Be clear in your choice of the courses you wish to apply for. A starting point in to your choice of subject/s to study should always be ‘what are you good at’? People tend to enjoy what they find makes sense – if it’s a slog it should be a no-brainer not to continue. Most students will have a favourite subject and it is worth exploring new alternatives that open-up at university. History buffs might go for international relations, chemistry whizzes for toxicology. Think outside the box, as you might come across courses that you have never even heard of previously. Create a shortlist of courses/universities/colleges. Go to the open days. Think about course modules, facilities, location and career opportunities.
Then of course the other key question apart from the choice of course is how to approach the application, and the personal statement. Most schools offer support for this, but parents should be aware of what will be required. Things to avoid are: pompous clichés, made up scenarios, fraught analysis of books you’ve never read, or worse, those from the curriculum. What all universities want to see in principal are three things: does the student have the academic ability to study this subject, do they have the motivation to do so, and do they understand what the subject is?
Your personal statement should focus on the positives, so avoid irrelevant information (some applicants feel obliged to mention everything they have done in their life). Do watch out for typos and spelling errors!
This 4000-character document might seem daunting but it is one of the main pieces of supporting evidence to help you with your university application. For many this can make the difference between successfully securing a place at a chosen university or missing out.
As soon as you search for tips on writing personal statements online you are faced with a barrage of ideas, tricks and suggestions.
One chance to impress
There is only one main theme that must be adhered to above all others. The personal statement should be a true reflection of YOU. This is the only chance (unless you are invited for interview) to demonstrate why the university you are applying for wants you above any other candidate with the same academic grades.
Here are five further recommendations that we make to ensure that your personal statement stands out.
Personal statement tips
- Ensure that most the personal statement is about your academic interests and how those relate to not only the course but what you might want to do in the future. Look at the course prospectus and the areas of research that the lead professors study and see what common interests you have.
- Write about any out of school activities that you have pursued that are in direct relation to your chosen degree subject. If you are looking at medicine have you done any relevant work experience? If you are pursuing archaeology have you been to a dig site?
- Include a paragraph about your other achievements and interests but keep this brief and make it your penultimate paragraph. Leadership positions, membership of clubs both inside and outside of school and other achievements are all relevant but do not wax lyrical about them. The university just wants to see that you have other interests outside of the purely academic and that you might want to contribute to wider university life.
- Read the books you put on your personal statement and visit the museum or gallery that might be linked to your future study.
- Get ahead of the game and start writing. It will take several drafts to get a strong personal statement and inevitably you will receive different direction from whomever you ask for advice. By starting early, you will put yourself in the best position to make your application stand out when applications open this September.
This article Natallia Patsaluyonak, Director of Family Services, Gabbitas, part of our team of education consultants, first appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of School Report magazine