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Personal Statement

In: Social Issues

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1. Why are you applying? • For example why you want to study at higher education level.

• Why that subject interests you.

• What your ambitions are when you finish your course.

2. What makes you suitable? • Skills, knowledge, achievements and experience you have that will help you do well.

• These could be from education, employment or work experience, or from hobbies, interests and social activities.

• Take a look at the activities on the Planning your future page to see some of the things it could be useful to mention.
• Explore your options
• Undergraduate
• When to apply
• Filling in your application • Personal statement • Reference, pay and send
• Tracking your application
• Results
• Student number controls
• Fraud and similarity
• Performing arts
• Postgraduate
• Teacher training
• Flexible and part-time
• International
• Starting your studies
• Student finance
• Mature students
• Parents and guardians
• Advisers and referees

Your personal statement

Write a personal statement that shows you'd be a great student – to persuade unis and colleges to accept you on their course. • Course tutors use personal statements to compare applicants, so try to make yours stand out.

• Remember it's the same personal statement for all courses you apply to – so avoid mentioning universities or colleges by name, and ideally choose similar subjects. If they're varied then write about common themes – like problem solving or creativity.

Personal statements

BSL personal statement video

How to write your personal statement

This video looks at how to get started, as well as common fears and concerns. • Watch more video guides

Signed personal statement video

This signed video takes you through what to consider when writing your personal statement. • Watch more BSL video guides

Where to start

Most applicants haven't had to write a personal statement before, so we've got plenty of advice to help. • First of all plan when you need to start researching and writing – download the personal statement timeline in the related documents.

• Then ask yourself questions like the ones below to decide what information to include.

• Have a look at our personal statement mind map for more ideas, or use our personal statement worksheet to write down answers to these questions and more.

Related documents • [pic]Personal statement mind map (pdf) (2040.8KB) • [pic]Personal statement timeline (colour) (pdf) (45.6KB) • [pic]Personal statement timeline (mono) (pdf) (42.4KB) • [pic]Personal statement worksheet (pdf) (466KB)
1. Why are you applying? • For example why you want to study at higher education level.

• Why that subject interests you.

• What your ambitions are when you finish your course.

2. What makes you suitable? • Skills, knowledge, achievements and experience you have that will help you do well.

• These could be from education, employment or work experience, or from hobbies, interests and social activities.

• Take a look at the activities on the Planning your future page to see some of the things it could be useful to mention.
3. Which of your skills and experiences are most relevant? • Check course listings to see what level of understanding you need to have and what qualifications or skills they're looking for.

• This way you can link your experiences to the skills and qualities they mention, and you can put them into a structure that's most relevant to the course providers

How to write it

There's no right answer for how to write it, or any definite formula you should follow – just take your time and don't worry if it doesn't sound right on your first attempt. Even the best writers in the world redraft their work!
1. Structure • In the course listings see which skills and qualities the universities or colleges value most.

• Then structure your info into an order that's most relevant to them.

2. Style • Write in English (or Welsh if you're only applying to Welsh providers), and avoid italics, bold or underlining.

• Use an enthusiastic and concise tone of voice – nothing too complex – just what comes naturally.

• Be careful with humour, quotes or anything unusual – you do want to be individual, but if the admissions tutor doesn't have the same sense of humour as you, it might not work.

• Get the grammar, spelling and punctuation right, and redraft your statement until you're happy with it.

• Proofread and read it aloud to hear what it sounds like. Ask advisers/family members to check it too.

3. Format • You can use up to 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text (including spaces and blank lines).

• We recommend you write your statement first and then copy and paste into your online application (but watch out for the character and line count – the processor might get different values because it doesn't count tabs or paragraphs).

• When you add to your online application click 'save' regularly because it will time out after 35 minutes of inactivity.

If you want to send any more information you can ask unis and colleges if they'll accept further details – if they say yes you should send it direct to them (not us) once we've sent you your Welcome letter (so you can include your Personal ID).

What is a personal statement?

The UCAS personal statement is a 47 line (or 4000 character) piece of writing that allows you to tell the universities and colleges you are applying to why they should offer you a place on the course.

In order to do this successfully, you need to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject to the admissions tutors, as well as demonstrate your suitability to the course.

Please be aware that application personal statements and essays vary between countries, and that the guidance below is only applicable to those applying to a UK higher education institution through UCAS.

Before you start remember this is a 'personal' statement, i.e. it's about YOU.

What we've written below is just a guide, and should not be stuck to rigidly. You may find that using your own ideas on how to put together your personal statement gives a better reflection of yourself than using advice from anywhere else.

Writing guide contents

Here is an outline of what our personal statement writing guide has to offer, which also allows you to skip to the parts you particularly want to read:

1. UCAS advice - read what UCAS have to say first to get a general overview 2. Aims of the personal statement - so what actually is the point of a personal statement? what should it do for my application? 3. Notes about yourself - Make notes about what you might put in your personal statement before you start 4. You and your subject - Why do you want to take this subject? 5. Read example personal statements - Read statements written by previous applicants to give you some ideas 6. Goals of your personal statement - What do you think should be included to make your statement sound good? 7. Language of your personal statement - How to make your statement read well 8. Structure of your personal statement - How are you going to layout and write your statement? 9. Writing your personal statement - A few last minute tips before you begin 10. I've written my first draft - now what? - What to do after completing your first draft 11. Formatting your personal statement - How to format your statement once you have your final draft.

UCAS advice

In the 'Your personal statement' section at the UCAS website, you are given a brief introduction to personal statements, and then a list of links to other sections to help you write your statement.

If you think this information is enough to go on, and your personal statement is already forming in your mind, then you can stop reading here and get on with writing it! If not, go on to the next section below.

Aims of the personal statement

Many universities don't interview applicants, so the only information they have about you is on your UCAS form.

A majority of the UCAS form contains your details - the bits the universities are interested in are your grades, your references and your personal statement.

The personal statement is the only part you really have full control over, so this is your chance to present a good image to the admissions tutor, even if your grades don't really seem to reflect this.

If you are applying to an oversubscribed university course, e.g. Physiotherapy, Medicine, etc. and everyone applying is likely to have good grades, the personal statement is the only thing that will set you apart from other applicants, so you want to try and make yours as good as possible.

When the admissions and subject tutors look at your personal statement, they are likely to be asking two main questions:

1. Do we want this student on this course?

2. Do we want this student at this university?

These questions can then be broken up further to make it easier to answer them thoroughly:

• Is the student suited to the course that they are applying for? • Does the student have the necessary qualifications and qualities for the course? • Is the student conscientious, hardworking and unlikely to drop out? • Will the student do their best and cope with the demands of the course? • Can the student work under pressure? • Will the student be able to adjust to their new environment at university? • What are their communication skills like? • Are they dedicated to this course and have they researched it well? • Do they have a genuine interest in the subject and a desire to learn more about it?
These are the sorts of questions you need to answer in your personal statement.

Unfortunately you cannot answer them directly with a simple 'yes' or 'no' - you need to provide evidence and make it sound believable.

Ultimately, admissions tutors are human too, and may well have hundreds of personal statements to sift through, so even if you think you've answered all these questions really well you may still be unlucky.

There are other techniques you can use to make your statement stand out and appeal to admissions tutors, but remember people are all different and therefore may have different ideas about what they look for in a prospective student.

Some of these techniques are discussed in the personal goals section further down.

Notes about yourself

Now you have some idea of why you're writing a personal statement, you need to think about what you're going to put in it.

You don't need to start thinking about the wording or structure yet - the first thing to do is get down some ideas on what you could include.

The best way to do this is to use a set of headings and write bullet points about how you relate to these headings. Here are some example headings you may wish to think about.

What you want to study at university and why

• Specific aspects of the courses that interest you • Examples of coursework you have completed • Practical work you have enjoyed • Books, articles, etc. you have read related to the subject area • Work experience or voluntary work in this area • Conferences you have attended • Personal experiences that lead to the decision to take this subject • Where you hope a degree in this subject will take you in the future • Experiences that show you are a reliable and responsible person • Part-time job • Business enterprise • Community and charity work • Sixth form committee • Helping out at school events and open days • Young Enterprise, World Challenge, Duke of Edinburgh award, Asdan Award, Debating societies, and what you have gained from these experiences.

Your interests and skills

• What you like to do in your free time • Sport and leisure activities • Subjects you study that are not examined • Musical instrument(s) you play • Languages you speak • Prizes you have won or positions achieved in your interests

Gap year (if applicable)

• Why you want to take a Gap year • What you plan to do • How this may relate to your course
Obviously, if you're not taking a Gap year, you can avoid this section. If you are it could still be left out, but you may be asked why you're taking it at interview.

You should now have lots of bullet points about yourself, all of which will be useful in preparing your personal statement.

Don't worry too much if you don't seem to have done many of the things outlined above - just think about things you've done that show all your good qualities, or could be written in a way that displays your good qualities.

The important thing is that you have a good reason for why you want to study the course. It doesn't matter if the reason sounds silly at the moment - you can work on the language later.

All admissions tutors will be looking for people who are enthusiastic and passionate about the subject(s) they want to study, so make sure you really are.

If you're choosing this course just because you can't think of anything better to do, that's not a good enough reason, and maybe you should consider looking for a course you would enjoy more.

You and your subject

Saying why you want to take your course is possibly the most important part of your personal statement.

You can have perfect grades, great extra curricular activities and be a really wonderful person, but if admissions tutors feel you aren't committed to your course, you won't get a place.

Hopefully the notes you have written for the section above have already given you a good idea of what to write about why you want to take your course.

If not then you should at least be sure you want to take that subject - writing a personal statement is a lot of work, and you don't really want to get to the end of it and decide you want to study a different subject. So before you go much further be sure you have chosen the right subject for you.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re still not sure about your choice of course, check out our section on choosing a degree to help you make a final decision.

Remember you don't actually have to choose the course you want to take yet, just have a rough idea of the subject area (or areas) you might be interested in.

Now you need to think about exactly why you want to take this subject. Even if you are 100% sure that this is the course for you, you still need to get this across to the admissions tutors.

If they accept you, you are going to be studying this course for at least the next three years, and you need to convince them that you are committed to it.

Have a think about exactly why the subject appeals to you, and write down as much as you can about it.

It doesn't matter if you only scribble a few notes - you can modify them before you write the statement, and the important thing is you can be sure of the key reasons why you want to take the subject.

Write down as many as you can, and if you end up with quite a few, you can always just pick the best.

Remember - if you can't think of any good reasons - should you really be taking that subject?

What if I want to do a joint degree?

There are two options you can use to tailor your personal statement to joint degrees (a degree where you take two subjects e.g. Economics and Politics).

You can talk about the subject you feel is most important, and not mention the other.

This has the advantage that you can apply for two different joint degrees and only talk about the common element e.g. for Economics and Politics and Law and Politics, you would only talk about politics.

If you decide to do this, make sure you talk about the qualities you have which show you are suitable for the other half of your joint degree.

Alternatively you can just talk about why you want to do both subjects, although the approach you choose will probably depend on how closely related your subjects are.

What if I want to apply for different subjects?

There is no easy way to write a personal statement for two unrelated subjects.

If the subjects are similar, such as Maths and Statistics, or Accounting and Business Studies, you may find you can write a general personal statement that applies equally to both courses.

If this is the case you many not want to mention either of the subjects by name, and instead talk about the related work that you've already done and why you have enjoyed it.

If your subjects are totally unrelated there is no way you wan write a personal statement that will cover all of them.

Instead you need to come up with a statement that gives you the best chance of being accepted.

For example, if you are applying for one subject at four of your university choices and another subject at the other two, you may just want to write a statement related to the subject you chose to study at four universities and either forget about, or change the course, at your other two choices.

You also want to consider your predicted grades in relation to the universities you are applying to.

Universities that normally make lower offers are less likely to be concerned about a badly targeted personal statement, whereas for universities that make high offers, the personal statement will be much more important.

Try and alter your personal statement so it is more specific to the universities asking for higher grades, as this will give you the best chance of being offered places at all your choices.

There will probably be some cases where there is nothing you can do, for example, if you are applying for three totally unrelated subjects, each at two different universities.

There is no advice that will help in a situation like this, except just to consider whether this is really what you want to do, and that you may be seriously reducing your chances of being offered a place on your chosen courses.

Even if you do apply for three different courses, you will only be able to study one of them, so it helps if you try to limit your choices to similar subjects.

Read example personal statements

Some people may know exactly how they are going to lay out and write their personal statement, but for the rest of us it's a bit more difficult.

Even though you now know what you're going to put in your statement, do you know how to make it read well?

The best way to get an idea of how to go about producing your personal statement is to look at some other people's statements.

This gives you a chance to see the sort of structure and language other people use, how they explained why they wanted to study their chosen course, as well as their own interests and abilities.

When you read through sample personal statements, have your own notes from the section above ready. If you find anything you've done but haven't already thought about, make a note of it.

Reading through lots of personal statements will allow you to judge which ones you think are good or bad, and find parts of statements you really like or dislike. This exercise will come in useful in the next section.

Hopefully your school or college will give you some example personal statements, but if they don't, there are loads of personal statement samples available here at Studential.

We have a collection of over 1000 personal statements, making us home to the largest catalogue of personal statements on the web.

Goals of your personal statement

Now you’ve looked at some example personal statements, you may have some idea of how you might put your own together.

However, even if you’re still stuck, you should have seen lots of statements you like, as well as a few that you don't.

Use this knowledge to decide how you are going to write your personal statement.

From the personal statements you have just read through, you may have gathered the following guidelines:

• Don’t sound arrogant and pretentious • Try to have an interesting phrase or paragraph to start and finish on • Try not to quote books, magazines or publications in a way that makes it sound like you’ve only read them to put them on your statement. • Do not lie outright and stay as close to the truth as possible • Don't try to be funny or make jokes in your statement • Don't start every sentence with I • Don't include your hobbies and interests unless they are relevant • Don't use vocabulary you don't normally use and just looked up in a dictionary • Don't use famous quotes in your statement unless you back them up with information on how and why this person’s quote influenced you. Dropping them in just for the sake of it makes you look silly and that you haven’t given serious thought to your personal statement. • Don't repeat things already on your UCAS form, e.g. predicted exam grades. • With the exception of a gap year, don't make claims you are going to do something before you come to university • Don't include clichés • Don't take any political or religious viewpoints.
Guidelines like these should give you an idea of what to focus on and think about when writing your own personal statement.

They also stop your statement from looking too much like one of the examples that you might have copied bits from.

Take a look at the personal goals in more depth.

Remember - you don't have to use any of these goals as your own. If you think you are really witty and some light humour will go down well in your statement, then take the plunge and put it down.

These goals are really just ideas you might want to use to help you come up with your first draft - remember a personal statement is supposed to be personal, and you should stick with writing whatever you think will work best for you.

Language of your personal statement

From looking at example personal statements you have probably found some language that you like or think works well.

The first thing to remember is: do not directly copy any of it! not even a single sentence! The reason is, copying statements is plagiarism, and if an admissions tutor sees a statement they recognise they will probably reject you instantly.

You should also not copy single sentences for the same reason - sentences that stick out in your mind may stick out in the examiners also.

It is ok to find a sentence or paragraph that says what you want to say, but make sure you adapt it yourself and don't just copy it.

You need to use language that makes you sound enthusiastic about your courses and portrays you as an interesting person.

If you're still wondering what sort of language to use look at existing personal statements, prospectuses and on the web to find sentences you feel fit your views.

University prospectuses are a good place to look - find your course, see how it is described and see if you can work anything similar into your personal statement.

Write down a list of words or sentences you would like to use like this:

• to gain greater understanding of the world around you • sends a signal to prospective employers and graduate schools • students of economics become problem-solvers • the fact is economics affects our daily lives • a challenging and diverse discipline • develops analytical skills, quantitative skills, research skills • it is interesting and relevant
Don't copy the sentences you find outright - change them or write your own sentence in a similar style.

If you can't find any sentences you like, try and write your own - it is a personal statement after all.

Structure of your personal statement

Now it's time to think about the structure of your personal statement - you should have read lots of examples by now and may have a fair idea about how yours is going to look, but this section should clarify things a bit if you don't.

Most statements are written in an essay format, but you don't have to do yours like this.

We don't recommend you write it as one large block of text. Even though you can fit more words in, this just makes it hard to read.

You could however use headings rather than write in an essay style. Not many personal statements are written like this but if you think yours would work better like this, then go ahead.

A starting guideline is to simply spend half the statement talking about the course and why you want to take it, and spend the other half writing about yourself and your own abilities, though once you get into it this can be easily changed. Another approach is to split up your notes into a few categories and write a paragraph on each category. For example:

• Paragraph 1: Introduction to the subject, the aspects you’re interested in and why • Paragraph 2: What you have done related to the subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form • Paragraphs 3 and 4: Work experience placements and relevant activities at school • Paragraph 5: Your interests outside of school, particularly those that show you are a responsible and reliable person • Paragraph 6: Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment
Again, this is only a guideline - depending on yourself and your course you may want to change things.

The last option is to simply find a statement you like and use it as a template.

Please note, we say template - not copy and paste! You can write the first draft of your personal statement using the same structure, being careful that you don't use any of the exact language.

Spend most of your time on the start and finish of the personal statement. A good opening will grab the readers’ attention and cause them to read the statement properly, rather than just scanning it.

A good conclusion will mean the reader remembers what you wrote, and hopefully will recommend you.

In our opinion it's best to start with why you want to take your subject, and finish with why you want to go to university or what you want to do afterwards.

Writing your personal statement

Hopefully you now have all your notes ready - you've thought about the language you want to use, as well as the structure and the goals of your statement.

You are almost ready to start writing your personal statement, but here are a few things to bear in mind first.

Remember the aims of a personal statement. You need to show the admissions tutor why you should be accepted on your chosen course at your chosen university.

In addition to what you say in your pesonal statement, the language you use and the way it is laid out will be judged as well.

Also remember you only have a limited amount of space (47 lines, or 4000 characters), but don't let this put you off too much.

A long personal statement can be easily trimmed down. It's harder to increase the length of a short personal statement, but if yours it too short to begin with, don't worry.

There is no requirement that you fill the entire space, but it's better to have a short and well written personal statement than a long and irrelevant one.

Be positive and interesting - if there is something you are unhappy about, try to portray it in an attractive light, or failing that, remove reference to it altogether.

Before you begin, take a look at the websites and prospectuses of the universities you are applying to, and see if they say anything about writing personal statements.

This information would probably be written by the admissions tutors, and would give you a much better idea of the sort of things you should put down!

You're ready to go!

Remember - you need to write in a way that is informative, interesting and useful.

Along with writing about what you've done, try and explain why you did it, or what you think you learned from it. For example:

I currently have a part time job and this has taught me about teamwork, responsibility and time management in the workplace.

From this point, you're more or less on your own, so move on to the next section when you've got a complete first draft of your personal statement.

I’ve written the first draft of my personal statement - now what?

Congratulations on putting together the first draft of your personal statement!

Don't worry if it sounds disjointed, you have missed bits out or it's too long or too short - you can correct these things later on.

First of all, read through what you've written slowly and try to read it from someone else's point of view.

Make sure it's easy to read and not confusing. Have you said everything you want to say without under or over-selling yourself?

If you are confused by reading your own personal statement, it is likely anyone else reading it will be too (including the admissions tutors!).

Next - get other people to read it. Ask your family, friends, teachers and anyone else who you think will be able to give you a good opinion.

As well as checking for spelling and grammar mistakes, they will be able to tell you if they think there are some things you may have missed out.

Also show it to your head of year at school or career adviser, as people like this will have seen a lot of personal statements and therefore know what a good personal statement looks like.

You could also get people on the Internet to look at your statement, and see what they think.

There are many web based communities where you can post your personal statement or email it to people, and they will happily give you advice for free.

There is one downside though: if you post your statement on a message board or forum, anyone can look at it, so you may get people who steal parts of your statement (or the whole thing!).

Hopefully by looking at your personal statement again and showing it to other people you should have a whole bunch of changes to make to your original draft.

Before making these changes, save a copy of your original statement so you can go back to it if you need too.

Keep making changes, showing people your statement, and making more changes - it's not unusual for people to have done 10-20 drafts (though many do much less) before they are completely happy with their statement.

Once you've got a personal statement that reads well, and you are happy with it, it's time to look at the size of it.

Formatting your personal statement

Personal statements can no longer be submitted on paper, so not much formatting is required.

The software used to upload your personal statement to UCAS can be quite temperamental, so carefully check through your statement line by line once you've submitted it.

We've also written a few guidelines on particular things to check for - though this may change as the software is updated and improved.

Online applications using UCAS Apply

Although you only have 47 lines in which to write your personal statement, there are still little tricks to squeeze more words in.

However, you should take care using them, as they will only clear you through the automatic preview – you can’t tell how it will appear to the admissions tutors.

Word, character and line limits

Firstly remember, there is no word limit – instead you're concentrating on a character limit (4000 characters including spaces) and a line limit (47).

Both of these must be satisfied to allow you to save your personal statement.

Checking you’re within the character limit is easy - just use the 'word count' tool on your word processor, which should show you how many characters you have used.

The line limit is more difficult, as the length of the lines is predetermined - any lines longer than 93 characters (including spaces) are wrapped onto the next line.

You can check you don’t go over the line limit using a word processor that shows the cursor position (the upright bar showing where you’re typing) and creating a new line after you’ve typed 93 characters – if you’re doing this make sure your word processor doesn’t wrap lines automatically before this.

Other things to remember

No formatting of any type is allowed in your personal statement, except using capital letters - so any bold, italic, or underlined words will disappear in the preview.

Tabs and multiple spaces will be condensed to a single space, so it is no longer possible to indent lines. Single spaces at the beginning of lines will also be removed.

You have a very limited set of 'special characters' to use along with all the upper and lowercase letter and numbers. You can use the following symbols:

!"£$%^&*()_+' |/ ,.;:'@#~[]?*-=

Common symbols not allowed are €, long dashes (–) and the special quote characters “ ‘ ’ ” which will simply be removed from your statement.

So remember to replace long dashes with - and quotes with " and '.

Some of these problems stem from Microsoft Word's autoformat feature, so you might want to turn if off before starting your personal statement.

Backslashes (\) are also not allowed but will be replaced with forward slashes (/) and curly brackets will be replaced with normal ones.

See also:

How to Write a Personal Statement by UNM Prof. Elizabeth Archuleta
Through a personal statement, you introduce yourself to the university; it reflects your personality and intellect. It is important that you read each question carefully and make every effort to understand and respond to it with well-considered responses and in a persuasive enough manner to hold the reader’s interest.
1. Understand and Explain Yourself
One of the main problems when writing is that applicants fail to take a thorough and analytical look at themselves and their objectives. Admission committee members are looking for interesting, insightful, revealing, and non-generic essays that suggest you have successfully gone through a process of careful reflection and self-examination.
2. Set Yourself Apart
Committees are looking for something PERSONAL and ANALYTICAL. This means sharing information you rarely share with others and assessing your life more critically than usual. This approach is key to a successful personal statement.
Exercise: In order to begin writing your personal statement – your story—you’ll need to answer some basic questions to prepare yourself.
• What is special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about you or your life story? What details of your life (personal or family problems/ history, any genuinely notable accomplishments, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants? • When did you originally become interested in this field and what have you since learned about it—and about yourself—that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? This does not mean that you should write, “Why I want to be a lawyer.” Instead, tell what insights you have gained from certain experiences that reinforce your decision to go to law school • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, internships, or conversations with people already in the field. • If work experiences have consumed significant periods of time during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has the work contributed to your personal growth? • What are your career goals? • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades and mediocre LSAT scores, for example, or a distinct improvement in you GRA if it was only average in the beginning? • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (e.g., economic, familial, physical) in your life? • What personal characteristic (integrity, compassion, persistence, for example) do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics? • What skills (leadership, communicative, analytical, for example) do you possess? • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field—than other applicants? • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
Tell a Story
Be truthful and stick to the facts; yet, think of your personal statement in the terms of writing a story. You want to write something that is fresh, lively, and different, to put yourself ahead of the other applicants. A personal statement MUST be MEMORABLE. One of the worst things you can do with your personal statement is to bore the admissions committee, yet that is exactly what most applicants do. Review your life very carefully (get help from family or friends if necessary) for facets or experiences that reveal an unusual dimension related to your professional goals or that could serve as evidence of your suitability for being a lawyer.
Find an Angle
If you are like most people, your life story might well lack significant drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle is vital. Brainstorm for ideas that emphasize your exceptional qualities, goals, past performances.
Concentrate on Your Opening Paragraph
Keep in mind when composing your statement that the lead or OPENING PARAGRAPH IS generally the MOST IMPORTANT. Here you either GRAB the readers attention or lose it. If you are telling a story you will use this first paragraph to introduce the elements most relevant to that story—and the ones that will hold greatest interest for the reader.
Tell Who You Are
The committee needs to get a sense of who you are, what makes you tick, and how you are different from other applicants. They should be interested in you, eager to hear more, impressed that what you are saying to them is not what they have read a thousand times before.
Sometimes a personal statement can be perfectly well written in terms of language and grammar, but disastrous in lacking punch or impact and in being totally off the mark concerning what it chooses to present about the applicant. Remember, what is most important about your personal statement is what you say and how you say it! Be selective about what you tell the admissions committee.
What you choose to say in your statement is, again, very much a reflection of you, because it shows the committee what your priorities are, what you consider to be important. The personal statement is often an indication, too, of your judgment, so be careful and give a great deal of thought to what you write. Think about yourself, your background, and your experiences and abilities to develop a strategy.
Other Things To Consider • Determine what you would tell an admission committee member if you had five minutes to answer the question “What is most important for us to know about you?” This exercise will force you to do the type of thinking that must precede the preparation of an effective personal statement. • Do not make the mistake of trying to guess what the admissions committee is looking for, and do not just write what you think the committee wants to hear. Such ploys are highly obvious to admissions people and can be detrimental to your cause. • Be selective. Don’t introduce inappropriate material or get into so much detail that your judgment can be called into question. • Try to maintain a positive and upbeat tone. Overall, you want to project confidence and enthusiasm. • Be specific when appropriate and use details. • Adhere to stated word limits. Do not give them reason to toss your application packet • Be meticulous (type and proof read your essay carefully and have others read it too). • If a school wants to know why you are applying to it rather than another school, do a bit of research if necessary to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention. • Are you providing something more than a recitation of information available elsewhere in the application? Do not repeat information that you have already included in other documents. • Are you avoiding obvious clichés? For example, a medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought.

Overview of the Personal Statement

Personal statements are sometimes also called "application essays" or "statements of purpose." Whatever they are called, they are essentially essays which are written in response to a question or questions on a graduate or professional school application form which asks for some sort of sustained response.

Some applications ask more specific questions than others. There is no set formula to follow in shaping your response, only choices for you to make, such as whether you should write an essay that is more autobiographically focused or one that is more professionally focused.

From application to application, requested personal statements also vary widely in length, ranging from a couple of paragraphs to a series of essays of a page or so each.

Personal statements are most important when you are applying to an extremely competitive program, where all the applicants have high test scores and GPA's, and when you are a marginal candidate and need the essay to compensate for low test scores or a low GPA.

Context Considerations

How are personal statements read, and by whom? It's most likely that your personal statement will be read by professors who serve on an admissions committee in the department to which you are applying. It is important in developing your personal statement to carefully consider this audience. What are the areas of specialty of this department, and what might it be looking for in a graduate student?

Additionally, since personal statements will most often be read as part of your "package," they offer an opportunity to show aspects of yourself that will not be developed in other areas of your application. Obviously, it is important that personal statements are not simply prose formulations of material contained elsewhere in the application.

It may be helpful to think of the statement as the single opportunity in your package to allow the admissions committee to hear your voice. Often times, committees are sorting through large numbers of applications and essays, perhaps doing an initial quick sort to find the best applicants and then later reading some of the personal statements more thoroughly. Given that information, you will want your statement to readily engage the readers, and to clearly demonstrate what makes you a unique candidate--apart from the rest of the stack.

One Process for Writing the Personal Statement

1. Analyze the question(s) asked on a specific application. 2. Research the school and/or program to which you are applying. 3. Take a personal inventory (see below). Write out a 2-3 sentence response to each question. 4. Write your essay. 5. Revise your essay for form and content. 6. Ask someone else - preferably a faculty member in your area - to read your essay and make suggestions for further revision. 7. Revise again. 8. Proofread carefully.

Personal Inventory Questions

• What makes you unique, or at least different from, any other applicant? • What attracts you to your chosen career? What do you expect to get out of it? • When did you initially become interested in this career? How has this interest developed? When did you become certain that this is what you wanted to do? What solidified your decision? • What are your intellectual influences? What writers, books, professors, concepts in college have shaped you? • How has your undergraduate academic experience prepared you for graduate/professional school? • What are two or three of the academic accomplishments which have most prepared you? • What research have you conducted? What did you learn from it? • What non-academic experiences contributed to your choice of school and/or career? (work, volunteer, family) • Do you have specific career plans? How does graduate or professional school pertain to them? • How much more education are you interested in? • What's the most important thing the admissions committee should know about you? • Think of a professor in your field that you've had already and that you like and respect. If this person were reading your application essay, what would most impress him or her?


• Answer all the questions asked. o If you are applying to more than one program, you may find that each application asks a different question or set of questions, and that you don't really feel like writing a bunch of different responses. However, you should avoid the temptation to submit the same essay for different questions—it's far better to tailor your response to each question and each school. o If you do find yourself short on time and must tailor one basic essay to fit a number of different questions from a number of different schools, target your essay to your first-choice school, and keep in mind that the less your essay is suited to an application's particular questions, the more you may be jeopardizing your chances of being admitted to that school. • Be honest and confident in your statements. Use positive emphasis. Do not try to hide, make excuses for, or lie about your weaknesses. In some cases, a student needs to explain a weak component of his or her application, but in other cases it may be best not to mention those weaknesses at all. Rather, write an essay that focuses on your strengths.

• Write a coherent and interesting essay. Make your first paragraph the best paragraph in your essay.

• Develop a thesis about yourself early in the essay and argue it throughout. Each piece of information you give about yourself in the essay should somehow support your thesis.

• Pick two to four main topics for a one-page essay. Don't summarize your entire life. Don't include needless details that take space away from a discussion of your professionalism, maturity, and ability to do intellectual work in your chosen field.

• Use the personal statement as a form of introduction. Think of the essay as not only an answer to a specific question but as an opportunity to introduce yourself, especially if your program doesn't interview applicants.

• Ask yourself the following questions as you edit for content: o Are my goals well articulated? o Do I explain why I have selected this school and/or program in particular? o Do I demonstrate knowledge of this school or program? o Do I include interesting details that prove my claims about myself? o Is my tone confident? • Make sure your essay has absolutely perfect spelling and mechanics. • Use technical terminology and such techniques as passive voice where appropriate. You should write clearly and interestingly, yet also speak in a voice appropriate to your field.


• Write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. You are probably wrong, and such a response is likely to make you blend into the crowd rather than stand out from it. • Use empty, vague, over-used words like "meaningful," "beautiful," "challenging," "invaluable," or "rewarding." • Overwrite or belabor a minor point about yourself. • Repeat information directly from the application form itself unless you use it to illustrate a point or want to develop it further. • Emphasize the negative. Again, the admissions committee already knows your GPA and test scores, and they probably are not interested in reading about how a list of events in your personal life caused you to perform poorly. Explain what you feel you need to, but emphasize the positive. • Try to be funny. You don't want to take the risk they won't get the joke. • Get too personal about religion, politics, or your lack of education (avoid emotional catharsis). • Include footnotes, cliches, or long-winded and slow introductions. • Use statements like "I've always wanted to be a…" or any other hackneyed phrases. • Use gimmicks—too big of a risk on an application to a graduate or professional program. • Allow any superficial errors in spelling, mechanics, grammar, punctuation, format, or printing to creep under your vigilant guard.
1. Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
Your writing will be both easier and more genuine if you write about what you want to write about, instead of writing about what you think colleges want to hear. The most successful essays describe a moment of personal growth, difficulty, strength, or confidence, all of which people experience in vastly different ways.
If you are serious about your college essay, you will most likely be spending a fair amount of time brainstorming, writing, and editing until you make it as near perfect as possible. Understandably, this process will proceed quicker if you actually enjoy the topic you are writing about.
More importantly, if you love the topic you choose, your reader will see it in your writing: the more passion you feel for a subject, the easier it will be to express yourself. So if your greatest personal growth story occurred as you were picking out socks for the day, so be it. Perhaps you managed to find courage on a stage in front of two thousand, or maybe just two people.
Remember that this is your personal statement, your only chance to differentiate yourself as a unique individual to colleges apart from grades, test scores, and resumes. Write about a topic that excites you, and you will excite your reader.
2. Engage your reader from the first sentence.
Regardless of the topic you choose, your reader’s interest must be captured in the first sentence. Out of thousands of essays, why should yours stand out? A perfect introduction will leap out to the reader and grab their attention.
The best way to do this is through as much detail as you can muster. If you have chosen a sport or activity you excel in, show your reader through your words a split second of what participating in the activity is like. Write as if you are telling a story: what was the setting? What was the weather like? Were there other people there? What emotions were coursing through you at that exact moment?
Many students will begin their essays, “The most life-changing/important/difficult moment in my life has been___.” Over time, admissions officers will lose steam over the constant repetition, and all essays that begin as such will fail to make an impact.
Make it easier for your reader to remember you by writing a story as your introduction. The more specific detail you add in, the more the reader will get into the story and the more sold they’ll be on you.
3. Ask yourself “So What?”
As with any good essay, you should spend at least a paragraph explaining the “so what?” aspect of your essay. If you have chosen a specific activity to write about, in addition to writing about the activity itself, colleges want to know why this particular activity has made an impact on your life.
So you’ve been playing baseball for the last ten years, so what? Perhaps playing baseball taught you teamwork, or made you appreciate the value of practice and determination in achieving your goals. As this is a college essay with a point to make about your character, a substantial portion of your essay should answer the “so what?” question.
Colleges want to know how you have grown as a person through your own experiences and how they have changed you, and stating why such experiences were important to you aid in convincing admissions officers that their school could use more students like you.
If your detail and story-like aspect of your essay comes at the beginning, your “so what?” moment should wrap up your essay, connecting your activity in question with the purpose behind your choice of topic.
4. Read through your essay out loud.
It goes without saying that you should spell-check your essay before sending it off to colleges. As your personal statement is one you will presumably be using for the majority of your college applications (if your colleges use CollgeApp), there is no excuse for sending off an essay that is not completely free of mechanical and grammatical errors.
In addition to the automatic spellcheck on Microsoft Word, set time aside to read over your paper out loud. This will allow you to catch things your mind might otherwise overlook; because you are able to hear any wrong grammar or sentence structure, you are less likely to skip over it.
It is also wise to ask for a second opinion: let your parents read it, your English teacher or your friends. Ask them to read it and tell you what they thought the central message they got out of it was; if it is the same message you were hoping to send to admissions officers, your essay has succeeded.
Write like you
Many personal statements end up looking less like a record of your brilliance and more like a written application to work as a human thesaurus. Admissions tutors are looking for substance, and pomposity won’t do anything to convince them you love their subject.
The personal statements that don’t do well, says Alan Bird, head of sixth form at Brighton College, are those which “lack genuine personal flavour”. Start telling your universities why you’re so keen to study and why you’ll be the best student since Hermione.
And never simply say you’re right for the course – it’s your job to demonstrate that by being specific. Whatever you write needs to be intrinsically you, which is something easy to lose while rattling off achievements.
Make everything count
Universities are looking for someone interested in the course and someone interesting to teach it to. Cut the small talk and press home why what you’re saying is relevant.
Alan Bird sees too many lists which say nothing: “Students might name a book and then give it a review – I could read that off the dust jacket.”
Remember that anything extra-curricular is padding, albeit the good kind
The University of Manchester’s head of widening participation, Julian Skyrme, encourages taking a straightforward approach: “We’re asking ‘why does your part-time job relate to you being an engineer?’ Nail your experience to the course. Personal statements can sometimes appear like a biography.”
You’re good but you’re not that good
After flicking through 30,000 admissions, a little modesty is likely to go down better than a literary rendition of Simply the Best.
“Confidence is great, veering into egotism is not,” says Alan Carlile.
Remember you’re applying to study something new. Your statement should convince universities that you’re excited to engage with new experiences based on your past experiences. Bragging about your achievements just won’t do this.

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...Personal Statement Melinda Whiteley CSUB MSW Admissions Packet December 2, 2013 Personal Statement Part One: I. Reasons for becoming a professional social worker a. My interests in social work began as early as elementary school; I have always enjoyed helping others, especially those less fortunate than myself. By the time I entered high school I was planning a trip with my church group to Juarez, Mexico. Upon arrival I spent 7 days building a library at an elementary school. It was hard work, and a completely foreign surrounding for me, but I loved the feeling of accomplishment I received when we completed our project. Having the ability to interact with the locals and see what life is like for individuals not far from the United States. On the plane ride home I wanted to know what I could do as a profession that would allow me to help others and give back to society. This was the motivating event that led me to pursue social work. I see it as a rewarding career that gives me the opportunity to assist those that are truly in need. b. My understanding of social work as a profession would include finding resources and treatment styles that enable me to maximize human potential with the population that I serve. This is a common thread that translates across the world. By understanding some of the core values of social worker such as human dignity and worth, social justice, service to humanity, integrity, and competence, I feel myself being......

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