How to start your personal statement
Getting frustrated because you don't know how to begin your personal statement? You’re not alone! Many students find that starting is the hardest part, so we’ve put together six top tips to help you nail your university application.
While the UCAS university application deadline is still a couple of months away, January will arrive before you know it and getting started now will mean you won’t be rushing in the weeks after Christmas.
1. Don’t start at the start
Sounds counterproductive? It’s not. Many students find the opening line the hardest one to write, so why not leave it until last and just try and simply get some ideas down on paper. Don't try to think of a catchy opening, instead plan what you want to say, concentrate on the main content of your statement, use our worksheet to make a draft, and write the introduction last.
2. Write like you
Don’t get caught up in trying to become a human thesaurus. Personal statements should look more like a record of your academic and personal achievements and less like a churning out of quotes from age-old philosophers! Your personal statement needs to show off who you are, which is easy to lose whilst rattling off your achievements or quotes from others. A straightforward sentence that demonstrates your enthusiasm is much better than trying to get their attention with an outdated statement or a quote from a historian from hundreds of years ago. We promise!
Example from one of our students
3. Break it down
The whole personal statement may look like a mammoth task right now, so start off by breaking it into more manageable chunks. Break it up into sections and approach them one at a time – you don't necessarily have to fully write up any of your paragraphs, in fact we advise that you brainstorm ideas before putting pen to paper! It’s also crucial to remember that organisation is key. Write lists of what you want to include in your statement and why you love the subject.
Voluntary work: This can include peer mentoring and being a prefect. Remember to say what you did/ do, then what you learned from it and why you found it useful and rewarding.
Example from one of our students
4. Use examples – back yourself up!
Don’t lose sight of the task at hand. Always remember to answer the question: ‘Why should we give you a place on the course?’ Instead of writing about yourself aimlessly, check that every bit of the personal statement should be answering this question. When you are talking about your strengths and qualities, make sure you use examples to highlight your claims whenever appropriate.
5. Now write your opening line
So now you have done all the above steps, let’s get down to it: the most effective opening sentences are simple, to the point and personal to you. Remember showing your interest and enthusiasm in the course is the biggest thing. Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like ‘when I was young…’ They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!
6.Check, check, and check again!
Once you've started your first draft, get other people to critique your statement, especially if you know other students who are currently doing the same course you're applying for. You can also ask teachers or professionals in the field. Use appropriate vocabulary, spelling and grammar. Use words with precise meanings, avoid pretentious language or giving the impression you just swallowed a dictionary. Read it back to yourself out loud – and get parents, friends or siblings to take a look through too.
Free personal statement checklist
Writing your personal statement for the UCAS deadline on 15 January? Download your free checklist to help nail your application.