The Outreach team and I are busy travelling all across London to bring free guidance and advice about higher education to school and college students and community forums to help them make informed decisions. One of our most popular presentations is about writing a winning personal statement on the UCAS application which will secure a place at university or college. As part of the service, following the presentation, we look at hundreds of personal statements and help students improve their chances.
Your personal statement shows universities and colleges that you would be a great student and is one of the most important criteria when you are considered for a course. Tutors use them to compare applicants, so make yours stand out. 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. Here are our top tips on how to make your personal statement distinctive:
This is your chance to prove to universities and colleges that you are enthusiastic and committed to studying with them, and suitable for the course you've selected. Start as soon as possible and ensure you meet application deadlines.
Do your homework
Research the course details and use these along with saying where your interest stemmed from. Mention how your current or previous studies relate to your chosen course; any relevant work experience, placements or jobs; relevant hobbies or interests; achievements; and your career aspirations and the reasons why.
Anybody can say they have a skill, but universities and colleges will be looking for proof. Think about work experience, volunteering or Saturday jobs and relate the skills you have developed as a result to your chosen course. Talk about transferable skills such as working as part of a team, on your own initiative and time management.
Check, check and check again
Make sure you ask for your family, friends and tutors' comments. Don't use informal shorthand or rely on a spellchecker for getting the grammar, spelling and punctuation right. Don't lie or use someone else's statement as you may be asked questions, plus all statements are put through the UCAS 'similarity detection tests'. Finally, your statement should be interesting, relevant and concise!
Think about structure
You have up to 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text to sell yourself. That's characters, not words, and that includes spaces or blank lines too. So think about your structure before you start. Include an attention-getting introduction that will encourage the reader to read on, and wrap it up with your conclusion that reinforces your commitment, enthusiasm and skills suited to university or college life and study.
Tips for mature students
If you're a mature applicant returning to learning, we have some specific tips for you to make the most of your statement and application:
• Say what you've done since leaving school
• Consider sending your detailed CV to your university or college of choice to showcase the variety of jobs and experiences that are relevant
• Prove how you will cope with the academic work
• Evaluate your experiences by matching them to your chosen course requirements
If you're looking for even more advice on your personal statement or would like us to check your draft, why not speak to your school or college tutor to organise a visit from the team. Or you could ask them to arrange a Taster Day on our campus where you will get advice on your application plus get to experience a day studying at university. And if you'd like to visit our campus on your own, or with friends and family, check out our Open Day at: gsm.org.uk/opendays.