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PERSONAL STATEMENTS

The Personal Statement is an important part of your University application. It


will give each institution an idea of your personality, experience and ambitions.
It is easy to become embarrassed when writing about yourself. Some people
worry that they have never been a Captain or Secretary of anything. However, if
you can be positive about all the things you have done, this will enhance your
chances of success.
How to start
Starting is the hardest part, but here are some ideas that should make putting
pen to paper easier.
On a blank piece of paper make a list of things of things that you want to put in
your personal statement. It does not matter what order they are in - just
brainstorm! The list could include:
academic achievements to date;
reasons for applying for the course;
ambitions;
work experience;
hobbies and interests;
positions of responsibility held;

personality traits.

You will find that once you have started writing you will remember other
information that can be included.

Choose an order and re-write your list in that order, adding more detail. There is
no standard progression for paragraphs but you will find that a lot of statements
read in the following way:
course being studied,-reasons-for applying-for-the course and professional
ambitions,
relevant work experience and achievements;
other achievements;
hobbies, interests and personality

Improving a Personal Statement


Part One:
THE 'BEFORE' VERSION
The following student has written a Personal Statement to support an
application to read History. It is an early draft which needs improving.
I enjoy History lessons so I have decided to pursue the subject at degree level. At
university I look forward to examining a range of historical sources. I am
particularly interested in French history, and trips to France have broadened my
historical awareness.
As a school prefect I hold many responsibilities: organising and attending school
functions, delivering speeches to the school body, being an active member of the
school council, working effectively with other students. Having played in school
concerts with the keyboard orchestra when I was in year nine, I have recently
taken up piano lessons.
I am a keen sports player and I am a member of the school hockey team, netball
team, the athletics squad and the volleyball team, earning me the "Sports
Personality of the Year" award. I have taught information technology skills to

younger students and helped a particular student to overcome language difficulties.


I have organised sports days and Christmas parties for the elderly; and written,
directed and performed a series of short plays.
I have always enjoyed reading hut more recently my `A' level studies have
enabled me to explore foreign literature.
Currently, I am involved in the European Youth Parliament Competition in which
I will be representing my school at a residential debating conference. The winner
will represent the United Kingdom in Cyprus. This venture enhanced my general
knowledge (specifically of genetic engineering and drug legislation).

Part Two
THE 'AFTER' VERSION
The following student has improved their Personal Statement from
the earlier draft.
I have always been fascinated by the past, beginning with childhood interests in
time-travel and mythology. This interest continued with student exchanges to France
and Germany which gave me the opportunity to study 18th century French history
and dictatorship and to widen my historical scope. A trip to France, where I studied
issues relating to the World Wars, confirmed my interest in History and my decision
to pursue the subject at degree level. At University I look forward to analysing varied
interpretations of history and the original sources upon which they are based.
As a school prefect I have held many responsibilities such as organising school
events, delivering speeches, and participating actively on the school council. This
experience has taught me to use my own initiative, and developed my skills of public
speaking and diplomacy. I also involve myself fully with the school music
performances. Having played in concerts with the keyboard orchestra, l have recently
taken up piano lessons and gained a wider awareness of music, especially of
Debussy and romanticism.
Playing in various school sports teams has earned me several awards including that
of "Sports Personality of the Year" and taught me the importance of communication,

teamwork and self-reliance. Organising a series of plays and other events for the
elderly was a fulfilling challenge. I also found that the experience of assisting
younger pupils with IT and language development extremely rewarding
I have always enjoyed reading, but more recently my A level studies have enabled
me to explore foreign literature. Brecht is particularly absorbing for his insight into
the way people attempt to overcome the horrors of war.
Currently I am helping to produce a film for European Student Travel Company
concerning the career opportunities for young people in Europe. Also, I represented
my school at a national selection conference for the European Youth Parliament. This
venture not only enhanced my general knowledge, but improved my teamwork,
language and debating skills, which will be particularly useful for my course at
university

Part Three:
The paragraph-by-paragraph analysis
The Personal Statement to read History has been broken down into a series
of paragraphs with the Before paragraph and the After (or improved
paragraph). Between these two paragraphs is an analysis of the strengths
and weaknesses.

PARAGRAPH 1
BEFORE
I enjoy History lessons so I have decided to pursue the subject at degree level. At
university, I look forward to examining a range of historical sources. I am particularly
interested in French history, and trips to France have broadened my historical awareness.

EVALUATION
Strengths
Does attempt to start with a reason- about the choice of degree
Each sentence tries to offer a different point

Weaknesses
A more insightful reason might be used to explain the choice of course
Could state what the student wants out of the degree
Could mention which areas of history are of interest
Words such as history are used twice in one sentence
The last sentence does not make sense as it does not link the two separate
points

AFTER
I have always been fascinated by the past, beginning with childhood interests in time
travel and mythology. This interest continued with student exchanges to France and
Germany which gave me the opportunity to study 18th century French history and
dictatorship and to widen my historical scope. A trip to France, where I studied issues
relating to the World Wars confirmed my interest in History and my decision to pursue
the subject at degree level. At University I look forward to analysing varied
interpretations of history and the original sources upon which they are based.

PARAGRAPH 2
BEFORE
As a school prefect I hold many responsibilities: organising and attending school
functions, delivering speeches to the school; body being an active member of the school
council, and working effectively with other students. Having played in school concerts
with the keyboard orchestra when I was in year nine, I have recently taken up piano
lessons.

EVALUATION
Strengths
Being in a position of responsibility is useful to mention (i.e. a school prefect)
Examples are provided about the prefect duties

Provides an image of a student with varied interests (eg. music)


Quite concise about the musical experience
Weaknesses
No mention of the skills gained from being a school prefect
Problem in relating school prefect to musical experience: it needs a phrase to
link the two together
Omit the reference to Year Nine as it seems that the experience was too long
ago to be relevant given the more recent responsibilities and experiences
Has learning the piano really sold the student?

AFTER
"As a school prefect I have held many responsibilities such as organising school events,
delivering speeches, and participating actively on the school council. This experience has
taught me to use my own initiative, and developed my skills of public speaking and
diplomacy. I also involve myself fully with the school music performances. Having
played in concerts with the keyboard orchestra, I have recently taken up piano lessons
and gained a wider awareness of music, especially of Debussy and romanticism."

PARAGRAPH 3
BEFORE
I am a keen sports player and I am a member of the school hockey team; netball team,
the athletics squad and the volleyball team, earning me the Sports Personality of the
Year award. I have taught information technology skills to younger students and helped
a particular student to overcome language difficulties. I have organised sports days and
Christmas parties for the elderly, and written, directed and performed a series of short
plays.

EVALUATION
Strengths
Presents an image of an active and well-rounded individual not just academic
Valuable to include a reference to IT at some stage
Assisting other people presents another aspect of the students personality

Weaknesses
Too many sentences begin the same way: they nearly all start with I
Useful to mention the skills gained from participating in team sports
Student is unlikely to helped a child to completely overcome language
difficulties
Could be more concise about work in the theatre

AFTER
Playing in various school teams has earned me several awards including that of Sports
Personality of the Year and taught me the importance of communication, teamwork and
self-reliance. Organising series of plays and other events for the elderly was a fulfilling
challenge. I also found that the experience of assisting younger pupils with IT and
language development was extremely rewarding.

PARAGRAPH 4
BEFORE
I

have always enjoyed reading but more recently my A level studies have enabled me to
explore foreign literature.

EVALUATION
Strength
If reading is enjoyable then it is useful to state this in the Personal Statemen
Weakness

There is a need to state what particular areas the student enjoys and why

AFTER
I

have always enjoyed reading, but more recently my A level studies have enabled me to
explore foreign literature. Brecht is particularly absorbing for his insight into the way
people attempt to overcome the horrors of war.

KEY TERMS
The following advice should help you write a Personal Statement which is easy to
read and is professionally written. Read the following advice to help you connect
your sentences and paragraphs together as well as help you vary the language
you use in the Personal Statement.

IN ADDITION
In addition to my work experience I have also gained valuable skills throughout my
voluntary work.

AS WELL AS
As well as my involvement in team games I am also keen on playing individual
competitive sport..

REINFORCE
My involvement in the school voluntary programme has reinforced my decision to
study a degree in Nursing.

STRENGTHEN
My decision to study a degree in Economics has been strengthened by my enjoyment
and success in my A level course.

FURTHER MORE
Further more, I am particularly suited to a degree in Chemistry because of my love of
the subject and my keen interest to further my knowledge of the subject.

BESIDES
Besides my involvement with sports I am also involved in amateur
dramatics.

NOT TO MENTION
Being involved in the voluntary work programme not to mention my work
experience has provided an opportunity to work with a diverse range of people.

MORE RECENTLY
Although I have taken part in classical music concerts, more recently I have decided
to learn to play the piano.

ENABLED ME
The opportunity to play in the school football team enabled me to work as part of a
team.

PROVIDED ME
The work experience provided me with an opportunity to work with a range of
people.

OPPORTUNITY TO
The opportunity to work with people was provided by my work experience.

ADVICE ABOUT USING I


Beginning many sentences with I is very easy to do, especially
when writing about yourself. Instead, try to create varied sentences
with a range of alternative starting points:

DO NOT WRITE

INSTEAD WRITE

I am Captain of the Hockey Team

Being a Captain of the Hockey team ...

I enjoy playing sport

Having enjoyed playing football ...

I am studying A levels in

My A level subjects have ...

I enjoy socialising __

Socialising is important to me because ...

I have taken part in

Taking part in ...

I have gained a number of skills

The skills I have gained from ...