What makes a good personal statement?
One of the most important purposes that a good personal statement serves, and one that is often overlooked in online advice about how to write personal statements, is in creating a narrative of what you have achieved in the past, where you are now and how your prospective university course will fit into your future plans. This is a writing technique that students are advised by their tutors to use when applying for postgraduate degrees (whether masters of PhD), but universities will be equally impressed to see it in the personal statements of potential undergraduates. A personal statement that does this will show you as a driven individual who is fully aware of how their university education will compliment and shape the direction of their future career. Remember, this does not set your future in stone! It simply shows to the admissions tutor that you have not just chosen this course on a whim, but that you are serious and dedicated to it and that you understand how it will work to your future advantage.
The importance of a good personal statement is derived from the fact that it is ‘personal’. It is the single aspect of the application process not determined by strict academic achievement and commendation, but by individuality and creativity – so with this in mind, experiment with it and enjoy the rare freedom!
Why is a good personal statement so important?
For many people applying to university through the UCAS system is a very stressful process, and the worst part of it is trying to come up with a good personal statement to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Everyone has sat staring at a blank Word document at some point in their lives, racking their brains for something novel to say about themselves. I wish I could say “don’t worry, it’s not that important!” – but it is. With many courses – especially in the Arts & Humanities – experiencing large cuts in central government funding, admissions tutors are turning more to applicants’ personal statements to determine which candidates will earn a place. Furthermore, considering that the great number of universities outside of Oxford and Cambridge do not conduct interviews with applicants, a good personal statement can be your chance to impress a piece of your personality upon the admissions tutor.
However, the clear importance of a good personal statement need not make the writing of it too stressful – indeed some A-level students may take solace in the fact that a very important determinant of whether they get onto their desired course is not strictly reliant on academic achievement! On the other hand, some students (especially those taking mainly science related A-levels) will not have been required to do any creative writing for years and could consequently find the writing process challenging. Either way, writing a good person statement will take lots and lots of redrafting, and should you be especially set on one particular university then it is also a good idea to craft your personal statement to suit this institution – although this can be potentially risky if it backfires.