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Applying for Higher Education / 5. Personal Statement  

 

► What is a Personal Statement?

The Personal Statement is your opportunity to sell yourself and give the selectors an impression of who you are – personality, strengths, skills and interests.

Many admissions officers do not interview so the personal statement is your way to sell yourself. Be truthful and accurate in what you write. The space should be organised in paragraphs with well spaced sentences. Try not to repeat information from other parts of the form or that your referee has put in the reference. You can use section headings if you wish. If you are using the online application form you have 4000 characters over 47 lines of text available and the system will tell you how many you have left.

You can produce the Personal Statement as a word document and cut and paste it into the form. This is advisable to do as there is a time limit on the UCAS application and you may lose all your work. You should not use italics, bold type, underline or unusual characters, as they will be lost in formatting.

► Your paragraphs could cover the following:

Your reasons for your choice of course – admissions tutors will want to see that this is a well thought out decision, backed with evidence for the choice. You need to be specific about what you want to study and why.

Your chosen institutions will see your personal statement so if you have chosen to apply for more than one subject area, you will have to tailor your personal statement to cover this.

What interests you about the subject, particularly if it is something you have not studied before. This shows that you know about what you will be studying.

How your AS/A levels/BTEC contribute to the course for which you have applied. This is relatively simple if you are applying for a subject like English, after English ‘A’ level, but if you are applying for Physiotherapy, you may have to look at the skills you have gained such as communication or information handling from your current studies.

Your long term career objectives after your course. Where do you see yourself eventually; do you want to carry on to master’s level? Train to teach? etc.

You may want to comment on your university/college selections if you are applying for only local universities or in a relatively limited geographical area. The universities do not know where else you have applied, so it’s not a good idea to say things like I only want to study in Edinburgh….if you have applied to 5 other places as each will read the same personal statement.

The universities want to get a sense of the sort of person that you are and how you will fit into their community. Give some insight into your interests, hobbies, and achievements; sports you play or clubs you belong to. You could also look at what they have to offer and mention ambitions, for example, potential surfers applying to Plymouth.

If you have participated in any additional study, even if it’s not certificated, such as widening participation schemes, summer schools, key skills and other forms of evidence of achievement e.g. Duke of Edinburgh Award, Millennium Volunteers, Diploma of Achievements etc – mention this and what you have gained from the experience.

Reasons for deferred entry (if appropriate) and plans for the year out. Even if these are not formalised, it is a good idea to give a sense of how you want to spend the year e.g. working to gain some life experience, charity or voluntary work, travelling to broaden your horizons etc. The amount of space you allocate to each of these topics depends on the subject applied for. For example, if you are applying for a traditional academic subject such as English, History or Maths most of the personal statement should be about your interests in these subjects and how your current studies relate to them. If you are applying for a vocational subject such as Physiotherapy or Teaching, you will need to say more about your work experience/work shadowing and what you have learned from it.

► Competitive Courses

If it is a competitive course, you should make yourself stand out from the crowd. For example, if applying for veterinary science, your practical skills, extensive work experience and academic achievements should form the main part of your personal statement. Additional information such as references from work experience or shadowing may be sent to support the personal statement (see below). If you want to supply more evidence than is possible on the personal statement form, or if you feel you have missed an important piece of information that the university should know, you can send additional information direct to the university after you have applied through UCAS and received your welcome letter. This will give you your personal ID/application number, which you should quote on any additional information or correspondence. Be aware that admissions tutors rely on the personal statement and do not expect to receive additional information except in special circumstances.

► Caution!

Make it all your own work! While websites and books may provide helpful ideas for the content of your personal statement, it has to be your own evidence, skills and interests. A recent newspaper story said that of all the applicants to medicine at Oxford, 205 students included the phrase “ever since I burned a hole in my pyjamas at the age of eight with my chemistry set, I’ve been interested in science”. This won’t get you very far, particularly if they want to ask you about it at interview.

Don’t exaggerate about your level of interest or skill in a particular area. You might find yourself talking to a real expert in bungee jumping at your interview and its better to sound like a keen amateur than be caught out.

Remember to keep a copy of your application. You may need to refer to it prior to your interview as you could be asked questions on anything you have said on the form.

For further help and guidance on writing your personal statement speak to your college tutor or careers co-ordinator.

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Posted 1st September 2014
By cx-admin
 
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