A school and college
guide to supporting
students with their
In my experience, students often think of the
personal statement as the most important part of
their application because it’s the part they have
the most creative freedom over. But with freedom
comes a lot of potential pitfalls! Here are my top
tips to steer students in the right direction.
Tip 1: Engage in supercurriculars early.
Early on, when students are narrowing down
their choices and considering what courses
are out there, it shouldn’t just be about reading
prospectuses. Instead, encourage them to
engage in some supercurricular activity. These
are academic activities which go beyond the
curriculum in the courses they are considering.
This could take the form of reading an article,
watching a documentary, listening to a podcast,
developing their academic skills and much more!
This serves a double purpose in helping students
figure out whether they enjoy the subject, but also
starts to build up the list of potential things they
could write about in a personal statement.
Tip 2: Help with drafting and proofing, and enlist
Everyone knows how valuable it is to have another
pair of eyes on something they’ve written. As a
teacher, you’re in a great position to proofread but
don’t let it all rest on you! Encourage your students
to share their personal statements with family,
friends and peers – especially someone who
knows a bit about their subject.
As well as looking out for grammar and spelling
mistakes, you should also check that all the
content is relevant to the subject they’re applying
for. The statement should be in the students’
own words, avoiding clichés and quotes, avoiding
jokes which might get misinterpreted. Encourage
students to put their best foot forward and keep
Tip 3: Understand what Admissions Tutors are
When you’re proofing, emphasise quality and
depth of understanding over quantity. Admission
tutors at top universities are looking for students
to write about a specific topic in detail in order
to demonstrate their understanding. They are
less impressed by broad sweeping statements or
generalisations, so students will need to back up
anything they include.
Furthermore, many of the top universities are
less interested in a student’s extracurriculars,
work experience or general ‘personal’ life so these
things should be kept to a minimum; instead,
think about including personal details (particularly
extenuating circumstances) in the teacher
Overall, tutors want to confirm that the student
is motivated about their subject and is someone
who would be well suited to studying it for at least
the next 3 years. With so few characters to get
this across, you want to help applicants make
every word count!