When you consider the work that you have to put in to apply to your target schools in the UK, at first glance the personal statement (PS) appears to be a walk in the park. An academically oriented, 4000 character essay is all you need to write to get into the university of your dreams.
It is the seeming simplicity of the personal statement that belies its difficulty. Very quickly, students find the character limit tricky once they realise they have to constrict all their academic interests, experiences, insights and goals into a single document. In reality, the personal statement is a daunting task, one that is amplified by the fact that it could make or break your application and define the trajectory of your academic or professional career.
So let’s take a deep breath in, and talk about what you can do to create a cogent and persuasive PS.
The hero of this story is you. The admissions tutors want to learn all about you. You will want to demonstrate academic growth over the past few years, filled with nuggets of insight that can persuade a tutor that you’re the real deal - an incredibly bright and curious individual with the capacity and appetite to learn.
Appealing to specific aspects of or courses in your dream university is not going to work here. Your personal statement will be read by all five of your chosen universities, so rather than draw links between your profile and the universities themselves, you will create links to your intended course of study instead. It's a good idea to look at the course descriptions and identify the core qualities and skills they ask for, before relating your own interests, skills and experiences that make you a suitable candidate.
You can start by thinking about what piqued your interest in the field: What drew you in? How did you whet your appetite over time as you explored what the field had to offer? Tutors want to know your varied interests and the journeys you took as you navigated them.
Next, you’ll want to outline the books and articles that you found particularly pivotal or provoking, as well as all the experiences that you’ve had, whether through school, activities or work experience. For instance, being a part of a successful robotics team would speak to your capability for engineering. Likewise, having interned at a Law Office or Legal Clinic would be incredibly beneficial should you want to go down the legal route. Summer schools or any skills programs are fair game too.
While each of these can demonstrate your drive to learn, you would want to accompany them with your learnings as well as your insights - your own analysis is critical to show that you are an engaged and thoughtful learner who can contribute to the academic vitality of the school.
Once you have a cohesive outline, write it out, and don’t be afraid to run through multiple drafts. Some of the best essays our students have produced have gone through 7 or 8 rounds of edits! Take your time and try to stand out with your writing, but don’t try to be too funny or casual.
Before submission, always proofread your work by reading your essay out loud, or by getting a teacher or parent to look over your work. And of course, do make sure that your essay keeps to the 4000 character and 47 line limit before submitting your hard work!