Making a statement
tO many students, writing a personal statement can be a daunting prospect. This article, contributed by Pete Ryan explores the importance of a statement, how to structure yours and dispenses some useful tips. Ryan runs the Regional Office for University of East Anglia, based in Sri Hartamas, and has been advising students for almost seven years.
The personal statement
The personal statement forms an important part of your UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to make your case and sell yourself to a university, so the primary aim is to effectively “state” your reasons for wanting to study a particular programme.
A view from Admissions Officers
Admissions Officers read through hundreds of personal statements every year, so it is important to write a memorable statement that will both impress and be remembered.
A good opening line is important; however avoid clichéd statements. Write it once you have a feel for the style of the rest of the statement, so make this the last thing you do and try to make it original.
Just as important as the beginning is the ending of a personal statement. Remember, you are trying to impress the Admissions Officers.
You may use your final sentence to summarise the contents of your statement or express how studying your chosen subject will be an important step towards achieving your future goals and ambitions.
Aside from this, Admissions Officers are looking for someone who displays a willingness to learn and a basic knowledge of their subject area, so if possible make reference to some current affairs surrounding the subject and, if applicable, include any further or extracurricular study that you may conduct outside of the classroom.
What you should do
The first step to writing an excellent personal statement is to brainstorm, make bullet points of your activities, achievements and goals. You won’t be able to include them all so rank them on relevance to the subject and importance to you.
Do not just list them, make sure they are recent, relevant and that you can bring them back to the subject or to how they can be applied to your academic study.
If you are stuck, talk to your tutor or a parent. Discussing your achievements with those who know you can be a good way to get creativity flowing.
Also, be aware of your writing style – abbreviations, text speak and slang are to be avoided at all costs. Make sure you read and re-read your final piece. Again your tutor or a family member may come in useful.
Putting it off until the last minute is the most common mistake that leads to sloppy work. Set yourself a preliminary deadline and stick to it.
Another common mistake is heavily referencing other people’s work. Using quotes without attributing them to their owner will be flagged using the UCAS advanced fraud detection software and besides, originality is the key.
A less common but equally problematic mistake is naming a UK university in your personal statement. UCAS allows you to apply up to five different universities, however, you are only allowed to submit the one statement.
For example, an Admissions Officer from University of X will not give your application much consideration if you state you have always wanted to study at University of Y.
Your personal statement is restricted to 4,000 characters, which is not a lot of space. Be sure to keep it relevant, clear and concise. Remember, all personal statements are unique. Do not undersell yourself with a dull statement but also do not try to oversell yourself with long elaborate sentences and words.
Finally, imagine yourself as an Admissions Officer – you would like to read a nice, clear, flowing statement that stands out, so be sure to create a few drafts and ensure that your personality comes through on paper.
Ryan can be reached at pete.ryan@uea. ac.uk
Meet the University of East Anglia at British Council’s Education UK exhibition on March 8 and 9 in Hall 5, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. For details, log on to www.educationuk.org/malaysia
The personal statement forms an important part of your UCAS application.