Summer exams done, a personal statement is the last thing you probably want to think about -but get a first draft done this July or August, and you’ll be thanking yourself come October when UCAS submission will be in your face.
To help you make headway towards a stress-free autumn, here is a Personal Statement in 3 steps.
1. PICTURE WHAT IT IS YOU HAVE TO DO BEFORE YOU START
1 single-spaced page: the required length for the UCAS personal statement is 4000 characters. That’s 47 lines, +/- 600 words or about a single-spaced page.
Think specific and relevant: that is, specific to you, to your chosen course of study, and to your 5 universities of choice.
Research your particular course (a subject or combination of them) and the universities in which it is taught: peruse online, visit, and talk to university students, professors, staff, and alumni.
2. BRAINSTORM 5 PARAGRAPHS
Paragraphs 1 & 5: beginning and end paragraphs are bookends that introduce and summarize you and your fit in the course and university. The beginning of a personal statement makes the reader want to read on (or not), and the end is the impression left on the reader.
Paragraph 1: grab the reader’s attention on a specific aspect of you that made you want to study your chosen course. You can jot down several ideas but synthesize and narrow to a single focus.
Paragraph 2: what about the course interests you and why? What do you know so far about it?
Paragraph 3: what aspect of yourself are you developing to bring to the course, such as your reading? An in-depth discussion on the theme that relates to the course from a couple of books is better than a laundry list of books.
Paragraph 4: what do you do outside of school? Think of the specific ways in which extracurricular activities, summer internships, work experience, and travel helped you prepare for your chosen course or for university study. If you have many break out another paragraph.
Paragraph 5: remember the bookend from Paragraph 1. Try to summarize without repeating. End with the thought you want to stay with your reader.
3. WRITE, EDIT & PROOF
– Write your first draft in a single sitting. Keep in mind the contents of the 5 paragraphs but don’t stress about how pretty it is in the first go.
– Content edit: your first draft done, now go back and make sure every sentence directly or indirectly supports why you want to study this course, and what makes you in particular suitable for this course.
– Style edit: read aloud for flow and voice so the personal statement sounds like you and not some erudite person you think you should be. Remember it’s harder to write succinctly with specific and relevant information than waffle.
– Copy edit: tighten your writing. For example, are your sentences in active rather than passive voice?
– First and final style edit: think about rewriting the beginning and end. Does your first paragraph really introduce your interest with a hook? Does your last paragraph summarise your personal statement then end with a bang?
– Copy and style edit as much as you need to then proofread your personal statement for grammar and spelling.
– Get feedback on your final copy from a couple of trusted people (not more), preferably one who knows you well and one who doesn’t. At least one of the readers should be a native speaker of English or a professional who can proofread for grammar and spelling since Word’s Spellcheck tends to miss a lot.
That’s it. You’re done! Bon courage!