Top tips for writing the perfect personal statement

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It is often impossible to differentiate between students on grades and academic references alone, and it is for this reason that so much importance is placed on the quality of an applicant's personal statement. It really can make the difference between an 'offer' and a 'reject'.

The personal statement is your chance to show an admissions tutor that you are the ideal person for them to teach on their course, so it should be planned and executed to perfection.

– Don't jump straight in

Treat it as you would an important piece of academic work. Take time to brainstorm ideas and think carefully about the content and structure, try googling 'mind-mapping' and 'spider diagram' techniques for help with how you approach your statement.

2 – Be different

First impressions count. Creating an original and engaging start to your statement will help to keep the reader's interest throughout.

3 – Focus on your academic achievements

This is an application for a course of study so aim to focus at least two-thirds of your statement on your academic motivations and interests. Show that you have an understanding of the subject and a genuine interest in it. Have a knowledge of what the course involves, elaborate on any specific interests you have within the area to show your enthusiasm, demonstrate why the topic is important and if a piece of work or a particular text inspired you – mention it. Don't forget to shed a light on any transferrable or study skills you have gained from current subjects that will benefit your time at university.

4 – Demonstrate any career ambitions you are working towards

If your course is vocational (teaching, medicine, social work etc), you will be expected to show that you have gained sufficient work experience or career knowledge through, for example, work shadowing, observations, taster days or networking with professionals. If not vocational, you may be able to demonstrate career ambitions that you are working towards. This may include useful business and employability skills through participation in a school or community challenge. But don’t worry if your career plans are still undecided at this stage, this is a university application not a job interview!

5 – Leave comedy out of it

Humour is subjective and therefore risky, it is safer to stick to a more formal approach. Best to not try and be funny!

6 – Include any extracurricular activities that you take part in

Your academic motivations should form the majority of your statement, but admissions tutors are keen to attract applicants who can demonstrate well-rounded involvement in extracurricular activities. Use this part of your statement to show how the things you choose to do shape you as a person, even if they don’t relate to your career plans. Include part-time work, volunteering, clubs and societies, awards and achievements, hobbies, and anything else that may depict transferrable skills you may have and what things are important to you.

7 – Don't plagiarise

Copying someone else's work is never a good idea. There is anti-plagiarism software that will pick up on statements containing as little as 10% of previously used sentences and phrases, and the university will find out.

8 – Draft and draft again

Several drafts will help to ensure that you have a final version you are fully happy with. And don't forget to proofread (and get others to do so also), a personal statement full of mistakes represents a sloppy attitude and a lack of attention to detail.

9 – Don't leave until the last minute!

Unless you really need the time extra time to consider your choices, an early application will generally make it much easier to creative a positive impact on the reader.

Good luck!

Based on an original article by Hannah Morton-Hedges.