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How to make your personal statement stand out, admissions tutors reveal

Admissions tutors are busy, which means you have to grab their attention quickly. Here, they reveal how you can do just that in your personal statement...

'We receive more than 1,500 applications. It's like jungle warfare... Don't give us any flannel. Tell us what makes you stand out.'

The strong consensus from admissions tutors is that the best personal statements that stand out are where students are interesting, reflective, unique, relevant and, you guessed it, personal not by using gimmicks. As a law admissions tutor explained succinctly: 'Off-the-wall won’t work.’ 

Or as another tutor put it: ‘We want you to be different, but not TOO different.’ In fact, this was something tutors said they specifically didn't want to see in a personal statement.

How to make your personal statement unique and stand out

Here are some more tips straight from the mouths of admissions tutors to help your personal statement stand out (in the right way)...

1. Personal statement dos and don'ts

Our student reporter headed to a string of universities to ask admissions tutors point blank what they look for. This is what they said...

Watch now: Personal statement dos and don'ts
 
 

2. Starting your personal statement

Starting to write your personal statement but not sure where to even begin? It happens. But introducing why exactly you want to apply for the course and what you can bring will give your statement some clout right from the off. 

Write a strong opening sentence, making it clear why you have applied to study a particular course. Lee Hennessy | Deputy Head Of Recruitment - Admissions At University Of Bath

3. Personal statement formats done right

You want your personal statement to be easy to read. Think of it like you would any essay – don't write in one big block of text, not in long, meandering sentences. 

Don’t write it in one long paragraph! Write well-structured paragraphs, so that experience, additional qualification, aspirations etc are clearly-defined. Karen Pichlmann | Head Of Admissions - Bournemouth University



Personal statement builder | Which? University

 

4. Don’t let someone else write or rewrite it

Remember, this is a personal statement. It has to reflect your opinions, personality and reasons for choosing the course. 

Write it yourself – and ensure that it reflects your own personality. By all means ask others to proof read it or critique it, but make sure that you are the one to make any changes. Over-editing just results in any individuality being lost. Angela Milln | Director Of Student Recruitment - University Of Bristol

 

5. Use examples

Why should admissions tutors choose you? Telling them is one thing, but showing them the reasons behind it is better. 

When you are talking about your strengths and qualities, make sure you use examples to highlight your claims whenever appropriate. Graham Hackney | Senior Student Recruitment Officer - Uclan

 

6. Let your personality in

You’re an interesting person, so why shouldn’t your personal statement be interesting too? If you’ve written something that you don’t think you really mean, or isn’t in your own words, it’ll be more obvious than you think. 

Personal statements should be original, not just in terms of using your own words and avoiding plagiarising someone else’s work, but to make sure that what you write reflects who you are as an individual. Andrew Hood | Admissions Manager At University Of South Wales


#Nofilter - how to keep it honest in your personal statement


7. Demonstrate a real interest in the subject

It sounds obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. What is it that attracts you to the subject? A real interest and passion will shine through.

It is really important to focus a significant amount of the statement on your chosen subject and to detail what you have read or participated in to evidence a genuine interest in it. For example, by reading around the subject area, talking to someone in the relevant profession or gaining some relevant work experience. Nathalie Mortimer | Head Of Uk Student Recruitment - University Of Nottingham

 

8. Why should we give you a place on the course? 

Every admissions tutor will be looking to answer this question. So, of course, personality, as we’ve mentioned, is important., But be careful of adding in superfluous content. Does your admissions tutor really need to know you play football every week? Unless it’s relevant, don’t include it. 

Always remember to answer the question ‘why should we give you a place on the course?’ rather than just writing about yourself – every bit of the personal statement should be answering this question. Fran Bonner And Becci Hubbard | Community Outreach Team - Nottingham Trent University



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    9. Going beyond your qualifications

    What else have you been doing apart from studying your subject? Anything that shows what else you’ve done to further your interest and knowledge of your subject is good. 

    Emphasise what you have been doing to develop your awareness and understanding of your chosen subject above and beyond the requirements of your A-level, BTEC or International Baccalaureate course. Mike Nicholson | Director Of Undergraduate Admissions - University Of Oxford


    10. Relevant work experience – and what you learned

    Work experience is a great way to demonstrate an understanding of your subject beyond the classroom. Did your work experience give you hands-on experience that really excited you about the subject? Talk about it!

    If you are applying for a strictly vocational degree like veterinary medicine, the importance of reflecting on your work experience can’t be stressed highly enough. Jim Cannon | Widening Participation Development Officer - Royal Veterinary College University Of London

    11. Write naturally

    Use your own voice. Students often lack the confidence to say things the way they naturally would and end up writing a bunch of bland clichés. Reveal your personality and your own opinions in the statement, not what you think we want to read. Chris Fuller | Schools And Colleges Liaison Officer - University Of Southampton


    12. Remember – explain the Action, the Benefit, and relevance to the Course

    Yes, you may have got your ABCs sorted a while ago, but this ABC rule will help you out now… keep in mind, and it will help keep your statement structured and useful. 

    Ensure that you follow the ABC rule and keep it course-related and relevant. Claire Little | Home/eu Student Recruitment Officer - University Of Surrey


    Learn more about the ABC rule in our guide to writing your personal statement.

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