Hello, my name’s Hal! As an ESL teacher here at MCSE, I’ve helped a few students out with their personal statements. Applying for university can be an intimidating process and the personal statement is one of the trickiest things to get right.
Here are some quick tips to help get you on the right track!
1. Plan carefully
First of all, writing a good personal statement can’t be rushed. It takes time and self-reflection. It must show you at your best, as well as corresponding precisely to the course and university you are applying for.
This means you’ll need to get familiar with the details of the course you intend to apply for. Read the course description and requirements carefully several times. Research how the course is organised, who teaches on it, and what the university can offer you.
Next, consider what qualities the university will be looking for in applicants. What research interests fit well within the course? What kind of prior experience is expected from applicants? You’ll need to think carefully about why you’re the right person for this course.
2. Have a clear structure
Once you’ve reflected on why you are a good fit for the course, you can begin to structure your statement.
Begin with a clear, bold introduction. Most admission departments will have hundreds if not thousands of applications to review. Your introduction needs to be eye-catching whilst also giving your strongest argument for your application.
Arrange your argument in a coherent way. The main paragraphs should each deal with a distinct reason in favour of your acceptance. These might include your educational achievements, your personal motivation, or your plans for the future. But focus on one reason at a time!
Conclude your statement with both a summary of your reasons and some new, memorable information about you and your ambitions.
Use the right language
Avoid clichés! Phrases that are commonly used by lots of applicants will immediately seem unpersuasive. ‘I have always wanted to be a teacher…’ doesn’t sound original or sincere to somebody who has read this sentence dozens of times.
Make it personal but keep it formal. The statement needs to convey your personality but this doesn’t mean that the tone should become chatty or informal.
Keep your language clear and simple. Don’t try to impress anyone by using over-elaborate phrases or technical language (unless these are strictly relevant to your chosen course). Sentences should generally be straightforward and succinct.
Every claim you make should be backed up by evidence. If you’re describing your interest in a topic, you should explain how, when and where you’ve demonstrated this interest in the past. If you want to show you have a particular quality, given examples of when you’ve shown this before.
Keep focussed on relevant details. Don’t include personal information that doesn’t have a clear connection with the course or university you’re applying for.
Be specific. Avoid talking generally about a subject, specialism or sector. Try to ‘zoom in’ on the aspects of these that really inspire you and explain how they relate to this particular course at this particular university.