When I used to work as a Student Ambassador we sat through an excellent presentation on how to make your University application personal statement really memorable. The presentation, given by The University of Huddersfield’s Jodie Gonzalez of the Schools and Colleges Liaison Team gave the following tips:
- Statement must be clear and concise – there is a maximum size of 47 lines, 4,000 characters (including spaces)
- Precision and relevance is important, especially if you’ve applied for several different courses, one statement must fit all course choices as each institution will see the same personal statement
- Don’t mention individual institutions by name, saying “I really want to study at Westminster” will make the other Universities who receive your application know they are not your first choice
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar should be perfect. get it proofread!
- Be honest and truthful, but cast your experiences in a good light, there is no point saying “I have a tendency to fall asleep in class” – no one will benefit from this kind of honesty!
- Make sure the statement is your own work and avoid generic statements such as “I like to socialise” – really? who doesn’t?
Surprisingly, seven years later I still have a copy of my own personal statement. I have pasted it below as it is a fairly good example of something personal which reflected my personality and interests at the time (though I can’t promise it’s free from spelling or grammatical errors!)
Written September 2005 (wow, now I feel old!)
I have chosen Language and Linguistics because of a life long love of the English language and a desire to learn about a subject that has interested me for many years, and will hopefully lead to a job in teaching at sixth form or university level. I became interested specifically in linguistics before starting my AS level course after reading ‘Mother Tongue’ by Bill Bryson. Since then I have read several other books on linguistics including ‘The Adventure of English’ by Melvyn Bragg, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss and ‘The English Language’ by David Crystal. The AS level course has given me a keen interest in etymology, grammar and child language acquisition, and I have always been a dedicated reader and writer.
However, my love of language is not limited solely to English, I also love German and have kept in regular contact with two German pen-friends for over two years, to whom I write in German. This, and my two German exchange trips, have not only given me an insight into German culture, but also enabled me to discover interesting linguistic parallels between German and English.
My positive attitude to work and independent nature make me a good candidate for university. I have worked in a German and an English primary school, improving my teamwork, communication skills and organisation greatly. Two German exchange trips have given me the confidence to communicate with strangers. It also required me to keep up to date with schoolwork whilst taking on the challenge of living with a foreign family. I currently work part-time for four hours weekly promoting shop floor sales and serving customers at Woolworths. As a trustworthy and friendly person, I am also a valuable babysitter, which I do for an average five hours per week. This has improved my ability to remain calm in a crisis, to handle responsibility and, above all, to be polite and punctual.
Despite a demanding workload, I took an extra course in Spanish for the duration of my GCSEs, working after school once a week. I managed to achieve a grade C. I have also participated twice in TES Newsday, which involved writing a newspaper in one day. I had to both write and edit articles. Due to my good word-processing skills I also had to format most of the pages and teach others on the team how to use Microsoft Word and Publisher effectively. I thoroughly enjoyed the buzz of working under pressure.
I enjoy a variety of activities such as guitar playing and art, but in my spare time reading is my biggest passion; I am a fan of Fantasy/Sci-Fi such as Phillip Pullman, David Eddings and Terry Pratchett, because books of this kind are often thought provoking, both scientifically and sometimes politically. I particularly enjoyed Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, which I found challenged my ideas about people, love and religion. On the other hand, I also enjoy reading classics such as Bronte and Dickens, not only because they are so well written, but because I also enjoy discovering differences in the lexis and syntax between these and more modern novels. The historical content also fascinates me. I am dedicated to reading and memorising poems, and have built up quite a repertoire! I find poems help me to relax in times of stress or boredom.
After leaving school I feel I will be ready for the bigger challenge of studying a subject in depth, I have much to offer the university and I know that I will gain much from the opportunities the university has to offer me. As I am willing to give this experience one hundred percent, I feel I will gain not only subject knowledge but also a real sense of achievement and many valuable life skills.
You may notice from this that I really didn’t have many hobbies, but what I hope I have managed to show is that even if what you have essentially done for the last 12/13 years is go to school, you can still manage to sound like an interesting person! In the interest of being honest, my ‘guitar playing’ lasted all of two months, and my ‘repertoire’ of memorised poems never numbered more than six – nevertheless, the inclusion of these activities (hopefully) made me a more interesting and diverse candidate.