The personal statement is often the most challenging element of any UCAS application. Collecting the other documents and achieving the grades to receive an offer is no less important, but the personal statement takes a lot of hard thinking and self-assessment. Writing a strong statement is crucial, as it is the one opportunity you have to address the university admissions team directly and demonstrate why you, personally, are most qualified to study the course.
It is important to keep one thing in mind when writing a personal statement – show, don’t tell
The purpose of the personal statement is to communicate your interest in a specific course and the reasons you would excel in this area of academic study. In order to write a convincing statement, it is important to be able to demonstrate skills and interests you have developed outside of the school curriculum. Good grades are necessary to meet entry requirements, but they alone do not reflect a student’s passion for a subject area. To be able to show a strong interest, you will need to speak about relevant, real-life examples. Building these up takes time, and so the summer is quite a crucial period for prospective candidates.
The summer break is the ideal time to think about which university courses are of interest to you and what kind of work and activities you might use as supporting examples in a university application. To use the summer break effectively, you can consider these three tips:
When thinking about going on to university, it is most helpful to do some detailed research about potential courses, as this ensures that the curriculum will meet your expectations. In return, it can give you a firmer understanding of the requirements for your desired course. Following your research, you should then aim to do as much independent study of the subject as possible. Reading literature from department reading lists or familiarising yourself with programmes used on the course will enable you to show active and genuine interest in a subject in your personal statement and your interview, should you be required to sit one.
Another way to gain an insight into what will be expected from you at university is to visit as many open days and university fairs as possible. The exhibitors will always be current students, tutors, or alumni, who will know exactly what kind of preparation proved to be helpful for their courses. It is also a great opportunity to find out more about a specific subject, which will give you a better understanding of topic areas in which you might want to improve.
One way to show personal interest in a subject is to gain relevant, practical experience. If it’s through volunteering, extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, or an internship, practical experience will give you the opportunity to understand how your chosen course will relate to a ‘real-life’ work environment. Practical experience can provide strong evidence of your engagement with a subject outside of school requirements. The more relevant to your subject area, the better. For some universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, extra-curricular activity is only really interesting if it is proving genuine engagement with the subject.
In general, it is important to keep one thing in mind when writing a personal statement – show, don’t tell. Speaking about experiences or independent research alone will not impress; your mission is to show how these activities helped you to engage with your subject and how it served as inspiration and motivation to study it at university level. The summer break is a fantastic opportunity to begin to build a platform of experience for an excellent personal statement.
If you want to know more about how we can help building a strong application, please do get in touch with us.