My Personal Statement Failings

From this September, I’ll be starting to apply for the university that I’ll attend either in 2018 or 2019.

WAIT, back up a second – I’ll be applying to university. That’s a scary enough thought in itself, without taking into account the fact that I’m terrible at making decisions about my future. I know what course I want to do but the university I want to go to? Not so much. I haven’t gone to enough open days; I haven’t done enough research and now I’m starting to panic about campuses, finance, making the “correct” decision and being happy.

The thing is, with universities you have to write a personal statement which is part of your application. It goes to the 5 unis you apply to so you don’t write individual statements for each university. Luckily, my course will be the same for each university but if you apply for different courses at different unis, you need to balance carefully what you put in and not mention specifics.

You’d think it would be easy to write one, right, especially for a subject which prioritises organisation of ideas in a coherent form? No. I’ve got the summer to write a few drafts but today, in school, we’re starting to think and write about it: we had a talk this morning about what to include and afterwards, we were in a classroom brainstorming for 3 hours. I’ve already been brainstorming in my head but when I tried to write stuff down, I realised something. I really don’t have much to write.

There are some questions on a sheet we were given and I’m going to do my best at answering them here. Not, of course, in a literary style; I have little energy to do such a thing at the moment. That “literary style” will be saved for when I actually get to writing the thing. These are just my initial “ideas”, hahaha, like I have any of them!

Why are you applying for your chosen course?
I really like the idea of combining the creativity and originality of creative writing with the innovative analysis of texts based on the times in which they are set and the interpretations which you can bring forth from them. You can also discuss your ideas with others – something I’m not so good at but that I enjoy (I won’t put that bit in my Personal Statement though). Also, I like how they compliment each other a lot in that you can transfer skills read in books, poetry and scripts into your own writing. Ooh, this is one thing I can talk about!

Why does this subject interest you?
I really love reading but that’s a generic answer. The Canterbury Tales as well as Jane Eyre got me interested in literature, along with my beautiful human being of a previous English teacher. Last Friday when I (sneakily) went into his lesson as he teaches my friend, they were looking at Chaucer and I literally squealed. I’ll be honest, my blog really got me interested in writing as a profession and something which I adored. I presume here I can talk about how much my blog inspired me to create new ideas without filling up the character count too much.

Include evidence to show that you understand what’s required to study the course.
With English degrees, you can get an average of 6 hours a week of contact with lecturers or professors. That means that you’ll have to do a lot of independent study, as well as doing a lot of wider reading which is part of it. I’m also guessing that you’ll have to research historical context; because I’m fascinated with that and the effect it has on writer’s technique, presentation of characters and the attitude towards certain groups, this will be fine. I think I’ll mention my interest in doing further reading in the statement because it actually shows I can vaguely do something… Maybe.

Why do you think you’re suitable for the course?
What I’d like to say: “Lol hi I’m A MESS I’d be shiiit; don’t accept me!”
What I will actually say and should believe: I’m able to work effectively in a group which is useful as we’ll be evaluating the work of others; I can… Um… I have a lot of enthusiasm… But everyone will put that! NO! I am able to effectively combine the disciplines of a writer and a reader – nooo, that’s too pretentious and awful! I’ll just think about that later when I feel more positively towards myself.

Do you have any particular skills and experience that will help you to succeed on the course?
Summer schools? NAAAAH oops… Same with Uni taster days oh god. However, wider reading and writing for a magazine may help, such as a school newspaper I want to set up (although it was my friend’s idea but shhh).

Do your current or previous studies relate to the course you have chosen?
Well I’d bloody hope so, seeming as I’m studying English Literature at A-Level. History will inform me of wider historical contextualisation of the themes. However, don’t they already know what subjects I do? The woman this morning told us not to write about the subjects because of character count and it’s needless information… Right then. That’s another one to go on the “think about later” pile, along with the 100000 other things.

Have you taken part in any other activities which demonstrate your interest in the course?
NO. The blog? Still nope; that’s not specific to the course itself. I wish I wasn’t so lazy and that I’d applied for summer courses early.

Personal Skills
There’s an A B C we were told about which is basically a model which lists the activities, the benefits of it and how it relates to your course. Here we go – or not!
Volunteering: punctuality which means I will be good at deadlines; organising people which means that I have good skills when working with people; encouraging others which means that I will be self-motivated for independent study as well as spreading positivity (yes, that doesn’t relate but it’s a good thing!).
Blogging: I’ve done it for 2 years which shows I have dedication, meaning that I’ll stick to an idea or a project; I’m able to share ideas with a large audience which will be helpful in group discussions when our work is being evaluated; I’ve become more open to ideas within society, meaning that I’m able to take in new interpretations and expand on my own thoughts.

And… That’s it. Oops.

At the end of this, I realise that I had more to write than I thought. On the other hand, there are still a lot more things I could do and could have done. However, there’s still time for me to do things. Speaking to a school in September will further add skills to my meagre list.

Perhaps I’m mildly angry that I don’t have much to say; I don’t have any leadership roles in the school and have little responsibility therefore. I’m what you may term average but that just means I need to find qualities and experiences within myself that make me unique. Even if you think you’re dull as hell, no one is utterly, 100% boring. Start listing skills you know you have first and don’t panic; there is still time.

Are you writing a Personal Statement at the moment or have you written one and got offers? What are your best tips? Any help would be really appreciated, especially because there will be plenty of people in the same position as me who don’t know what to write. I think this can benefit all of us.

From Elm πŸ™‚

51 thoughts on “My Personal Statement Failings

  1. Oh gosh personal statement struggles – I feel you! Honestly, I think I’m on like my fifth or sixth draft,but it’s taking me that long to get something that sounds vaguely acceptable. When we had to do brainstorming a few weeks ago I couldn’t think of anything at first and thought I had nothing to write about at all,but once I started writing I had loads – too much – stuff so it ended up being really long and wordy but my sister was really helpful in helping me to pick out which bits are most important in showing my interest. I think getting someone else to read through is a great idea if you’re stuck! Apparently I was writing mine too much like a blog post πŸ˜‚ I don’t really have many extracurricular stuff to talk about, other than visiting the Welsh Assembly and running a mock election at scouts (I want to study French and Politics) but my college advised us to dedicate a whole paragraph to our current a levels and how they link to the degree which was a good idea for me as I could talk about how studying the effect the fall of communism in Cuba had an effect on Cuba’s culture (a Geography case study) and link it to French government controls on film and radio to protect French culture, which showed my interest and ability to make links between different topics. And if you’re​ doing a subject which is less relevant, you can just say what skills you got from it like essay writing, organisation etc. You can also talk about year 10 work experience if you gained some skills from it that will be relevant, and blogging is definitely something you should talk about as it links clearly to your course! We got told like three different structures at college, which was really confusing as everyone was telling us to include different things, but I think in the end I went with introduction, how my a levels link, extra curricular stuff and conclusion. Hope that helped a bit!

    • Ohhhh Em it really did; thank you!!! πŸ™‚ I just get so nervous because I never know what to include!!! Teachers are already telling us different things to do but sometimes I NEED a clear structure so I can manipulate it to suit my own style. I don’t have many extracurricular things to talk about either 😦 but the more I think on it, the more I can think to write.

      You ran a mock election? That’s amazing and fits so well with your course! I really like what you said about the A-level skills too πŸ™‚ you’re great at this. I’ve already asked my dad to help me but if you get a random, shrieking DM then it’ll be me panicking as usual! Thanks so much for your help. What I find difficult is thinking of relevant things: once I have those, I can link them easily. I’m a wordy person and so I’ll need to cut it down a fair bit – I’ll probably write mine more like a blog post too! πŸ˜€

      Ahh, so much to include!!

      • You’re very welcome πŸ™‚ same – it’s almost annoying how flexible your personal statement structure can be, like you I need to have a set way of doing it then work my way through it. Yep, haha, hopefully you’re dad can help, but if not I’m always here haha. No worries πŸ™‚ Yeah, at first I couldn’t think of anything relevant, but even if it’s a something smal it’s still worth writing about πŸ™‚

        You got this Elm!!

  2. Wow you are very negative about yourself… I’d be happy to read any drafts you produce, and would do my best to help improve them. Y not look around to find some already existing statements from other people? You could then use them to help with the structure of yours, and u may find that you share some of their qualities as a person xx

    • You’re so right actually πŸ™‚ I’ve got the very bad tendency to be very negative about myself 😦 but thank you – your encouragement really really helps!! I’ll be sure to send you a draft, once it’s done xx

  3. My tip would be to start with a sentence that is completely unique to you with why you want to do the course – so many statements start the same and it must get pretty tiring. also as you’re applying for English lit and creative writing, some universities are likely to ask for a creative writing portfolio which includes some of your experience in writing (a few poems, short stories, etc.) – UEA does this. so maybe prepare yourself in case that pops up πŸ™‚

    • You’re going to be such a help for me because you’re doing the same course πŸ™‚ thanks so much for the tips! I didn’t think about a unique opening line; I’ll have to do some brainstorming! What kind of things did you include in your portfolio? Xx

  4. I don’t remember if I had to write a personol statement, however I only went to college (I didn’t finish but that’s not the point. xD ) I did however have to write like this essay like thing explaining why I wanted to take the courses and why I thought I was a good fit. So I dunno if I have any tips cause I didn’t have to like shorten my reasoning and wrote like an entire legit essay on why I wanted to study my course. It took me a couple weeks I think when it finally all came together, BUT it ended up being one of my favorite essays and pieces of work I ever did. So happy I still have a saved copy of it around even though I will never use it again.

    My advice is write from your heart and make it passionate. I believe the personal statement is what tells them you are unique, it is a very important part in your application because it sets you out from the other students than just your name. Write as many drafts as you need or it takes. Find a great opening sentence and concentrate on your strengths or what you wish to accomplish with studying your course. I had my mom proof read my essay application because she is like good with those kind of things. If you have a teacher or anyone who is good with that stuff have them edit/read it.

    • YES, that’s such a great way of looking at things!! Thank you πŸ™‚ I’m so glad that you enjoyed writing about why you fit the course; I think the best thing to do would be enjoy what you write! πŸ™‚ I’ll just have to find people to proofread!! Thanks so much for the advice; it means a lot! xx

  5. We’re in the exact same position omg no. The thought of having to write my personal statement is currently stressing me out more than the thought of actually going to university…

      • Yep! Started filling in my UCAS last week and pretty much gave up as soon as I began and don’t even get me started on open days πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      • I want to sob 😦 our school had it in activities week – so the day before we’d gone and visited a university and I got back to school around 9 in the evening so the next day I was exhausted 😦 uuurghhh!

      • They’re sooo tiring! I tried to go to 3 in like a month and they were all at different ends of the country and now I. Am. Dead. If you haven’t book yours, book them as spread out as possible, you’ll thank yourself for it (unlike me who wanted to go and punch over keen past Abi in the face). πŸ’

    • Hehe it’s a combined course of english literature and creative writing! πŸ™‚ I’m so excited. This is probably a question I already know the answer to but forgot – what did you do after you left secondary school? πŸ™‚

  6. My school have started talking about personal statements with us too, it’s got me so stressed since I’m still not sure which course I want to do. I’ve also done literally nothing since bronze DofE in year 10 so my personal statement is going to be very short πŸ˜‚ good luck writing yours!

  7. I’m planning on doing English at uni and I’m attempting to write my personal statement but LOL I have no idea what I’m doing. Every single person is gonna sound the same, I want to be different but I have no idea how. Like I love a bit of Shakespeatr​e and Harry Potter is my fave, please accept me russel ​group unis xox hahaha!

  8. I find it so weird that all these grown up things are happening to us all like what can we just remain introverted millennials. I hope this all goes amazingly for you! They would be v silly not to accept you ❀

    • Awww shh but thank you!!! I hope I get somewhere. And ohh same I just want to be a child again ❀ I hate how we're expected to now know everything

  9. One tip I’d say is to think about not just why you enjoy your subject, but why the study of that subject could be considered fundamental to society. I remember a lot of people saying for me to show why history is so important to the world, to show that you can think wider than yourself and your own experiences, but I also found that it just made it easier to put your feelings into words. I do history, but my best friend does Literature & Creative Writing and we once had debate about which was more important, and she basically argued that studying literature is the only way to really understand other people. Your whole life you will just get your perspective on the world, but the study of literature enables you to experience life from other perspectives, and thus be able to appreciate and maybe help deal with the problems of other people in their daily lives. You might have other opinions though, of course. But definitely also show that you enjoy it! Overall, just be honest; you’ve chosen this subject for a reason, and so show them that you love it. (The key word being show, not tell.) Good luck! And enjoy writing about your passion.

    • Yes, that’s such a good way of approaching it!!! I do agree with you and your friend; I think that literature helps you to both understand the mind of the author and minds of the characters which are being portrayed. Through that, you can understand historical and social context which can inform your opinions of the world and people around you. Thanks for the motivation; I feel a lot better about the personal statement now. Sometimes, when we’re presented with so much information, it can get quite overwhelming because there are so many different things to take into account.
      Are you enjoying studying history by the way?

      • I’m glad you feel better about it! I forgot to say as well, that my first ‘draft’ for my personal statement was basically just a rambling about how much I loved history, and I just refined it using evidence, etc. and it took about 8 drafts! You’ll get there eventually πŸ™‚ I overthought it so much, but approaching it like an essay with a subtle PEE layout worked for me quite well.

        I am enjoying it, thank you, although not as much as I thought I would, unfortunately. But I think that my 2nd year modules will be a lot more suited to my style so hopefully it will be better.

        By the way, have you tried to email me? It’s honestly fine if you haven’t, I was only offering in case you did want to. But I’m so sorry if you have tried and I’ve just seemed rude and not responded, but I haven’t got anything so that’s why if you have tried to.

        I hope you’ve had a good start to the summer!

      • Ohh no I haven’t yet 😦 Sorry; I’ve been trying to deal with some weird emotions but I have your email in my address list so tomorrow, I’ll drop you a message!! I meant to ask you something about uni anyway. And aww, I hope it does get better!!

      • Aww I’m really sorry you haven’t been feeling great recently; I hope you feel better soon. Great, I look forward to hearing from you! πŸ™‚ I’m happy to answer anything I can. And thank you πŸ™‚

  10. I totally relate to your struggles! My schools have had a lot of speakers come in about personal statements and they said to really talk about things that will make you stand out and show your character πŸ™‚

  11. Writing personal statements/motivation letters, to me, are the hardest part of applications. You can’t just let your accomplishments speak for themselves, you actually need to market them in some way. The outline you have up there is already really good, so I’d say, write and rewrite πŸ™‚ Let someone you trust read through your statement before you send it.
    Best of luck with the uni hunting!

  12. Sounds like you’re off to a good start on your personal statement! I know exactly how you feel though-it can be hard to think of and write amazing things about yourselfπŸ™ˆgood luck though!xx

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