Top tips for writing an original personal statement

An expert student advisor offers seven top tips for ensuring your personal statement and your university application stands out and avoids the common mistakes.
December 4 2015

Many students worry about writing their personal statement because it’s the first time they will have ever had to write something personal about themselves with the intent to impress. When you begin to feel the pressure to write something that you believe must be extraordinary it becomes extremely hard to write something credible.  Instead, when approaching the first draft of your personal statement, write simply and honestly. Remember, you are unique and different from every other applicant. Make your personal statement personal and you will stand out to the reader.

Create two lists

One on what you know about the course you’d like to study and why you know it’s the correct degree choice for you. The second list should focus on why you’re the ideal student for that course and university. Write down everything you know on these two lists – these will provide you with the perfect content for a very personal, personal statement.

Thoroughly research your subject choice

Admission tutors will read your personal statement to help them evaluate whether you’re right for the course. By attending open days, reviewing the course and module content and having researched the university’s values you should feel empowered and confident to share why you want to dedicate the next three years to the course.

Promote the knowledge you already have and why you’ll fit in 

Make it clear you have thoroughly researched the course and explain why you have made the decision to study it at university. Highlight the subject knowledge you already have and emphasis why you are the kind of student that the university is looking for.

Show how capable you are

Provide an overview of how you’ve developed as a student and how your skills and unique personal qualities will enable you to thrive at university. Your personal statement needs to convince universities that you have the study skills to motivate yourself and work hard. Give relevant examples of how you have developed your independent learning skills and what motivates you.

Be original

You know why you got excited about the degree the moment you read the course information or when you attended a Q&A with one of the lecturers during an open day. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to share your enthusiasm. Write from your heart.

Don’t use unsupported clichés

It’s a good idea to try and stay away from clichés but if you do think that one will work in your favour make sure it’s supported. If it’s the truth that you have wanted to study something from a young age then consider including it this kind of statement. What’s more important is that you explain how this has inspired you to study supporting subjects and dedicate time to hobbies or interests that relate directly to what you would like to study at university and how this will help you.

Be aware of using the word ‘passionate’ and a few others:

Surely everyone who is applying to uni must be passionate about their subject? Thousands of students will use this word at least once in their personal statement. Not using the word ‘passionate’ will instantly set you apart from other applicants.

 Other commonly used personal statement clichés, phrases and words include:

1. Mentioning your work experience at your ‘father’s company’
2. Using the phrase ‘quenched my thirst for…’
3. Any metaphors using fire, such as:
- ‘Sparked my interest’
- ‘Burning desire’
4. Starting the statement with ‘ever since I was a child’ or ‘from a young age’
5. Using any of the following words:
- Passion
- Fascinated
- Always
- Ignited
- Fuelled
- Enthralled
- Aspiration
- Intrigue
- Furthermore
- Ground-breaking
- Thought-provoking
- Inspiring
- Revel

Ask for feedback

Don’t be shy about asking people to look over it for you. When you’ve been working on something for a while it gets really hard to spot any mistakes or tweaks you should make. Ask friends, family, or a teacher to read it and give their honest opinion.

 

Writing your personal statement can seem like a daunting task but if you prepare properly and plan out what you want to say before you get started you will have it finished in no time. Remember that by writing a truthful personal statement, which is honest and simple, there’ll be no need to use clichés. It will also give you a unique edge that will set you apart from other applicants.

 

Hannah Morrish is the University Community Manager at The Student Room, the world’s largest online student community.

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