be helpful in analyzing what text blocks to expand and what information can be omitted.

By writing a personal statement, you invest in your self-presentation skills. And this is a valuable investment for the future!

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