A powerful personal statement can turn a merely good application into an outstanding one. Conversely a bad one can turn an outstanding application into something decidedly average! A top class personal statement can make the difference between an offer and a rejection.
It is highly likely that the course you want to pursue will be oversubscribed. The aim is to receive an offer. The UCAS form should clearly lead the admissions tutor to that outcome - from the choice of institution to course choice, right grades to teacher reference and onward to personal statement. In short, it must all be congruent. An admissions tutor has hundreds, if not thousands, of application forms to read and make a decision on every year. You've no doubt seen the admissions statistics in the prospectus for your course - competitive describes it well. Your application form will get a maximum of 1 to 2 minutes eye-time. The window of opportunity to get an offer is slim so make the most of it.
The personal statement serves the same purpose that the covering letter does to the CV or an application for the job. It moves your application form beyond a mere and endless line of exam grades and 'A' level subjects by giving a narrative to them. A personal insight into your identity, motivations, values and passions. The statement should be clear, concise and lively. It should be composed of 3 parts - similar to a short essay - with a beginning, middle and an end. This structure ensures your statement flows. As a general rule of thumb, the split should be about 65%-35%, academic to non-academic.
1. Some subjects you may have chosen to do at university may not be taught at 'A' level or perhaps the degree has very different content, for example - philosophy. The 'Readers and Writers' series, 'A very short introduction' and 'Teach yourself' books are excellent. You start with these broad, introductory books, some topics will interest/strike you. You then look these up in the big detailed books. Why read War & Peace when you can read the abridged edition? Work smart.
2. Mould A level subjects. In History, we had a module requiring an independent research study. I was applying to read Economics & History so I did a study on inflation in 16th century England.
3. A lot of single honours courses are very oversubscribed. A joint-honours degree could increase your chances of getting a place, especially if the other half is slightly odd. Take a close look at statistics for previous years.
4. Ask a friend/someone independent, whose opinion you trust, to glance at your statement for 30 seconds - what is memorable? Which parts they are drawn to?
5. Be specific. Do not say I enjoyed x as that helps no-one - say why! What specifically about the experience did you like, learn from and how will it help you at university?
6. SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) must be impeccable. Ask for help, there is a lot available.
7. Be critical about yourself. Let us assume you applied for Anatomy at Bristol. The website says - 440 applicants for 44 places - so the question you should ask yourself is why should a tutor choose you over 9 others? What makes you so good? To assist you, honestly answer the questions in the main article. Think about the competition, what do they have that you don't? Once you've got that figured out, you can now take action to better them.
8. Every experience should be ABC - Approach it, Bridge it to yourself and then Convey it.