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How to write a personal statement - do and don’t tips

14 October, 2018Andreas Beckwith
personal statement

A personal statement is one of the most important documents you will write, and in many cases may be the first time you are actually “selling” your abilities and why the university would benefit from having you on their course. 

A personal statement is a reflection of yourself, and it’s a chance to differentiate yourself from the rest and is probably the key factor (grades of course permitting) that decide whether you get into the university of your choice or not.  It’s a question of balance; how to sell your skills truthfully and effectively while showing sufficient interest in your intended course of choice. 

With this in mind, here is our top do and don’t tips for your personal statement.

Personal statement do's:

Be honest

Honesty is the best policy, and you should be prepared to back up everything you say on your personal statement. For example, don’t say you can speak French fluently if you can say a few phrases – your interviewer may actually speak French! 

Sell yourself

There is a fine balance between modesty and arrogance and you have to find it and make yourself stand out.  What have you done that makes you stand out?  What is it about you that makes you such a good candidate for your university?  Why should they pick you over others?  Were you part of a team?  Have you had some really good work experience?  Take what you have done and use it to show the university why you are such a great candidate.

Demonstrate transferable skills

One of the best things you can do on your personal statement is to bridge your extra-curricular experience with the course you intend to study. For example, if you want to study accounting and you have done work experience with an accountancy firm, that shows outgoing interest.

Talk about the course

Your personal statement is a mix about what you have done, and why you want to study your course.  What is it about the course that attracts you?  Is it the career you can get at the end?  An interest in a particular area of study?  These are details that should be included.

Draft

A personal statement is an important document, and therefore it will probably take several drafts to get it right – that’s perfectly normal.  Ask your friends and family to read it and make their suggestions, as sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can spot different things.  Be sure however that it’s your voice that’s coming through.

Personal statement don't's:

Be Negative

Personal statements are about selling yourself, so anything negative in there, either about yourself or anyone else will be looked upon badly.  When you have so many other people talking themselves up, talking yourself down will make you fall to the back of the line. 

Be Arrogant

As mentioned before, there is a fine line between arrogance and modesty.  You need to sell yourself, but this must be done by focusing only on yourself and backing up what you say with achievements.  To not give examples, or say you are better than others crosses the line of selling yourself to arrogance, and won’t be looked on favourably.

Copy

Plagiarism (or copying) is one of the most serious issues at university.  Universities have software that can detect plagiarism in university essays and also personal statements.  If you are caught having copied a personal statement, it’s a really bad first impression and you will almost certainly be rejected.

Use flowery language

No matter your subject, universities are interested in substance.  Your intended meaning could be lost by using too many fancy words, so keep it simple and focus on what you have done rather than on the language you use to describe it.

Go into too much detail 

You have up to 4,000 characters (or a maximum of 47 lines) to write, but that will get used up sooner than you think, so don’t go into every detail of your life, keep your personal statement on point and relevant.

Remember, you are writing a personal statement for several universities, so you shouldn’t mention anyone by name, keep it general to the subject and why you want to study it. Good luck!