We've rounded up the best personal statement techniques, tools, and resources to help write strong personal statements; there is no perfect formula for this but here are some tips that many academics say helps make a student stand out.
Do you need help with:
- Beginning and concluding a personal statement? Try the necklace approach.
- First drafts? Use the personal statement tool
- Talking about their skills, experiences and interests in the right way? Encourage show, don't tell and give them personal statement examples
- Cutting out unnecessary information? Apply the so what? rule or the waffle detector
1. A good opening line
The opening of a personal statement sets the tone for the rest of the essay. It is key that you make yourself stand out and make the reader curious about the rest of the essay. Click this link for UCAS' advice for good opening personal statement ideas.
2. A strong first draft: UCAS Personal statement tool
The personal statement tool helps students create that tricky first draft. Although it is not a set template is help with useful tips and tricks for structuring your personal statement and making sure you include a range of different points.
How can you help as a teacher: Introduce your students to our tool and talk briefly about what they might include in each section. Encourage them to split it into different topics per paragraph so they don't get overloaded with information. They can then come back to you with their first draft to tidy up together. That way they can identify gaps and fill these in the meantime through work experience, volunteering, personal projects and similar activities. If lots of students are struggling on one question, you could cover that in further lessons, whether that’s making the most of what they’ve done or how to get work experience.
3. Don't show and tell
If your students learn just one thing about writing their personal statement, it should be don’t tell admissions tutors that you’re a great candidate, show them why.
How can you help: Ask your class to contribute ideas about what they think the university admissions tutor is looking for in a prospective student. Hardworking? Committed? Motivated? Then, get them to write an example of how they demonstrate this attribute and to share it with the class. If they get stuck, they might pick up ideas from their classmates and realise that they do have a concrete example.
4. Look at examples of good statements
Having examples of personal statements can be really powerful in understanding what a strong personal statement actually looks like. Emphasise the 'personal' in their personal statement and that examples like these are for inspiration and guidance, not copying and pasting. Alternatively, show them some bad examples (or even ask them to write their own and explain why they’re not quite right).
5. Don't waffle: The waffling detector
For the purposes of a university application, waffle includes, but is not limited to, stilted vocabulary, overuse of the word ‘passion’ and, the big one: rhetorical questions.
Ways teachers can help: Create some waffley personal statements (or find them on the web). Get students to draw a waffle on a piece of paper. Read out the statement and get students to raise their paper waffle in the air when their ‘waffle detector gland’ is set off. Then discuss the waffle, and how it could be improved.
Alternatively, chat with our current students who will be able to share this information with you and any other course-related queries.
Or book onto one of our Open Days or Course Advice Days to find out more and speak with the team.
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