Hey guys, so it’s that time of year when schools/colleges/universities open applications for their courses. I don’t know about you guys but I have been applying for the next stage of my education and academic career. Yes, it’s stressful and requires a lot of thought – more on that in another post – but it’s also really important, when you know what you want to do with your life it’s easier to cope with the stress and to work hard for what you want regardless.
I decided to put this post together because everyone knows the most important thing, after your grades, that a school/college/university are looking at is your personal statement. I’m not an expert, I’m not a college professor or advisor but I can talk from personal knowledge/experience of writing my personal statement a couple of weeks ago and the things I did to help me think of what to write and how to word it. I also feel like there isn’t enough helpful tips out there that are written by fellow students – everything that you read is written by professional people that can tell you what schools look for in a personal statement, however, they can’t tell you what will help you with writing the thing even if you do know what’s supposed to go into it, if you know what I mean. So I decided to dedicate this post to telling you what helped me when writing my personal statement, again, I don’t have a lot of experience – it’s too early in the year to know if I’ve got any offers so I can’t tell you if my personal statement was good enough to get me any places but I want to do the best I can to making others lives easier.
Anyway, let’s get started.
TIP #1: My first tip is to get yourself in the right state of mind, it might sound crazy but you have to have the right state of mind. Your personal statement is literally about you, the only purpose it exists is to help teachers get to know you a bit before calling you into an interview. The state of mind I found helped me, and it sounds stupid, but it was a really big-headed state of mind – in your personal statement you’re showing off, that’s all it is, you’re showing off everything you’ve done and talking about why it was a good thing to do, what you learnt and what you thought about doing it. You have to approach your personal statement like one of this really over-the-top popular girls that you see in movies that think they rule the world (or at least the school) and they’re better than everybody – even if they turn out to be worse than everybody. You have to think what you’re writing is really impressive and that you’re really awesome and then you’ll come across as really confident and enthusiastic in your statement. What you don’t want is people reading your personal statement and thinking you sound really shy and nervous and not comfortable in talking about yourself and your own achievements, this brings me to my second tip…
TIP #2: Everything you’ve done has the potential to be an achievement, don’t just think about the academic things – don’t just talk about your grades or your predicted grades – talk about things you’ve enjoyed doing, activities you do because you enjoy them. Everything in your life that you’ve ever done with a passion is worth writing about as long as it’s relevant and you word it correctly, for example, I couldn’t write that I once spent two days of my life binge-watching Teen Wolf, because although I am hugely passionate about the show it doesn’t show that I have any skills, motivation, productivity etc. at all, it proves that I once wasted two whole days that I could have used to study or learn something new etc. on watching TV. You don’t want to go round writing that, but things like running, hiking, swimming, drama, music, dance, even if you’re not applying for a sporting course, drama course, music course or dance course, if you do these things in your spare time then mentioning it proves to the school/college/university that you are a well-rounded person with lots of interests and hobbies and you’re capable of finding things to do outside of a school environment and independently without the support of teachers/staff. Obviously don’t completely disregard any mention of studying, you should talk about that too, you should talk about your passion for you favourite subjects, you should talk about why you’ve applied to the course you have but in a clever way – don’t just write, ‘I have applied to these courses because’ talk about it without properly talking about it, which sounds confusing but what I mean is – if you’ve applied to do something in film talk about any experience you might have had in the film industry, whether you’ve made your own film or vlog, whether you have a blog where you review and analyse film, whatever it is make it sound interesting and impressive; don’t just say, ‘I really like watching films, I go to the cinema once a week’ make it sound relevant, make it sound more impressive and academic than it might actually be.
TIP #3 Following on from what I said above, everything you write needs to be exaggerated, I don’t mean lie and claim some things happened that didn’t actually happen – for example, don’t say ‘I was in a production of X play and got the starring role.’ mention the play if you were actually in a play but don’t lie and say you got the starring role if you didn’t. You can still exaggerate everything you do without needing to lie. For example, you could talk about the professional level of your director, you could talk about the feedback you got from the audience, you could talk about what it taught you about theatre – not just whilst performing on stage but in terms of set design, lighting, sound effects, props, make-up, costume etc. you don’t just have to mention things in a vague way, expand on it, exaggerate it. Everything has to be more detailed than you think but it also has to be written in a clever way that gives you the opportunity to expand on the things you need to expand on but you don’t go over your word/character count. Another thing that’s important when exaggerating and expanding on things is to know what are the right things to expand and exaggerate and what are probably okay with just briefly discussing. To do this you need to think about the school you’re applying to – if you went to their open day you might have heard a speech where they talked about what they were passionate about in their students, what the expected of them etc. if you didn’t go to their open day you might be able to get an idea by looking on their website or at the prospectus, or you could talk to a student that already goes there if you know one. For example, if your school is particularly well known for offering a particular subject such as sport, music or drama, even if you’re not applying to be on the course they’re well known for it’s obviously important to the school so if you have any experience in the particular subject such as you play with your local football team, you play piano, you are with a local youth theatre; what ever it is just mention it and expand on it a little so they know you could fit in with their school.
TIP #4: Pay attention to your spelling, grammar and punctuation. I know everyone tells you this and there isn’t a single article you will read that won’t mention this but it’s really important and I know it’s frustrating and I know sometimes it’s hard to understand why so much emphasis is put on it but once you’ve made the changes and you’ve turned your first draft into your final draft you’ll see the difference and it will be huge. You’ll go from thinking your personal statement ‘will do’ or is ‘good enough’ to thinking it couldn’t be more improved than that, you’ll think it’s perfect – that’s the big-headed personal statement writing person talking right now – but one of the most important things I found – when it came to language – in my personal statement was I tended to use the same word too many times in a paragraph, it sounds really picky but it really did make a difference when I changed the words. For example, I might have had the word ‘passionate’ in a paragraph too many times because I was talking about a thing or things that I was really passionate about and so used the word passionate to emphasis this, however, you don’t want to use the same word too many times because you don’t want to show that you have a small vocabulary – even if you do – it’s okay to use resources whilst writing your personal statement, you can use a dictionary or thesaurus to help you when thinking of words. But you have to make sure you don’t use the same word too many times in any paragraph. Of course you can use the same word more than once in the whole statement but try to avoid using it twice in one paragraph and try to avoid using the word in the next paragraph – it is really hard and sometimes you have to bend the rules simply because there aren’t any words that convey what you mean left, you have to re-use some you’ve already used.
TIP #5: My last tip is; once it’s done, leave it be. What I mean by this is don’t over think it, pay your personal statement enough attention that you can have it read amazingly after you’ve finished but don’t keep editing it or put off sending your application because you worry that maybe there’s something you could add or a different way you could word that one paragraph that would make it loads better, you have to accept that once you say it’s done it really is done. Another thing is, once you’ve sent off your application try not to think about it, don’t keep thinking – ‘what if my statement wasn’t good enough, what if I don’t get a place?’ because it will A) drive you crazy thinking about it all day long until you get an offer and B) it’s not productive, if need be you will just have to keep yourself busy so you don’t think about what’s going on with your application because once it’s been sent there is literally nothing left to be done about it. I know it’s insanely hard but really, don’t think about it. There are so many other useful things you could be doing or thinking about, the application whether you get in or not will sort itself out and will happen whether you think about it or not and the outcome isn’t likely to be more positive if you think about it for hours, what’s going to happen will happen either way. Save yourself the pain and upset and just get busy and wait until you get called in for an interview or get offered a place. I would suggest that if you’re worried, a way to distract yourself would be to study, as your grades are what will most likely confirm your place on a course anyway so that’s what you can do if you’re worried, study really hard and make it almost impossible that they could say no to you.
That’s all my tips for this post, sorry it was so long – I had a lot to say. I hope this was useful to those who are applying – or thinking of applying – to schools, colleges or universities in the coming months. Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments – I really enjoy reading your feedback! Make sure to give this post a like if you enjoyed it and follow me if you aren’t already to read more posts by me as soon as they’re published.
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That’s all for now!
Inspired Teen 🙂