How to write your personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say
Feeling boxed in by personal statement writer's block? Give your statement a boost with these quick tips
Your personal statement is central to your uni application. It's your chance to talk directly to the universities you've selected; to tell them what you want to study there and why.
So, yep, pressure. This is an important document and - worse still - you've got to fill it with a hefty 47 lines of information about yourself.
For some people, that's an exercise in deciding what to cut out, but for many of us it presents the challenge of thinking up enough worthwhile stuff to include.
But you can do it. You just need to think about your experience and your aims in the right way.
Is it the right course?
Start from the top. Are you definitely aiming for the right course? If you're struggling to explain why you love a certain subject, maybe there's a reason for that.
"If someone can't write a paragraph or two about why the subject they want to study interests them, then perhaps they should reconsider whether the course is for them," says TSR personal statement adviser SlowlorisIncognito.
You're still at the application stage here, you've got every opportunity to rethink the course you'll apply for. Going to uni is a big step; take the time to think about it clearly.
Once you've picked a course that you feel genuinely enthusiastic about, that whole 'why I want to study this subject' part of your personal statement is going to become a whole lot easier to tackle.
So you've picked a course you love, now you need to make your enthusiasm clear.
Admissions staff aren't expecting to read a 47-line love letter to computer science, but you do need to show you're not just planning to turn up for the jollies.
"Make sure you really get across your reasoning for wanting to study the course," says Phil O’Neil, UK recruitment officer, Staffordshire University.
"Yes it’s a personal statement, and you’re writing about yourself, but expressing your desire for the course is essential – why do you want to study it?"
Need some help? Root around for relevant stuff online. For instance, TED talks cover a range of subjects in bite-sized lectures - ideal for digging out a quick talking point.
Or how about starting a blog about your subject? You won't want to include long extracts and links, but writing a bit about the topics you've covered is a great way to show your interest.
Offline, you could look at joining a club or society at college or school. It's never too late to join and you'll quickly get some useful experience for your statement. Or check whether local universities are running open lectures. A quick line about the last lecture you attended and what it taught you would be perfect for showing your excitement about learning beyond A-level.
Don't be afraid to talk about yourself
"It’s an odd thing to talk about yourself," says Naomi Mackrill, outreach officer, University of Gloucestershire. "But don’t make assumptions about what an admissions tutor knows about you.
"Those things that make you different are what they need to know. They make you who you are, so tell us about them."
This is your personal statement, it's not an essay on why you think physics/English/geography is great. What you want to do is make yourself stand out as someone who is genuinely interested in your subject and who will be a good fit at your chosen university.
Sound challenging? Start with a blank sheet of paper and make a list. Write down everything that you can think of about yourself: your hobbies, your interests, things you've done, lessons you've particularly enjoyed, books you've read...all that stuff.
Don't filter anything at this stage - just write it all down whether it seems immediately relevant or not.
Once you've got a page full of notes about yourself, pick out a handful of the best. Three or four things will do. You can now weave these into your statement to elevate it from the generic to the truly personal.
Ali Cooper, admissions manager at Bucks New University, suggests a similar technique. "Draw a mind map with ‘About Me’ in the centre and then list everything around it," she says.
"Turn these facts into sentences, so volunteering or shop work taught you how to be punctual, to listen to customers and be organised - all of which you can relate to university."
You don't have to send off the very first thing you write. In fact, you definitely shouldn't.
Give yourself plenty of time to write your personal statement so that, once you do have a first draft, you can show it to your teacher or tutor. By doing this, you get to tap into all of their experience; they'll probably have helped hundreds of students like you through the uni application process in the past.
Their feedback will give you a roadmap of what you need to do with your personal statement; where you need to expand something, where you need to take something out. Maybe your conclusion is amazing, but your opening paragraph is rubbish. Who would you rather have work that out: your teacher, or the admissions tutor at your favourite university?