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How to Write a Personal Statement

We can help you to write your personal statement

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We had a question on our ask page recently about writing a personal statement for college; because it’s such an important piece of writing for everyone wanting to complete higher education, I thought I’d turn my answer into a blog post.

A personal statement is the main way in which universities and colleges can get an idea of you as a person, aside from your grades. They can be daunting to write, especially if you’re not used to writing about yourself in a positive way. That’s why we’re here to help!

Why You Are Applying

Be enthusiastic. Hopefully you’ll be able to study at the institution of your choice, to attend lectures and seminars about subjects that you’re interested in, and to live and work in an environment specifically tuned to acquiring knowledge. It’s a very exciting idea, and you’ll want that to come across in your statement.

Write about why you’re applying for the course you have chosen, why you are passionate about that subject, and what your ambitions are once you graduate. The most important thing to remember is not to panic and copy other people. Education facilities receives thousands of personal statements and are good at spotting disingenuous statements by now. Also, now that personal statements are e-submitted, they are all run through software to check for copycats. Although it’s difficult, at the end of the day you’ll represent yourself better than any general statement could.

Show Off Your Skills

In all likelihood, you haven’t spent your entire life getting up and going to class, then going to bed again afterwards (although it may feel like it at times!). What else have you been doing? Can you play an instrument, are you involved in Drama, do you help out at an old people’s home from time to time? Have you done any work experience? Whatever you’ve done, the best way to impress the admissions staff is to link your skills to the requirements of the course.

Check the course website for the subject that you are applying for and see what skills and levels of understanding are desirable for your subjects, then write about how you demonstrate these skills. The Assistant Registrar for Undergraduate Admissions at my University, the University of Warwick in the UK, said that

“The strongest applicants are those who can link their extra-curricular activities to their proposed course of study”

It’s important to remember this when you’re writing. Don’t just list what you do in your spare time, write about how it connects to your chosen subject – for example, you like the rigours of learning a new song on guitar as it keeps your brain used to learning without overwhelming yourself with revision, and that organising gigs for yourself has helped you understand the business side of everyday life.

Double Check the Little Things

Make sure you know the parameters that you’re writing to. For a UCAS application for an undergraduate degree in the UK, for example, it’s 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text, including spaces and blank lines. Make sure to paste your personal statement into the e-submission form a few days ahead of when you want to hand it in, to double check that you’ve not got too many characters and to give yourself time to make adjustments.

It should go without saying that a personal statement should have perfect spelling and grammar, but you’d be amazed by how many applicants fall at this hurdle. Read it through, read it though again, and give it to as many people as you can to check. Always think about the advice that they give you, even if you decide not to take it.

Read your statement aloud to yourself or to somebody else – reading your work in this way can help you pick up on any mistakes that you may have skimmed over when you were checking it.

Last Pieces of Advice

Remember that your personal statement is in effect a piece of creative writing. Give it an introduction, a middle where you address some themes that you have introduced in your introduction, and a conclusion, summing up why you would be an asset to the university.

Mindmapping can be a good way to plan your statement. Write down everything that you want to include, and write a plan so that you include it all in a way that reads naturally. UCAS in the UK have a good tool to help you mindmap here

Be careful with humour – a little can be a good thing, but make sure it’s not something that only you and your friends find funny or you risk alienating your reader. Here is a tool from the Fullbright Commission that may help – a checklist of what they are looking for in a personal statement for a postgraduate degree. This tool can be helpful no matter what level of study you are looking to undertake.

We at BEHQ wish you the best of luck in your applications! Make sure to let us know if you have any questions we can help you with by submitting them to questions.behq.com

I hope that you have a productive week!

Katie

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