Personal statement mistakes

Personal statements are an important stage in the application process for schools and universities. They are your opportunity to show the school why you are a good candidate. Although it may sound a simple task there are mistakes students make that recur year after year. Here are 10 mistakes students make and how you can avoid them and give your application the edge!

In your introduction don’t explain what you will write

You don’t need to explain what you will write in your personal statement. A sentence like ‘In this personal statement I will show…………….’ is a waste of words. Instead, spend time highlighting why you have chosen the course you wish to pursue and show that you have done research on the course.

Don’t brag

It is true that a personal statement is your opportunity to showcase your achievements but there is a fine line between showcasing your achievements and bragging. Being arrogant is not an attractive quality and shows a bad side. Make a statement about an achievement and then back it up with concrete evidence that showcases what you have learnt from your experiences.

Don’t name drop

Admissions Officers are not interested in what prestigious schools you studied at. Avoid littering your personal statement with names and instead focus on what you learned from your experience at these schools. Avoid using flattery with sentences like ‘it would be an honour to be offered a place at your world-renowned university’. What they really want to find out is what you can offer them not that you’re only choosing that university because of its prestigious reputation.

Avoid clichés and quotes.

A common error in personal statements is to start off with a quote. It’s your voice they want to hear not Einstein, Martin Luther King or David Attenborough or Napoleons. Don’t put a quote in unless it’s really necessary to make a critical point. It’s a waste of your word count.

Don’t mention your failures and inadequacies

Despite the fact a personal statement is supposed to showcase your achievements many students play themselves down. Don’t mention that ‘I go to conversational Chinese classes but am not fluent yet’ or that you are interested in Psychology but that ‘it wasn’t offered as part of my school curriculum’ such statements could easily be transformed to positive statements such as ‘I am continually improving my Chinese by going to conversation classes’. Always be positive!

Read about the school requirements

Different schools have different requirements for personal statements. Some have a strict word limit, others insist that you hand write your statement. Make sure that you check the requirements to avoid embarrassment.  You don’t want to write a 2,000-word statement only to find out that the requirement for your school is 1,000 words maximum.

Tailor your personal statement to the school you are applying for.

Remember to write separate statements for each school and show that you have researched them properly. The same goes for universities. Research the course requirements and aspects of the course itself. Its important to not simply put every UK school under the bracket of ‘prestigious private school’. Every school has its unique qualities and you should make an effort to find out what these are. It is important to state clearly why you are interested in that particular school and not Independent schools in general.

Proofread your work

It can be easy to focus heavily on the content of your work and overlook simple things like spelling, grammar and punctuation. Make sure that your statement contains no spelling or grammar mistakes as this creates a very bad impression. It’s also important to ensure your statement makes sense in English and reads well. This is why it is important to always get another person to look over your work as they can pick up on details you may have missed.

Get the right balance

Many students focus too much on extra-curricular activities or academics in their personal statements. Remember that it is important to get a balance between the two. Yes, most of your personal statement should be related to academia but a lot of students forget to include things they do outside of school that make them interesting and worthy candidates. Equally a lot of students focus too much on extra-curricular activities and forget to mention what academic subjects they are strong at.

Don’t use rhetorical questions

Many students like to litter their personal statement with questions such as ‘Why philosophy?’ or ask questions designed to get the reader thinking such as ‘How can this be?’ or ‘this made me ask the question’. Remember to never assume prior knowledge of the reader and, like always, focus on your experiences and the skills you gained from them. Avoid listing your achievements and focus on analysis, what did you learn?

Personal statements are a vital part of your UK university application. Click here to find our how we can help with UK university preparation.