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Five things to do now to boost your personal statement

Struggling to find something to say in your personal statement? Here are five simple things you can do to boost your experience, skills and confidence.

Hit a mental block writing your personal statement? Rather than regretting those hours you've spent playing Call of Duty (when you could have been doing something a little more Ucas application-friendly...), pick yourself up and try one of the below ideas to generate some useful experience you can refer to. 

Before you hit submit, check that you've included these essentials - as opposed to these throwaways - in your personal statement.

1. Get involved at school

Speak to friends and teachers to see what you might be able to get involved in as part of your school or college community, or try your school’s newsletter, intranet and noticeboards. This could be anything from a student council rep or prefect, to a position of responsibility in a club you're part of, mentoring younger students or helping out at events.

Remember: to make it count on your Ucas application, you need to be able to reflect critically on your experience, not simply list that you did it. What skills have you developed? What did you achieve? How does this help to illustrate that you're a strong applicant for the course?

2. Pick up new skills (fast)

Are there any supplementary skills you could add to your arsenal to make you a stronger applicant for a course? Don't take on something completely new for the sake of it, or venture too far from your existing interests; but extending your subject knowledge into a new avenue can be beneficial.

If you're applying to a computer science course, for instance, try getting to grips with the principles of a new coding language, or get yourself along to an university taster lecture to get a new take on a subject you're familiar with (or perhaps one you're not!).

3. Reframe your current experience

Are you applying to a business course but have more experience in drama and theatre than corporate organisations? Your experience isn't redundant if you're able to reflect on how the skills you developed relate back to the university subject you're applying to.

It's about how you explain this experience in your personal statement. In the example above, a business applicant with experience in musical theatre can talk about how they have extensive experience working in a group, working to a deadline (or showtime); and communicating material in a convincing manner.

Framed properly, an experience which isn't directly related to the field you're applying to could make an admissions tutor sit up and take notice.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is a good opportunity to show some initiative and gain new skills, fast; these can include mentoring, event organisation, project-planning, working in a team and more. Plus, it's a noble pursuit that you should get lots out of.

Are there any issues which you rant about regularly, or have a particular passion for? See what related local events or groups are around you and get involved in making a change.

You'd be surprised just how many volunteering opportunities pop up when you begin looking; from activities attached to local schools and hospitals to religious, sporting and other community events, you're bound to find something near you.

5. Get reading

Get ahead by educating yourself about the field you're applying to, above and beyond what you're learning in your sixth form studies. Research on university websites or speak to your subject teacher about any must-read books or texts designed to bridge the gap between your current and degree-level studies.

Plus, there are thousands of specialist blogs, websites, Reddit subreddits, YouTube channels and Twitter handles you could follow, to kill time and further connect with a subject. Pick a few to follow to get a comprehensive overview, keep up on the latest news and gain different perspectives. You never know; something you watch or listen to might be a useful example to refer to in your personal statement (or pop into your head if your mind goes blank in a university interview).

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    Some final things to consider

    • At this point you shouldn't really be scrambling around to find opportunities for experience and skills to put in your personal statement. Be confident in the experiences you've gained to date - it's about finding ways to make your experience and achievements relevant to the courses you're applying to, by reflecting what you've learned or gained from it.
    • ​If you continue to find yourself feeling unenthusiastic at this stage, have a serious think about your chosen options - go back and revisit the reasons you're applying to this subject.

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