Personal statements & applying to uni

Personal statements: top ways to sell yourself

By Rebecca Hughes (Digital content producer, Which? University) - 17 May 2014

Source: University of Southampton

Finding it hard to sell yourself to admissions tutors in your personal statement? You’re not alone. Get started here, with some student and university pointers on giving your statement the perfect pitch.

There's more advice on personal statement writing to take a look at on Which? University, too - from how to generate ideas for your first draft to the dos and don'ts of writing your personal statement.

First, here's what universities say about ‘selling yourself’ in personal statements. 

1. Give evidence to support your examples

Admission tutors themselves reveal more personal statement dos and don'ts in our video... 
 

2. Be specific

Give evidence and give specific details. A sentence such as 'I’m an outgoing, confident person with excellent communication skills.' is a vague, unproven statement with no evidence. But a specific statement about an experience can give evidence that you have these qualities. For example, 'I got through to the finals of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge in Hackney in June 2010, giving an improvised speech on race and immigration issue to an audience of 200 people' provides real evidence of communication skills. University College London | University Of London

3. Highlight your 'wow' factor

Make sure you try to include a 'wow factor' – what is special about you? Try to make your statement stand out from the crowd. University Of Huddersfield

4. Lead with your strongest 'selling' points

Don't fall into the trap of telling a story of your life from secondary school through to the final year of university. Lead with your strongest 'selling points' and put the most impressive information at the start of each paragraph. University Of Manchester


And here are some top 'selling yourself' personal statement pointers from current university students...

5. Start small

The whole process of being engaging and selling yourself was hard. My tip is to start with basic notes and then expand on them:

e.g. 'I work at my local newsagent' > learned skills of negotiation, customer communication etc. First Year Life Sciences Student | Coventry University

6. Look over your academic reports

I'd like to think of myself as quite modest and hence found it difficult to sell myself in my personal statement. Written school reports can be quite handy here, where your teacher has listed your positives in class. Second Year Pharmacy Student | University Of Bath

7.Explain why your experience is relevant

It was quite difficult to use the right language and to come up with something original in order to sell yourself. My advice would be to make sure you explain why everything you have done is relevant to the course you are applying for, and to try and take a bit of a different angle instead of just saying 'I want to study X because it's interesting'. Second Year German Student | University Of Warwick

8. Talk to teachers

I think it's always difficult to write about yourself and try and sell yourself to a potential university. I think the best thing to do is ask your teachers what they think you do best, and make a list of things you've enjoyed in and out of school. Third Year Psychology Student | Queen Margaret University - Edinburgh

9. Get friends' feedback

I found it hard to write my personal statement in order to sell myself in a good way but to not make it sound like I was bragging. The one-to-one advice I received from my class tutor was a really good way of understanding how to improve it - but however embarrassing it feels do let friends read it too, and ask them to give you some constructive advice. First Year Psychology Student | University Of Surrey

10. Sell what you've got

There's no need to be too over the top with the whole 'selling yourself' thing. Just be honest and focus on your assets. Ask for a second (and third) opinion - my dad and school teachers really helped me with writing my personal statement. Second Year Pharmacy Student | University Of Bath


Many universities provide tips on exactly what they’re looking for on their website – a lot even do subject-specific personal statement advice, so have a look before you start writing. 

For more advice on how to sell yourself to admissions tutors, take a look at our articles on what to include in your personal statement and top 10 things not to include, for pet hates to steer well clear of.
 

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