Nicola Wood, Head of Admissions at the University of Roehampton in London, has this advice as you write your personal statement:
You can only submit one statement for all of your choices, so don’t namecheck a specific university. Talk about the subject, not where you want to study it.
Be prepared to re-draft your statement three or four times. Ask parents and teachers for advice on your first draft.
Talk about what you want to learn about within your subject – give specific examples. This will show you have already researched the key topics.
To help structure your statement, make a list of the points to include and group them together. Try these headings:
Why I want to study X 1. Enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject. 2. Understanding of some of the big themes. 3. Interest built at school which you want to expand on. 4. If you are applying for a course specific to a job, explain why.
Personal achievements and interests 1. Your interests as they are relevant to university life. 2. Sports or social groups and what you have learnt or achieved with them. 3. Awards or courses like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards. 4. Community work like leading a youth group or helping a local charity.
Once you have these, start thinking how you can work them into a convincing but honest story about yourself. The personal statement is about understanding you as well as setting out your academic interests.
The first and last paragraphs are the most important. The first should grab attention, and set the scene for the rest of the statement and the last should sum up with a positive thought about you.
Finally, it’s cliché, but get someone to proof read the final version. You’re applying to university, where standards of language use are high. Don’t make it more difficult to get in with poor spelling.