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Five top tips to make your personal statement shine

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Zoe Lundy

Your Personal Statement is a testament to your passion and commitment towards your chosen course, and as such, it needs to be convincing! Here are our five top tips on getting started and getting ahead.

1. Make sure you can clearly articulate exactly how you’ve come to choose the course you’re applying for.

This may sound obvious, but this initial part of the statement is notoriously difficult, and is often met with vague explanations by students about being ‘interested’, or ‘inspired’, but lacking in any real substance. To illustrate what we mean, here is a first class level opener, and a comparatively weak one. You should be able to tell which is which!

Example 1:

‘As the daughter of a Pediatric Oncologist and a GP, it is true to say that the practice of medicine has been influential over me from an early age. Accompanying my mother to work over the years, I noticed how her young patients would light up immediately when they entered the consultation room. Her reassuring body language and obvious compassion were clearly a comfort to the children she treated. This early encounter with the devastating effects that cancer can have on a patient and their families led me later to read into its molecular mechanisms. The exquisite complexity of cell signaling and its dangerous derailment completely captivated me, and it is the marriage of science and humanity that draw me so strongly to this career.’

Example 2:

‘After attaching to hospitals in the UK, and Hong Kong, my ambition to study medicine has been enhanced. I became more curious about the value of not only mental capacity, but human connection in life-changing contexts. I have always been passionate about biology and find the application of science in my career very appealing. I have always known that I wanted to be a Doctor because it will be so rewarding, and can’t see myself doing any other job.’

2. Make absolutely certain that your Personal Statement is packed with evidence of your interest.

Depending on your particular course, relevant evidence may include work experience, wider reading, attending lectures and conferences, after school societies and any other way in which you have explored various aspects of your subject. When choosing material to read – read what you are actually interested in – you may end up discussing it in your interview, and if it was read duress, this lack of excitement will be very obvious.

3. Don’t be negative! Unless….

…you have made the best of a bad situation. For example – don’t say “Not being able to get work experience because of coronavirus has made exploring Engineering really hard” This is negative and communicates nothing but frustration.

Say, ‘The difficulty in obtaining in person work experience in the current climate inspired me to look online, and in completing the Young Engineers of the Future course run by Birmingham University I taught myself that pragmatic solutions can be found even in the most challenging of circumstances.’

4. Think about the skill set your course will expect you to have developed prior to starting, and when you have worked to develop these.

For example, skills like teamwork and leadership are relevant in pretty much every career you can think of, while more specific ones such as manual dexterity and performing under pressure are both directly applicable to Medicine. You can use extra curricular activities such as sports or music, and if you have achieved highly in these then that’s even better!

5. Finally, just get started.

This is the biggest hurdle – usually because it feels really weird writing about how great you are, and students expect to have something that sounds really good after the first draft. Just get something down – then it can be molded step by step into something brilliant.

Zoe Lundy is a biology and chemistry teacher who has worked for Oxford Tutorial College and Oxford International College. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford with a PhD in biochemistry. She has helped many students achieve their dreams of getting into oxbridge and other top universities around the world. You can find out more at Oxbridge Guru.

You can access the UCAS site here.

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