Personal statements: dos & don’ts – Which?

Your personal statement is your chance to tell the university or college you wants to go to, why you’d be great for their course. Every year admission tutors see thousands of personal statements. So, how can you make yours stand out from the crowd?

The best personal statements tend to be ones where an applicant can effectively communicate to us and bring a sense of themselves to the applications.

I think the thing that really stands out with personal statements is that the applicants have used evidence of their own achievements to support anything that they are saying about their ability. And that’s what I’m really looking for. I am looking for richness, detail, and evidence. Don’t be ashamed of really being positive about yourself, and your achievements. More than anything, you are looking for an application that is truthful and honest to the person. I think the best thing is to see somebody who has a small amount of knowledge of the subject but really enjoys what they’ve understood. What’s important to remember is it’s an opportunity for you to really shine, and promote yourself? What we don’t want to see in a personal statement is any kind of negativity, whether that is regarding yourself and your achievements or whether that’s towards maybe a teacher, or a tutor or somewhere else.

Avoiding clichés in your personal statements is a good thing to do if you can do it. My kind of pet hate is the clichéd first sentence. So, the classic computer science example I have is where a student says something to the effect of, I got my first computer when I was ‘Years old. I am not sure why they want me to know that, but it doesn’t really demonstrate much.

It’s almost sort of phrase I joke, ever since I was a fetus, I have always had a deep passion for medicine. And the reality of it is that’s probably not the case. Almost every applicant appears to be passionate about whatever subject they have applied for, and of course it is important that they are enthusiastic about that subject, but how many teenagers do you know that usually use that kind of language to describe it? So it feels very false.

And the other thing is probably more for parents. We do find sometimes parents really want to talk through their personal statement with their son or daughter which is great. But when too much influence comes to bear, and they start drafting it with them, or indeed for them, we start hearing the voice of a 55 year old rather than a 17 year old, and actually we want to hear the voice of youth.

I’d say also not to make a personal statement that is too abstract or quoting your favorite lines of a poetry or various other bits of literature.

Your personal statement should be a really, really positive document that really emphasizes how good an applicant you are, and what you got to offer an institution.

Basically being honest, and drafting it well, taking time, being thoughtful, and those kinds of thing are really good basis for personal statements.