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Struggling to start the dreaded Personal Statement? This is for you!

Don’t try to start your Personal Statement straight away – it’s often really tricky to come up with a punchy starter so leave the starter until the end. This summer, build up some evidence of your interest in the course and you may find that your starter (and quite a lot of your statement!) end up writing themselves.

Ideas to get you going:

  • you may be able to identify specific modules from your chosen subject area which look particularly interesting and not only start but also base your Personal Statement on your investigation into these topics:

'When I realised I would be able to study animal behaviour alongside ecology, my decision to choose a zoology degree was instant! In preparation for university, I have spent this summer investigating both these subject areas……'

  • as part of your research into your uni course, you may read a book or two over the summer holiday; if you find something particularly exciting, this might become the starter for your statement:

'Reading Homer’s Iliad this summer has been an enjoyable insight into the final year of the Trojan war; it has given me an appreciation for Greek mythology and confirmed my choice of classics at university……'

Other ways to start your statement?

  • sometimes students have a personal experience or anecdote they want to use to explain their choice of course. This can be a very effective starter but you must ensure you avoid the overly dramatic approach:

‘”Incredible!” shouted the highly esteemed engineer as I presented her with my toothbrush robot – the first in my Year 2 class to finish this technically demanding project.’

Aaaggghhh! Firstly, you never need to describe any academic as ‘highly esteemed’, and, while we are on the subject, aspiring medics - you do not need to refer to your chosen profession as ‘honourable’. Secondly, starting with such an overly-dramatic exclamation isn’t a great idea – it doesn’t add anything to your story. Finally, no need to explain that the experience happened in Year 2 which is essentially before the dawn of time.

Instead, how about just focusing on the facts?:

'Various programmes I have attended including a fascinating work experience at an engineering company and the Sutton Trust Engineering Summer School at Imperial, have inspired me to pursue an engineering degree……'

You then need to go on and explain what you have read, researched and investigated as a result of being so inspired! Here are some examples of the sort of evidence you can build up in your statement:

  • Outside reading

  • Online lectures - YouTube or university websites - and TEDtalks

  • Problem-solving websites such as NRICH, Isaac Physics/ Chemistry/ Computer Science....

  • A level/ IB/ BTEC projects

  • Extended essay or EPQ

  • Online courses such as FutureLearn

  • Virtual tours or visits in person to galleries, museums and interesting buildings

  • News articles from broadsheet newspapers, online sources like the BBC, and websites like ScienceDaily

  • Innovative university research - check the university websites

  • Work experience - online and in person - for healthcare, education and social work courses

NB Never copy anyone else’s Personal Statement, not even a sentence – the clue is in the title; it is YOUR OWN PERSONAL statement. It will help enormously if you have chosen the right course for you, something which genuinely excites and interests you, something which will motivate you to get out of bed in the morning, turn up to lectures and meet deadlines. It should mean that gathering relevant evidence over the next few months will be an enjoyable experience and this will help you demonstrate your enthusiasm to any Admissions Tutor. Besides, just in case you didn’t know, UCAS uses software called CopyCatch which screens applications for similarities – this is NOT a myth!

However, if you decide you need expert advice on writing your statement, I can help – please see my website for details.


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