How to Improve
Personal Statement Writing Skills?
By Ashley Gill
Regarded as one of the harder parts of the UCAS application, the personal statement should be approached and written with lots of care and quality. A lot of applicants make the catastrophic mistake of glazing over or quickly skimming through this portion of the application. While the other parts of the application are important to their right, there are very few other places where an applicant can declare their intent and desire to attend the school. The personal statement allows students to illustrate to the administration why they want to participate in the school, but more importantly, it gives them the opportunity to state why they deserve to include in the student body.
Remember that the majority of universities and colleges do not interview applicants. So for the majority of students, their UCAS application is their single opportunity to impress the administration. This information alone is enough to give students fits, but when faced with the restriction of having to convey the message of their personal statement in 47 lines or 4000 characters, the stress factor increase. But the good thing is that by breaking things down and taking a methodical approach, writing a quality personal statement can not only be done easily but can be improved.
The first step takes before a single word hits the page. It is critical to discern what course the applicant wants to make. It is a foundational piece of information upon which the personal statement can built up on it. Choosing a course not only narrows down what to write about in the applicant's mind, but it also lets the administration know which department within the school will view the UCAS application. Then try your very best to find examples of “winning” personal statements and applications. These are from past applicants that have successfully attended the University of College that you are applying for it. These “winning” personal statements are a treasure trove of information. They will show you what language, lingo, format, and style have worked in the past. It is not to say that whatever information you already have or presented is wrong, but indicates what has historically accepted.
Now comes the first draft. The applicant will state their academic credentials, but do so in a succinct manner. A successful personal statement clearly conveys to the administration the applicant’s intent, their passion, and enthusiasm for the school and course. It should also illustrate the applicant’s knowledge of the subject matter and their goals for taking the course. All in all, the personal statement should answer the following questions in the administration's minds: Do we want this student in this class? Do we want this student in this university/college?
While it is a good thing to demonstrate to the applications committee that you are decisive and clearly know the course that you will be taking, there is the matter of showing interest in two different subjects or courses. There is no easy way to do this, and do remember that there is a character limit. Focus on the primary interest and then mention the second one in passing. The exception to this is if you are interested in a joint degree, in which case the conversation changes to how you will marry the two courses and your goal with them.
While it is good to sound formal, intelligent and decisive, it is likely most important to be genuine. Administrators read through thousands of UCAS applications, and they have a good sense for those who are putting on a show. It may be worthwhile to mention areas in which you would like to grow in both academically and personally. It shows them that you are mature enough to know your limitations and are willing to develop further.
Once the initial draft is complete, it is time to put it through a series of refinements. Begin with spell check and grammar checks. Then format the entire document to conform to any rules and guidelines set by the school. Then fine-tune the information that appears on the personal statement by paying close attention to the language you are using. Are you using lingo and terminology that can understand by someone familiar with this course and subject matter? Does the personal statement flow from one end to another? Is it just a bunch of words and ideas splattered all over the page? Or, is it written in a coherent manner that clearly introduces you, your desire to take the course, your knowledge and your goals? Write this personal statement slowly, methodically and purposefully, for it will undoubtedly be one of the most important documents you will write in your entire academic career.