What UCAS Has to Say "This is your chance to tell the universities and colleges you have chosen why you are applying, and why they should want you as a student." This is what the official UCAS website says about a personal statement. It also promises "In many cases, applicants are not interviewed, so this may be your only chance to make the case for your admission." The last academic year has seen a record rise in applications, despite a fee hike of £3,000.
Given the emphasis laid by UCAS on the personal statement and the pivotal role it plays in granting admissions, thousands of students would be scouring the internet in search of a perfect personal statement once again as their sixth form exams get over. Many of them will not pay attention to the fact that this 'perfect' and tailor-made statement does not exist, despite what the sites may say to lure them in. The very purpose of the personal statement is to grant a voice to the individual, and it fails if it is reduced to a matter of copy and paste. The Ingredients What should go into a personal statement to make it sound, sincere and set it apart from a false one? The first factor is, of course, originality. If the admission officer recognises a set pattern or can see evidence of copy-paste, the application would be rejected. So if you really want to get in there, you will have to say so, and sound like yourself.
As a UCAS spokesman pointed out recently, while speaking on this issue, they are not on the look-out for brilliant students, but rather those who seem to have a genuine passion for their subject matter. This is something that varies from person to person because all of us have different ways of expressing ourselves. The next requirement is clarity. UCAS officers are not on the look-out for Shakespeare. But they would appreciate it if the statement is purposeful, direct and written in simple, crisp English.
To achieve this, the purpose should first be clear in the mind of the applicant himself, and then communication will not be a bar anymore. There is also the matter of grammar. A student about to enter higher education is really not expected to make the kind of mistakes that a school kid would. Grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors are not digested well by admission officers anywhere. The fourth important factor is that elusive thing known as a personal touch. It is a better idea to illustrate the statement with incidents from your life than Sir Isaac Newton's, even if you are deeply interested in studying about gravity.
This is where the personal statement begins to stand out, and an honestly interested student stands apart from the rest. After all these, comes the style. It is a fact that the officer has to read a lot of entries and probably gets bored by his job. A statement with an eye-catching style would almost unfailingly work. Short, idiomatic sentences with a bit of humour are usually a good combination.
Too many quotes are not welcomed; the university prefers to hear you rather than the most famous novelist of your time or the greatest scientist. One can read up samples from the net, and it is actually suggested, but please do not copy these - you are calling in more trouble in the hope of saving yourself the trouble of writing the statement. Anything that does not play on these lines is a bad statement and will not work out. Specificity Just like each person needs a separate statement, so does each subject. And in the case of certain universities, the same customisation is needed. Oxford, East England, and Glasgow are very different as universities.
They have different foci, and their policies aren't the same either. It is best to design separate approaches for the top Oxbridge group, since each university has made the effort to stand apart and create its own identity. As for subjects, needless to say, a chemistry student and a fine arts student cannot possibly sound the same. Within a specialisation, a veterinary surgeon and a student of medicine would also have separate statements. Even if you do share your friend's interests, hobbies and inspirations, it is best not to share the personal statement.
A specific approach towards a subject, with a justifiable interest in specialisation, but the ability and openness to change one's decision as part of the learning process ? this is a summary of what an admission officer is looking for. This part of the statement is tricky and has to be handled with a sense of balance. A Warning UCAS had commissioned CFL Software Development to do a survey of personal statements before the 15th October deadline in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science applications for Oxbridge universities.
The findings ? one-twentieth had copied from a free website and the same sample statement. Since they had blithely used the same sentences, they were easily caught. As the deadline drew nearer, the number of these copied applications increased. Most of it came as a conclusion to the statement or in the section where the candidate needs to state the reasons for taking up the subject. The warning ? UCAS has decided to double the size of its fraudulent applications verification unit. So, if you are on the look-out for that perfect personal statement, search your own mind first.
James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you are a UK or Overseas student applying for a place in a UK University, to stand out from the thousands of others, it is essential to have striking Personal Statement, for more information and professional guidance, see http://www.personal-statement.co.uk