You know what you want to say and how to order your material. Now put it into effective prose. Here are some ‘Do’s and ‘Don’ts.
• Do pay attention to the flow of ideas.
• Do ensure that your grammar is correct and that your spelling is accurate. Don’t just rely on spell-check – Admissions staff might be amused by an applicant who promises “I can bare anything I’m asked to” but they won’t be impressed.
• Do use a wide vocabulary (but avoid giving the impression you just swallowed a dictionary).
• Do include supportive detail.
• Do be positive about yourself and show real enthusiasm for and knowledge of your chosen subject area.
• Do use humour if you like, but use it sparingly. An admissions tutor might not share your sense of fun.
• Don’t use repetitive language (I like, I like, etc).
• Don’t use clichés.
• Don’t write things out as long lists. Short sentences are better.
• Don’t make unsupported claims for yourself. ‘I am the best student you will see all year’ doesn’t go down too well, unless you really can prove it!
• Don’t copy someone else’s Personal Statement or use something you find on the internet, or pay to get it done! UCAS use software to check every Personal Statement for plagiarism.
• Don’t make any mistakes in grammar and spelling.
• Don’t use slang/abbreviations etc.
• Don’t overdo the humour. You want to be taken seriously.
• Don’t spend ages describing things you did when you were six.
• Don’t repeat any information that can be gleaned elsewhere on the form – it is a waste of space.
Talk to your adviser about all the above, but don’t expect him or her to write the whole thing for you. It is important that the admissions tutor can ‘hear’ your authentic voice when reading your Personal Statement.
Show your first draft to people whose opinion you respect and ask for feedback. If the feedback makes sense, rewrite the statement! But don’t overdo this: it’s your statement after all (and remember the difference between a horse and a camel: a camel is a horse designed by committee).
Very few people get this section right first time. If you find yourself sweating blood over it you will be in good company, but don’t skimp on the effort. You will be lucky to get away with rewriting it only twice.