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How to Write an Undergraduate Personal Statement – Part 2

How to Write an Undergraduate Personal Statement – Part 2

2nd in a 2-part series about personal statements

The personal statement is one of the most crucial parts of your undergraduate application to UK colleges. This 4000 character document enables the admissions team to gain a deeper understanding of who you are as a person while giving them an insight into your academic prowess, skills and experiences.

While you are writing your personal statement, you might struggle to find the right words and expressions. Here are some basic guidelines for you to keep in mind so that you don’t fall into some common writing traps:

BAD WRITING: Generic, Complex and Grammatically Erroneous: 

There is no easier way to create a bad impression than by submitting a badly written personal statement. Some signs of bad writing are: 

  • Forgetting the rules; basic grammar, spelling and word count
  • Telling a sob story; it’s part of being human to have hardships
  • Apologising and making excuses
  • Being overdramatic
  • Ignoring the give and take; how you will fit the university and vice versa. Balance both benefits
  • Blasting to the past; don’t only talk about what you’re done, talk about what you are doing now
  • Taking the ‘personal’ out of ‘personal statement’

GOOD WRITING: Efficient, Energetic, Informative 

Aside from avoiding overused quotes and words such as ‘passionate’ or ‘deeply fascinated’, be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention.

For example, if you were writing a personal statement for a History course, you could open with something like: “Making (action) an evacuation suitcase at the age of nine made me realise (reflection) for the first time how historical (course subject) events had affected real people.”

Top Overused Sentences on UCAS

  • “Ever since I was a kid…”
  • “For the longest time ever / From a young age / For as long as I can remember…”
  • “I come from a family of businessmen…”
  • “I am applying for this course because…”
  • “XXXXX is a profession I have always looked upon…”
  • “Academically I have always been a very determined person…”
  • “Reflecting on my educational experiences…”
  • “I have always wanted to pursue a career in…”
  • “I have always been passionate about…”

DOs:

  • Have a clear narrative 
  • Stay clear of complex sentences
  • Be direct, get straight to the point. Go deep – go fast!
  • Speak in ‘active’ voice over ‘passive’. You are the subject

Strong leadership is paramount to the success of any collection of individuals. I believe I have those qualities evident throughout my internship work.” (passive voice)

“I interned at a think tank over the summer and was awarded recognition for successfully leading a team of five interns into project completion, ahead of schedule.” (active voice)

  • Be tight. Say more by saying less
  • Review your work to see where a phrase can be substituted by a simple word

✖ “I could not and still can’t believe that…”

I was astounded…”

  • Direct everything back to your chosen course

DON’Ts:

  • Don’t drive yourself up the wall trying to write the best opening statement. Just write a first draft of whatever comes to mind
  • Avoid jargon, quotes and clichés. Your own voice is more original and interesting to the admissions officer
  • Don’t be general in your observations. Direct them inwards

“Medicine is a noble cause and I have been inspired by my brother’s journey through the vocation.”

“When I saw how medics treated the survivors of the blast, an emotional trigger rang through me. Their compassion and clarity of purpose urged me to take action as I stood up to volunteer.”

  • Don’t talk about one university in specific or the others will discount you
  • Don’t state, imply

✖ “I have been passionate about engineering since I was a child…”

“Since dismantling my first toys at an early age, I have been compelled to discover how objects work.” 

Finally, know that you will not get it perfect the first time around. Your personal statement will need a few rounds of edits so don’t lose heart. Share it with a teacher, mentor or friend you trust for a second or third pair of eyes to proofread it or just offer an opinion. Once finalised, paste it into your UCAS application form to check that you have adhered to all the guidelines. Then sit back and relax! 

If you are still unsure about what not to do when writing your personal statement, read this article. Our blog has many articles including, a primer on clearing and adjustment as well as firm and insurance choices. If you require any further assistance, get in touch with us.

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The fundamental role of independent educational consultants is to help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.

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