· Check your chosen universities’ websites or prospectuses for course descriptions and personal statement advice. This should give you an idea of what they are looking for, so that you can tailor your personal statement to their requirements and prove you have done your research.
· Give a greater focus to your chosen course over extra-curricular activities – devote around 75-80% of your statement to academic study, and 20-25% to non-academic activities.
· Explain why you want to study the course and why you are the right person to study it. Use specific academic examples, such as coursework or school projects, that show off your relevant skills in the subject.
· In addition to academic examples, include course-related work you have done outside of the classroom, such as summer school/lectures, work experience or reading, to demonstrate your commitment.
· When writing about your extra-curricular activities, relate these to the subject. This is just another way to show you are dedicated to your chosen subject outside of the classroom.
· If you wish to study a vocational degree, show your ambition by describing how a place on the course would help you achieve your career goals. If you have no fixed career plans, explain what the degree could offer you in terms of increased skills and knowledge in the field.
· If you are applying for more than one subject, try to cover them all, ideally with content that is relevant to each course.
· If you are applying for a joint or combined honours degree, try to give equal weight to both subjects. Even better, link the points you wish to make on both courses together to demonstrate how cohesive and harmonised they are.
· Only include information that is true. Besides being unfair to yourself and the university, you could be caught out if this information is brought up in an interview.
· Do not make your writing overly complex and convoluted. Be true to your personal writing style. However, do not include humour, it is subjective and you run the risk of offending the admissions tutor. Also avoid informalities or slang.
· Structure your statement as you would an essay. Put it into a logical order, so that it makes sense and flows, rather than jumping from point to point.
· Try not to repeat words or phrases over and over again. For example, think of more interesting ways to start a sentence than starting every one with “I…”
· Do not include quotes or clichés into your statement just for the sake of it. This looks awkward and interrupts the flow of your writing, as it is not your own original voice or ideas being put forward.
· Ensure that you have excellent opening and closing lines. An interesting opener will draw the admissions tutor in and encourage them to read your statement attentively, rather than skimming over it. Likewise, a memorable closing sentence will help you to stick in their mind and increase your chances of being remembered as an excellent candidate.
· As you only have limited space, make sure that everything you include in your statement is necessary and relevant to why you want a place on the course.
· Take your time when drafting and checking your personal statement. Start the planning and writing processes in plenty of time and be prepared to rewrite several drafts.
· Write out your statement in a Word document first, so that you can spend as much time as you like editing it, then copy and paste it into the online form when it is ready to be submitted.
· Reading over your statement aloud will help you to spot sentences that do not read well or contain grammatical mistakes. Keep a look out for misspelt words or incorrect punctuation too.
· Ask subject teachers, Heads of Higher Education or Careers Advisors to look over your statement. A fresh pair of eyes will be able to find any mistakes you may have missed and they will have a good idea of what universities are looking for.
· Read example personal statements to check that you have the right style and structure (you may want to do this before writing as well). But do NOT copy somebody else’s personal statement. The university have software to catch plagiarism and your application will be automatically rejected.
· Finally, be aware that some courses and universities have an earlier deadline for applications. Oxford, Cambridge and medical courses require applications before any others. Therefore, be prepared to have your personal statement finished at an earlier date than other applicants.