Personal Statements - My top tips for students (and schools and colleges supporting them)
A personal statement is an opportunity for students to sell themselves to the universities they have applied to and show that they are the best student for the course. When being asked what students should include in their personal statement, I provide the following advice:
What to include in a personal statement:
- Information about course choices
- Relevant interests
- Career ambitions and goals
- Transferrable skills
- Formal tone and language
What not to include in a personal statement:
- Qualification grades
- Names of schools, colleges or institutions
- Referencing a university by name
- Quotes out of context
What do I like to see in a personal statement?
1: Individual study skills – your student should be able to cite examples relating to their current academic work. Remember to keep them relevant and related to the course.
2: Self-awareness – your student will need to show they understand their own skill base. Are there areas they are keen to develop which are related to the course?
3: Motivation and commitment – what inspires your student to study this subject? For example, do they have a key defining moment or event that has pushed them to follow that subject?
4: Course understanding – your student needs to show they have done their research into the course content including modules. However, do not refer to a university by name as the personal statement will be read by all the universities they are applying to.
5: Research skills – encourage your student to show their academic skills through examples of good practice. The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a great example of independent research.
6: Time management – meeting deadlines is going to be key at university. Your student will have already had to contend with these at school or college. Part time jobs or volunteering experience can also evidence this with the right examples.
7: Enthusiasm beyond the syllabus – for example, what reading does your student do outside of college or sixth form? Or have they been to any summer schools or gone on specific relevant trips?
Three final key personal statement tips:
The key thing when writing a personal statement is to analyse what students have learnt from experiences and expand on them, ensuring they aren’t tempted to just list.
Also, encourage students to think about the language they use, keeping it positive and ‘upbeat’.
Finally and most importantly, students need to connect their skills and experience to their degree choice, ensuring they show their aspiration and passion for the subject throughout.