Tips on Personal Statements

By Nicola Boys

  • Have confidence! It is a statement about YOU so don’t shy away from discussing your opinions and thoughts.

  • Don’t just name-drop books from reading lists or company names to “stand out”. If you didn’t genuinely enjoy reading that book, please don’t say you did. Chances are, you’ll be asked about it an interview.

  • Tie together your experiences and reading. Your statement is one piece of writing, not a list. How did your thoughts on this book A lead you to look more into this aspect B of your subject and from there you wanted to read about this thing C and then you discovered D.

  • Be yourself. Never lie, or generously exaggerate, what you have done. What you have done is enough and you don’t need to sound quirky or super smart to get a place. Also, don’t write about the topics that are trendy in your subject just because, you should write about your particular interests. For me, that meant an intro all about octopuses.

  • Covid has made subject-related experience very difficult to acquire, so don’t worry about writing about slightly different experiences. How has working in a coffee shop helped you prepare for studying Classics? Maybe you learnt effective communication, or patience, or time-management. In my statement applying to study Biology, I included that I had taught kids how to kayak.

  • When getting feedback from others, take it with a pinch of salt. Don’t edit out parts that are personal to you just because a teacher thinks its not quite right. Many of the opinions you get on your statement will be conflicting, and that’s ok.

  • There will be many, many drafts. Leave plenty of time for writing your statement, so that you can take some time away between each one. One day you might have terrible writers block and the next week the words could just fall into place. Don’t worry too much but leave plenty of time to write it before the deadlines. Aim to have done a few drafts before you go back to school.