Applying to HE? How to write a good personal statement

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1 Applying to HE? How to write a good personal statement

2 The Personal Statement is the part of the UCAS application that everyone worries about. It s often the first time you ve had to write about yourself, and that never comes easily. Yes, the Personal Statement can be your only chance to tell the university or college how suitable, committed and enthusiastic you are and why they should choose you over other applicants. Yes, it does need to be strong to stand out from the crowd but don t get obsessed by it. Don t make it the reason you put your application in late or putting it off as you don t know where to start. If you start early gathering the information, follow a simple structure and gain advice, you will be able to write a good Personal Statement, get it in on time and hopefully not lose too much sleep over it. What to include? The Personal Statement is your chance to tell the admissions tutor why you want to do the course, why you are suitable and why they should accept you. Universities and colleges cannot interview every applicant and rely on the UCAS application to select students. For popular courses, an admissions tutor can read up to 300 personal statements a day. Your Personal Statement needs to build up a picture of yourself, in and outside college. Even if you are a straight A* student, you will need to show that you are an interesting, well rounded individual with the skills and qualities suitable for the course and university/ college life. But it is not your life story; you only need to mention elements of your personal experience if they are relevant to the course. Remember to ABC it: Every Activity has to Benefit the Course 2

3 Where to start? Gathering all the information you need to write a good personal statement does take time. The UCAS website has some useful guides that will guide you through the process: Statement timeline gives good clear guidance on how and when to start researching and gathering the information you need to write your statement. Statement mind map gives a detailed summary of all the preparation questions you should ask yourself and what to include. Statement worksheet a worksheet to help you think about the information you could include. How to structure it? There s no right or wrong way to write your statement. However a good balance of information would be 70% academic/ course related and 30% other activities/ information. But remember to ABC everything that you write. A suggested structure could be: Section 1: Why you are applying for the course. Make your opening statement something unique to you. This is the first thing that the admissions tutor will read, make them want to keep reading. What s your motivation? Why does the subject interest you? Where did the idea come from and how has it developed? What s your understanding of the course? Show you ve done some research on the course content. Section 2: Academic/ course related How have your current studies related to the course? Avoid simply repeating what qualifications you have studied or studying for. Talk instead about a specific module, unit, assignment you completed that really interested you and relates to the course. If you have any relevant work experience, paid or voluntary, talk about it here. Section 3: About you, outside your studies/college Talk about any hobbies, interests, social activities that relate to your course and make you a good candidate. Include any positions of responsibility and any achievements that you are proud of. Section 4: Sum it all up 3

4 The technicalities You can enter up to 4,000 characters, including spaces or 47 lines of text, including blank lines, whichever comes first. That s roughly 600 words. You do not have to use all the space provided. You can only write one personal statement so it will be used for all choices. Try not to mention a university or college by name. It cannot be changed if you apply for a different place later. If you are applying for different courses/ subjects, try and identify common themes and skills. It must be your own work and not copied from another source UCAS will pick it up. Last year 4% of students applying through UCAS got caught by their anti-plagiarism software. Top tips Don t leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important information will probably be left out. Do expect to produce several drafts before being totally happy. But 3 or 4 should be plenty don t get obsessed and end up sending it in late. Do check university and college prospectuses, websites and course Entry Profiles on UCAS. They usually tell you what they are looking for in their students and what qualifications or experience you ll need for the course. These will give you some ideas about what to include in your statement. Do ask admissions tutors at open days what they want to see on a personal statement. Do create a list of your ideas, information to include, questions to answer before attempting to write the real thing. Do avoid repetition, don t repeat things listed elsewhere the form e.g. qualifications. Don t go for the sympathy vote, it won t work. Do be enthusiastic but have a sense of humility and not be overly boastful. Do be yourself and write in your own voice. Don t lie - if you exaggerate you may get caught out at interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement. Don t ramble or waffle. Do elaborate and makes examples relevant. If you make a point like I enjoy tennis, try and provide some context and show what you have learnt e.g. I play badminton regularly in a club that plays in local competitions. I take responsibility for organising some of the social activities and fundraising events. Fitting in all these activities while keeping up with my academic studies demands good time management. 4

5 Don t feel that you need to use elaborate language you aren t confident with. They may question you on your language and expect you to use it at interview. Do use current, topical issues relevant to subject and course (s) to show you have interest and up to date knowledge. Don t over use quotes, equations or poems. If you do make sure they are relevant and pertinent to the content and don t over do it. Do keep a copy Do make sure you are familiar with it if you have to go for an interview. They will ask you questions about it. And remember to ABC everything that you write about. Don t let grammatical errors spoil your statement. Do use your best English. Don t rely on a spellchecker as it will not pick up everything - proof read as many times as possible. Do write your statement on Word first and then copy and paste into UCAS. Do ask people you trust and respect for feedback but don t ask too many people as you will probably get confused. Do give yourself plenty of time before the relevant UCAS deadline. After you have completed your personal statement, your application will be forwarded to your referee. They need to complete a reference before your application can be sent to UCAS. 5

6 Here s a good example from a City College Norwich student applying for a nursing degree. She had 2 appointments with one of the Advice Shop s Adviser who supported her in writing her personal statement. She got interviews at 4 out of 5 o fher choices and has accepted a place at her first choice, UEA doing a BSc in Adult Nursing Nursing is a profession in which you never stop learning. I have always wanted a career rather than just a job where every day provides challenging yet rewarding learning experiences which can allow me to build on my skills and knowledge for my entire working life. In the summer of 2010, I applied to volunteer in a local care home. At this point I had no previous experience of working with older people and did not know what to expect. While working as a volunteer, I spent a lot of time assisting the activities co-ordinator with a range of different tasks including fitness, pottery and reminiscence. By helping with these activities, I was able to build on my interpersonal skills which enabled me to learn to relate to older people. I believe that the ability to develop communication skills, build relationships and gain trust with people who are vulnerable is an important quality to have as a nurse. I continued volunteering at Brooklands Care Home once a week until I became eligible to start bank work in March Through this experience, by working as a member of a team, I have learnt basic nursing care skills, including manual handling and follow risk assessments. While working as a care assistant, I have discovered the importance of delivering holistic care. The idea of holistic care highlights the need to see the person in the patient and focus on a person s emotional, social and spiritual needs as well as their physical needs in order to give good quality care. While working with other carers, I soon realised the intensity of the pressures to work quickly and efficiently. I believe it is important that the pressures of heavy workloads and the need to operate efficiently should not compromise the quality of care provided to the patient. However, in reality I have discovered that because of the amount of physical care needed, the workload can often be a challenge and it is therefore important that holistic care is not overlooked. While delivering personal care, I always try to treat people with kindness and understanding in order to make them feel valued, taking into account important nursing concepts such as compassion, respect and dignity. While working in the care home and on placements, I have found it rewarding to be able to apply into practice the skills I have learnt in class as part of my BTEC National Diploma in health and social care which included units such as: Anatomy and Physiology, Public Health, Communication and complementary therapies. Also, I have had the opportunity to work and care for different people with a range of needs including children and adults with learning difficulties. 6

7 I feel that being able to work in a range of different environments is an important quality to develop when studying nursing in order to be adaptable and therefore meet the needs of a variety of patients. I often read the Student experiences in the real world of nursing: Starting out articles in the Nursing Standard as I believe they are a real insight into the lives of student nurses, confirming my ambition to study this profession. The articles also inspire me to reflect on my own experiences when both working in the care home and at college placements, enabling me to gain further knowledge and understanding in my abilities as a carer and hopefully in the future as a student nurse. In my spare time, I have taught myself how to play the guitar and keyboard. I entered the school talent show in my last year of studying GCSE s and won first place, which is an achievement I will be forever proud of! I feel that performing musically has helped improve my confidence as an individual and enable me to develop a work/life balance, which I believe is important to have in any career. My work experience and academic studies together, have provided me with a solid foundation to make the step up to higher education, allowing me to apply my current knowledge to a practical degree and a future career in nursing. This is why it s such a good personal statement: Her first paragraph immediately tells the reader what she is applying for and why, it really grabs your attention and makes you want to keep reading. She talks in detail about the specific skills she learnt from her voluntary work and more general issues relevant to nursing such as the importance of holistic care and building relationships. It s only near the end does she talk about achievements in music. She has used these activities to demonstrate what a good student she will make- how her confidence has improved and has developed a work/life balance. 100% of her statement all relates to the course applied for she has ABC-ed everything. Through her reading, she demonstrates that she is up to date with current issues. 7

8 And don t forget you can always pop into the Advice Shop for quick questions and answers or you can make a 1:1 appointment for in depth advice and guidance including: Further and higher education courses Career paths and employment prospects Support writing your UCAS personal statement We are open: Term time Monday Wednesday 8.30am 6pm Thursday 8.30am 7pm Friday 8.30am 5pm Holidays Monday Friday 8.30am 5pm If you have any questions or would like further information, contact The Advice Shop on Information correct at time of print October 2013

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