Friday, 19 September 2014


Writing a personal statement is simple, 1) because it's easy to write about yourself and 2) universities don't read them properly anyway - at least, that's what I've heard. And it makes sense. They have thousands upon thousands of personal statements to read and there's not enough time to read all of them properly, taking in every word and thinking deeply about whether or not you'd be suited to the uni. I'm pretty sure it's just a test to show that you're not entirely illiterate and that you can pretend you've got a bit of passion for your course.

I wrote mine in one evening in November 2013. It took maybe an hour of intense writing, and then another hour of checking and editing. And then I sent it off to my school via UCAS to be reviewed before it went to the unis. I got my first offer three hours later. I'm posting my personal statement below just for you to get an idea of what it should include (if you haven't written yours already, that is! I know I've left this a bit late). By no means am I saying that this is the perfect example of what a personal statement should be - because it's definitely not - but you can use it as a bit of a guide to write your own.

Neither of my parents can recall my first word. I’ve always wondered what it was; if it was “mama” or “dada” or even “car” because, to me, it seems such an important thing to know. It was the beginning of my journey into the English language, in which I have developed great interest. I am particularly curious about the acquisition of language in children and am immensely enjoying studying it now. During my AS studies, I also liked the creative writing aspect of my English language classes, drawing inspiration from my favourite book genre: dystopian. Attending university would give me the perfect opportunity to pursue my passion for the subject, increase my understanding of our prime method of communication, and allow me to explore new approaches to learning.

In addition to taking English language at A level, I also study geography and English literature. I feel that my essay writing skills have improved greatly through my English literature classes, this being a key ability needed for a degree course. My geography classes for the human element of the course encourage me to keep up with current affairs in the world. I have combined skills from geography and English language for my Extended Project Qualification. For this project I am creating an artefact – a booklet focusing on international travel aimed at students. I have a great interest in this as, although I have not yet travelled much, it is something I hope to do in the coming years and I am therefore greatly enjoying the research. As the EPQ is mainly based on investigation and planning, I believe it will complement my A level studies which require a structured approach.

I have a part time job outside school as a customer care assistant at McDonald’s, the large fast food chain. Being able to keep up a weekend job whilst attending school during the week has helped me to learn to balance my workload and has improved my confidence in communicating with others. I believe I have become more independent as a result, managing my own expenses which I hope will prepare me for life at university. I have also been involved in Girl Guiding for twelve years and have volunteered as a qualified young leader at a Brownie pack since the beginning of 2010. I’m currently working towards my Adult Leadership Qualification. I really enjoy getting to meet people from varied backgrounds through Guiding and also love knowing that I’m giving something back to the community. In my free time, I am an avid reader with Dodie Smith and John Green among my favourite authors. Alongside this, I’m currently reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Something about the book which particularly fascinates me is the juxtaposition between the events taking place in the future and the Victorian elements of the culture. It is almost as if society has been reversed.

During my time at school, I have been a member of the yearbook committee, both designing pages for it and writing paragraphs to accompany the photos. I also proof read the entire book, correcting spelling and grammatical errors, something which I enjoyed doing and which also improved my editing skills. Similarly, I was sub-editor of the sixth form magazine, again writing a piece for it and checking and editing other articles for errors before it went to print. These experiences have led me to consider a career in publishing. I also liked writing with the knowledge that my work was to be read by an audience. On both of these occasions I was working with a large team of people which I enjoyed as it improved my teamwork and communication skills. I hope that studying English Language will enable me to decide on a direction for my future career. I have particular interests in a teaching career or working in the publishing industry and I think that the three years of study will provide a great platform for either of these career paths.

So, the basic structure of my personal statement was anecdote, why, school, why, hobbies, why, extracurricular, why. By "why", I mean why is what you're writing relevant to your university application? You can make anything relevant with a bit of bullshitting. I'm not saying BS your way through your entire personal statement, but you can link pretty much any part of your life to your passion for your course, or to your enthusiasm for university. 

You like flower arranging? It's a release for you and it's creative, evidencing that your love for creative matter stretches beyond the school curriculum. You've played for a football team for six years? It's improved your people skills, it shows your commitment, it's taught you about team work and being involved with other people. I mean, I wrote about my job at McDonald's and let me tell you, I did not get a job there to "learn to balance my workload" or to "become more independent". No I got a job there because I was broke and needed money to pay for a girls' holiday to Zante!

They say you should have around 75% of your personal statement on why you're passionate about your course, and the other 25% about yourself but mine seems to be the other way round - lots about me and not much about school and English language. I don't think it matters that much and it's certainly easier to just write about you and your life than to try and force yourself to write a lot about your subject. If you're struggling on how to end your personal statement, I'd say end it on your future aspirations. I feel like talking about what you want to do with your degree is a great way to finish things off.

My top advice would be to just write as much as you can when you feel a sudden flash of inspiration. Just write and write until you've run out of things to say and then leave it. Go back to it at another time and cut it down, chop out things you don't like anymore. Add in bits you might have forgotten. And most importantly, get someone you deem literate enough to read through it and check that it all fits together nicely. Don't stress too much over it; no one else really cares that much, admissions tutors included. Someone else's personal statement will always look better than your own because it's new and fresh to your eyes, but they're probably thinking the same thing about yours.

One last thing: it's really, really, really rare to get no offers whatsoever. No one told me that so I freaked out a bit but nearly everyone I know got five, and if not then four. You'll be absolutely fine!

PS: your predicted grades are about a million times more important to your uni than your personal statement is, so I hope you worked hard last year (or that you can bribe your teachers to bring yours up for you!).

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