It’s that time of year again: personal statements are looming and your tutors are telling you that they are due in very, very soon. You’ve probably contemplated not going to university purely to avoid writing your personal statement for law school, but don’t worry – these are all the tips you need to get it finished.
The entire purpose of the statement is to sell yourself and persuade a university to pick you, and you can’t do that if your points are just general comments.
Before you start writing your statement, choose at least one university you definitely want to attend by going to open days and looking online at their website. You can wait on the other four for now, but your personal statement will suffer if you have no idea about the universities you want to study at.
You need to research each university you’d like to attend (though none can be referenced explicitly as the same statement goes to each institution) so that any general point made can apply to each of these institutions.
When I wrote my personal statement, I had eight drafts in total. I uploaded it easily the week before it was due in and I got five offers in return.
Do not upload your first draft. Do not leave it until the day before to write your statement. Write your statement within plenty of time so you can redraft it over and over. Send it to tutors who agree to read it (multiple if you can), have your parents or guardian read it, make sure someone is there to check it over.
It’s also best to write your initial draft without the character count to truly get down everything that you want to say. It may end up (and likely should end up) being over the 4000 character limit, but this means you’ll be able to select which information is more important than others.
As stated, you have to be general for all five universities, but this does not mean that you cannot include certain specifics to show you have done your homework.
Typically students pick the same or similar courses at each university (though I did know one boy who was applying for a law and ethics course at one university and music production at another…) so you can include information about why you like this area. If each course has similar assessments or similar teaching styles, you can write about this.
There are many similarities you’ll be able to find between the courses, so look closely if you can use this in a statement.
The entire purpose of this personal statement is to persuade the university that they should offer you a place, and a great way to do this is by showing why you want to study the course. Talk about why you like this course and why you decided to study it at degree level. Tell them why you first were interested in this subject or why you have a passion for it.
On that note – ‘passion’ is honestly my favourite word, but try to avoid using it more than twice in your statement. It’s probably the easiest word to overuse in this capacity, but an online thesaurus is your friend and you can get your point across by using ‘interest’ or a different way of phrasing.
Whilst you cannot include specifics about a university and why you want to go there, you can use this time to really sell yourself. It seems unnatural at first to write about all of your best qualities, but it’s a skill you’ll use in the future on job applications, so the faster you figure it out, the better.
Begin with writing simply about your achievements – if you find this challenging, begin by bullet pointing anything stand out that you can write; have you been in any competitions? Have you won any awards? Or maybe you have a part time job you can include, or a hobby. There are many things you can add which show why you’d be a great fit for university.
If you work in a shop, think of the qualities and skills that can transfer over: time management, organisation, team work, leadership, etc. You can do this for anything and it is much more persuasive than just listing what you think you’re good at. The best thing you can add to a statement is a real life example.
You need to also include what your future goals are. Of course you’re about eighteen right now, so no one expects you to have a concrete plan, but institutions like to hear that you at least have an idea of what the future might hold after your degree, even if you change your mind later.
This did not apply to me, but many universities hold interviews after personal statements (though they typically tell you this on their website or will tell you if you ring and ask). Tips for interviews is another blog post, but the most important thing this post can give you is that you cannot lie on your personal statement. The interviewer will be able to tell if you’re lying about your hobbies or anything and they won’t be impressed. Be yourself and be honest.
At the end of the day, this application is a big deal, but don’t get too stressed about it. When you’re at university and settled in, you probably won’t even remember what you wrote about. Focus on your studies and getting the best grades you can.
The best personal statement you can write will be true to yourself and show who you are and the right university will see that.
Words: Caitlin Ord
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