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The ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement

Dodge these common blunders and you'll be well on your way to creating a great uni application

Writing your personal statement is a challenge that many students struggle with. 

Here are 10 common personal statement mistakes that students make, as well as some tips for making sure you're on the right track. 

Visit the personal statement forum and the university applications forum on The Student Room to see what other students are saying about the process. 

1. Telling a story

Many personal statements can take on the appearance of the applicant's life story. While some background information won't hurt, the best statements will only include experiences directly related to their chosen course.

Generally, you should focus on recent study from the last few years. Anything older than that should only be included if it's relevant or provides important context.

2. Repeating information already contained in your application

It can be hard to fit everything you want to say into just 4,000 characters. So don't waste space on things that are already included elsewhere in your application, such as your A-level subjects or previous grades.

Remember that the admissions tutor can see your whole application, so there's no need to repeat yourself. 

3. Spending too long discussing personal issues

Many applicants mention personal issues in their statement, like health and bereavement. This is relevant as it affects studying, but it might be better covered in your reference instead.

However, if you want to include this in your personal statement, it's worth keeping it short. One or two sentences is enough.

4. Making simple grammatical errors

Students are often so focused on the experiences they're writing about that they forget to check their grammar.

Have a go at reading your statement aloud to make sure it flows well. For bonus points, get a friend or parent to go over it as well.

5. Failing to demonstrate capability of university-level study

Your personal statement is great opportunity to demonstrate that you can study in a university style.

For example, you could discuss a topic you learned about and then explain how you did further independent study (like reading a book chapter, an article or completing an online course) to expand your knowledge.

6. Using clichés 

Avoid overused phrases like 'my passion for history began...' or 'I have been interested in geography since a young age'.

Admissions tutors read a ton of personal statements and you want to stand out. So get creative with your sentences, but make sure not to go off-topic. 

7. Not going into enough detail about experiences

It can be tempting to fill your personal statement with loads of different experiences to show how well-rounded and dedicated you are. But the character limit will stop you from going into any detail.

Instead, aim to give two or three in-depth experiences with examples and links to the course.

8. Telling the admissions tutor things they already know

Admissions tutors are often experts in their field. While it's tempting to include facts, you aren't there to tell them about the subject.

It's much better to talk about yourself and why you'd be a great candidate.

9. Losing sight of what the personal statement is actually for

Essentially, your personal statement should explain why you want to study the course at university and also demonstrate your ability to complete the degree to a high standard.

Make sure everything you write connects with these areas.

10. Forgetting that the personal statement should be personal

Advice can be conflicting - whether it's from online sources, teachers or tutors. You might be told something that you don't think suits your personality or your statement, and it's fine to disagree with it.

Everyone's got different opinions, but the main thing is that you're happy with your personal statement.


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