How to write a ‘stand out’ Personal Statement


It’s that time of year! University applications are being considered and Personal Statements can make the difference of an offer or not. Knowing what to write and how to sell yourself isn’t easy but Clare Duffield has years of experience and has outlined for parents all the do’s and don’ts


Covid-19 has obviously caused considerable challenges for this year’s upper sixth pupils and university admission teams, however, schools and UCAS appear to be treating university applications for 2021 as ‘normal’ in terms of submissions. So that means the personal statement (PS) season is looming for those considering a degree. Having advised candidates on PSs for a number of years, I also have some advice for parents.

A PS is particular to each individual and should, in my view, be respected as such in terms of content and construction. As the drafting process progresses the candidate should feel empowered and develop a strong sense of ownership of this unique crafted document. The task is for them to tell ‘their story’ of the path which has led them to choose a particular university course and to provide the evidence to illustrate that individual story. The ultimate goal is to convince Admissions that they are a worthy candidate for consideration for that particular course, hopefully generating an offer. For some it will be fairly straight forward, for others who, genuinely and understandably might be not completely convinced themselves by their choice, it can be a daunting prospect.

The task is for them to tell ‘their story’ of the path which has led them to choose a particular university course and to provide the evidence to illustrate that individual story.

In the process parents can be a help and, in my experience, also a hinderance. Undoubtedly, it is tempting to hover over your young adult at every stage, telling them exactly what content they should include, correcting their grammar and suggesting structural changes but it is usually abundantly clear when a statement has been ‘doctored’; this will not help the candidate in any way.

My advice is to be positively involved when required, encouraging ideas and discussing concepts rather than policing deadlines. We all remember when we felt that our parents knew nothing and wanted to pull away from their influence and guidance on issues like this. Experience tells me this is still the case so please don’t take it personally. In short, provide supportive, motivating commentary rather than letting the personal statement become a battle of wills.

My advice is to be positively involved when required, encouraging ideas and discussing concepts rather than policing deadlines.


  • Patience is key. Statements usually take 6-8 drafts to get close to a final product with the first draft being the toughest. My top tips for young adults are:
  • Look closely at the course/s detail and think “How can I prove this is what I really want to study?” All courses differ in detail.
  • Read, listen to and watch relevant material over the summer.
  • Build a selection of academic material, personal experiences and other relevant information to demonstrate your suitability.
  • Remember it’s not what you have done it’s what your experiences and learning has done for you that is important.

A comprehensive draft by September will make you feel confident and ready to deal with potentially different and often conflicting opinions offered by tutors, subject teachers, careers departments etc.

Start early, research widely, think broadly and be patient in the drafting. All these elements will result in a more impactful and convincing personal statement.


My consultancy focus is helping individuals to define their story and work out how best to communicate it, at whatever age and stage.  This covers a range of scenarios including an individual approach to secondary school interview practise, personal statements, compiling marketing tools ie cvs and covering emails for internships/job hunting or later in life when applying for jobs.

My expertise comes from being a communications consultant in both the financial and corporate worlds having worked in the city and internationally for 20 years honing my skills on story definition and the process of delivering it appropriately for the target audience. clareduffield4@icloud.com

 



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