Okay, so this is what anyone who’s actively been following this uni series has been waiting for (not that there are any of you) since the beginning.
By far the most daunting part of any application, not just when applying for University, but throughout all of life. Schools, colleges, jobs, anything. The bit where you have to actually *shudder* write about yourself… in a nice way.
It is scary, I’ll admit. But, as someone who’s never had much trouble bullshitting my way through life, I hope I can provide some insight.
As some may know, I have been through the entire UCAS process previously, so I have written a UCAS personal statement in the past. And (not to brag), but I did manage to get offers for each and every university and course that I applied for. So… you should probably listen to me. You know, if you want…
1. Research Your Arse Off
Literally just Google the words “UCAS Personal Statement examples” and you might as well be good to go. Well, in an ideal world you would be. But seriously, looking at examples of students past and present, reading help guides online, looking at the UCAS website and, of course, reading this post one million times.
Think about it this way: you cannot possibly know where to begin if you’ve never seen a personal statement before in your natural life (or unnatural, I ‘spose). So know what you’re getting into. Find out what’s worked for others, what hasn’t. Find examples you like, and styles of writing that you feel really reflect you and who you are, and where you want to be.
Think about the Universities you’re applying for. Are they super-posh and scary Oxbridge places? Then maybe all those jokes about you in Year seven aren’t such a good idea. But if you’re aiming for creative courses and more liberal universities, then switch it up a bit. Maybe take a chance on your style, and hope for the best.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan
And here, my favourite activity finally comes into good use in an advice post…
Make lists. Make a list of what you want to include in your personal statement. Make a list of the qualities you have (or at least, the qualities you should have) that match your chosen course and Univerisity. Make a list of your previous relevant experience, and even previous irrelevant experience. Make a list of goddamn everything that could be useful to you when writing your statement. The literal worst thing is when you’ve finally got everything to the perfect word count, everything is absolutely perfect, and then you remember that you didn’t include your relevant work experience, but you actually did include That Random Award You Won for Participation in Year 3 Sport’s Day.
3. Beware the Word Limit
This is probably the most obvious tip in the world ever, but honestly it’s the biggest. UCAS will not let you submit your personal statement if it exceeds the strict character/line limit.
Familiarise yourself with this limit. Learn the limit. Love the limit. Be the limit. I’m serious.
When I was writing my statement drafts (so many drafts – more on this in a second), I constantly had to be keeping in mind this character limit, and working around it. If you forgot that you had a particular experience or skill and want to include it, but you’ve already hit the word limit, be prepared to scrimp on those fancy words you prided yourself on.
Be liberal. Take your favourite/most powerful phrases and keep them, but lose all the faff. You don’t need it. You need to create a big impression, in a short space.
4. Be Different
Obviously, you know this one. If your personal statement reads just the same as every other fucker’s personal statement then it will be skimmed over, and you will fall short of that place.
You want to stand out, obviously. But – again obviously – you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Be different. Be interesting. Find a first sentence (and this is crucial) that grabs that admissions person by the eyeballs and makes them desperately want to read the rest.
If you’re going for a particularly creative course – for example Creative Writing – then maybe set your statement out like a fictional story. Or Journalism – set it out like a news piece. Or even a script, or address the person reading directly. Work with the cliches, and go above and beyond them. Don’t say the dreaded “Ever since I was born I’ve wanted to be a Dentist” or something stupid like that. Get a good momentum of a fab first sentence, then carry on through.
Also, make sure to end with the Best Sentence Ever Written. No point making the first part of your statement sound like Charles Dickens wrote it on a good day, and then ending with “Hope you want to have me on your course. xo” – again, the best thing for this is
5. Breaks & Second Opinions
Take breaks from your work. If you try and write this all within one huge, Redbull-fuelled-3am-why-am-I-doing-this Night of Terror, and then send it off – you will die. Literally. Do not do this. Do this, sure, but do not send it off. Write it when you have the mojo, and read it back over when you have it again. Take your time, and take breaks.
Linked to this, when you’re having a break, make sure to ask others check your work, and don’t just leave it up to yourself. Please.
Get your mum to check it, your teachers, your aunts, your uncles, your siblings, your dog. Because while the ideas and content of your statement might be amazing (which I’m sure it will be), and creative and fantastic, there could be any number of silly little spelling or grammar mistakes that you just didn’t catch, because you’ve been staring at this piece of writing for seventy five years. Also, spell check will only go so far. So make sure you’re constantly reviewing the written English of your piece.
6. Check, and Check Again (and again)
You might think that your statement is perfect. That it is the most incredible piece of literature since sliced bread (or some other great piece of literature), and that no one in the entire world has ever, ever, ever written anything as immaculate as this.
You might be right. But then again, you could have written the world “public” as “pubic, and you might as well just give up and buy a dishwasher for your mum, so you can use the box to live in.
I’m kidding, but seriously that would be embarrassing. So for the love of sliced bread, check your work one thousand million times before you send it off.
Trust me, there’s no bigger turn off than bad grammar and English. (And that doesn’t just apply to UCAS, if you know what I mean…)
Aaand, there you have it. My Personal Statement tips. If you need any extra help, and want to see an example (by me, because I am clearly the best at everything) (kidding), then I will put my previous UCAS personal statement in the comments. (Which landed me five conditional places, just saying).
Good luck guys, if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, and let me know how your applications are going. Stay tuned for more!
Til next time,