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How to write your personal statement in an evening

Stay focused with our tips to help you write your personal statement quickly

You've never really experienced procrastination until you've tried to write a university personal statement.

In theory, it should be so simple. Just write a few paragraphs about who you are, and why any university should be delighted to welcome you into its fold.

The reality tends to be a bit different, as your introduction ties you up in knots once again, and doing anything else seems preferable to carrying on any further.

So your PS doesn't get done, and then it doesn't get done again, and before you know it your whole uni application is being held up. Which is what this article is for. Follow the steps here and you really can rattle off a well-crafted personal statement in an evening. Start at 5pm and by nine you can be kicking back on the sofa feeling smug and relaxed.

Sound good? Let's get to it.

Keep your personal statement focused on answering the right questions (5 minutes)

Two questions. That's all. Memorise them, scribble them on a sticky note or tattoo them on your eyelids (not really). Just whatever you do, stay focused on:
  • Why do you want to do the course you've picked?
  • Why are you well suited to it?
Keep these in mind while you write: good answers to these questions are the golden ticket to writing the kind of personal statement that admissions officers want to see.

Check the university websites (30 minutes)

Know your target. Before you write a single solitary word, load up the websites for the universities you’re applying to. A lot of them have admissions statements for their courses, which often include the kind of information they want to see in your personal statement.

Make some (very) rough notes (45 minutes)

This bit should be fun. Fire up your laptop: you're going to start typing without worrying about what you're writing. Ignore your spelling, grammar, word count...none of that stuff matters at this point, these notes are strictly for your eyes only. The only thing that matters is that you understand them. Try to write at least a page or two.

First of all, write down why you want to do the course – this can be a real brain splurge, just get out anything and everything that could possibly answer this question.

Next, write down anything course-relevant about yourself: hobbies, interests, books you’ve read, things you’ve done – anything along those lines.

Make these examples as specific as possible. Even if it feels like what you’re writing doesn’t have anything to do with the course, it might help jog your memory to something that is relevant.

If you found admissions statements for your chosen unis in the previous step, jot down a few examples of things you’ve done that cover these, too.

Don’t focus any time on your qualifications and grades; these get covered elsewhere on your application.

Get writing (two hours)

Now take those notes and start putting them into a logical order. Sometimes an introduction can be the toughest part to write, so don’t let yourself get stuck agonising over it. Instead, just start writing whichever section feels the most straightforward. And it might even be easier to write your opening paragraph once you can see everything else written down in black and white.

Remember that you’re not writing an essay, so keep it snappy. You want to get straight to the point without wasting any words on flowery language.

Avoid being generic – the admissions officers want to learn more about you, and being specific will give your personality (and passion for your subject) a better chance to shine. If you mention particular qualities or skills you have, use your notes to back them up with specific examples.

Most importantly, think back to those two questions that we started with. Every single line you write should go towards answering one (or both) of them.

When you’re writing your conclusion, pull together all your key points and make sure you answer the question: why should you get a place on this course?

Check it over (25 minutes)

Once you’ve finished, read it over a couple of times to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes.

If you have the time, leave it for a day (or at least for an hour or two) before giving it a final check.

Take any feedback you can get from your teacher and let your parents take a look, too. Reading it out loud can also be helpful when it comes to spotting any sneaky errors.

Make sure it’s not too long (15 minutes)

Personal statements are limited to whichever is shorter of either 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines, and if you go over the limit your statement will be immediately cut off at that point. If you’re using line breaks between your paragraphs (and you definitely should do this), you’ll probably hit the line limit before the character one.

Some software like Microsoft Word won’t give you a character or line count that exactly matches Ucas, so you might want to check you haven’t gone over by copying your draft into the online Ucas form – just be careful not to accidentally hit send before you’re ready!

Need more detail? Read: how to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

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