Step 4) Sequencing your personal statement

When you have finished using the mind maps found in (1), order your materials putting the most important and impressive paragraphs at the top of your personal statement draft, and the less vital ones further down. Non-academic activities will come afterwards (if you have room).

How much to write

The electronic application gives you room for 4,000 characters, which is roughly one side of A4 or 500 words. This includes spaces.

TOP TIP: If you have things that you would love to write in your personal statement but dont have the space, give it to your tutor and ask them to mention it in their academic reference. We call this a brag sheet (more to come on brag sheets later)

If you really want to irritate hard working admissions tutors by wasting their time, waffle and repeat yourself, waffle and repeat yourself, waffle and repeat yourself :) 

You want to impress the admissions tutors. This is your chance to impress them, so display your enthusiasm and knowledge in as much detail as you can. Be sure not to short-change yourself by writing more briefly than you need to if you have important things to say. 

How to compose...

Because there is no spell-check facility on the UCAS form, you would be wise to use Word to compose your draft. Later you can copy and paste your final version into the UCAS form.

... The opening

Ideally this should be arresting and original. Easier said than done!

The five most used personal statement openings (and therefore the ones you should avoid) are: 

  1. I have always...
  2. My interest...
  3. I would love to study...
  4. I have chosen...
  5. My decision to...

For a start that is less hackneyed and more fresh consider:

A: Describe the first time you realised that the subject was fascinating.

B: Using a relevant quotation

Don't stare at a blank page waiting for the perfect opening sentence to pop into your head, however... Push yourself to get your material written down, and often a beginning will reveal itself as you write. 

... The end

The conclusion is the last impression you make upon the reader and psychologically is very powerful.

These three ways can end a personal statement effectively:

  1. Summarise the whole personal statement and assert that the writer is capable and keen. This gets the job done, and although it is not particularly creative, most statements end this way.
  2. More imaginative and less repetitious writers may use the conclusion as a springboard for a new read that grows logically and coherently from what has been started in the personal statement. 
  3. Most satisfying and structurally impressive may be a circular structure to echo the very start of the personal statement and give the same idea a fresh direction and twist.