How to write the perfect personal statement

Advice from Cardiff Sixth Form College

Every student applying to the university needs to write a personal statement as part of the application process. Although top grades are the key criteria for Russell Group universities when shortlisting candidates, the personal statement is also a very important factor in the admissions decision and is often read several times.

 

What makes a good personal statement

The principal of Cardiff Sixth Form College, Gareth Collier states: “It is vital that students demonstrate an interest in the subject they are applying for and also state clear evidence of how they have gone above and beyond the A-Level syllabus to find out more about the subject they want to study.  In addition, a wealth of experiences showing immersion in the subject with an intelligent discussion of these experiences and the insight gained from them is far more important than just listing achievements.  

There is no set formula for writing a personal statement. However, all students should start with a clear motivation for applying for the particular subject they want to study. Listing work experience and volunteering are also extremely important as well as any wider reading a student has undertaken. As well as a demonstration of on and offline research. 

Criteria for a good personal statement

What universities are really looking for is that the student has a genuine interest in the subject they want to study, that they have an understanding about what studying it entails, and that they have shown initiative in finding out more.  An only exception is a small number of medical schools which place less importance on the personal statement as they rely on interviews to assess potential students.”

There are several things students can do to augment their personal statements even before they start a sixth form course. 

Many UK students for example have participated in a wide number of extra-curricular activities, from which they can demonstrate qualities such as; leadership and teamwork whereas often students from Hong Kong sometimes have less experience in these areas. 

Top Tips at Sixth Form Level

The top tips at the Sixth Form level include:

  • Participating in college life and the local community through leadership positions.
  • Volunteering and participating in trips.
  • Entering competitions.
  • Attending subject workshops and masterclasses
  • Listening to public university lectures as well as reflecting on experiences and wider reading throughout the AS year. 
  • Keeping written notes and asking teachers to read personal statements and make comments can be invaluable.

Hayley Bendle, Head of Careers at Cardiff Sixth Form College who has looked at hundreds of excellent personal statements adds a note of caution: “It is so important to keep your personal statement personal” she said.  Encouraging students to stay away from copying directly from the internet as some students do. There is no set formula or plan, so your experiences must guide what you write.

What is important is being analytical and evaluative rather than purely descriptive. Many students make the mistake of listing their achievements, or the fabulous learning experiences. She further states it is best to write a statement explaining the experiences and how these have shaped their decision to apply for a particular course.  Remember, the process of reflection is far more valuable to the admissions tutor who is looking at your application.”

Benefits of study at Cardiff Sixth Form College

At Cardiff Sixth Form College every student works closely with a personal tutor to help them with their personal statement. The College puts aside two weeks in August for the optional UCAS course, just before the start of the second year to really focus on personal statement writing. As well as giving time and dedication required away from academic studies.

Concludes Hayley: “Remember that personal statement reading is purely personal. No matter how many people you show it to everyone will have a different option. Writing 50 drafts of a personal statement and showing it to ten different people can lead to further confusion and also dissatisfaction. It is best to limit the number of people you show it to.”

Read Also [The benefits of a truly international education in the UK]

Every year in July, Cardiff Sixth Form College offers a two-week summer school for students getting into top Universities. The summer school will be for students of age 15 to 18. Students will also receive guidance on; personal statement writing, interview technique, admission test as well as presentation skills.

For more information on both studying GCSEs and A-Levels at Cardiff Sixth Form College or to attend the two-week summer program, visit: www.ccoex.com

 

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