Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Your Personal Statement


Personal Statement Mistakes

With only 4000 characters and the added pressure of revision and exams it can be easy to make mistakes in your personal statement. However, this is your only chance to make a good impression on admissions tutors and stand out against hundreds of other students with similar grades to yours.

By reading this guide you’ll be able to avoid the 10 most common mistakes students make when writing their personal statements:

#1 – Not making it personal

The clue is in the name really – “personal” statement means just that. The admissions tutors want to hear about you and what makes you the ideal candidate for the course.

Although we shouldn’t have to say it, this definitely means not plagiarising any of your personal statement from a friend or an example on the internet.

#2 – Wasting space with quotations

Even if you really love a famous quote, chances are you aren’t the only one, and you can bet your life that the admissions team will have read it thousands of times before.

4000 characters really isn’t a lot of space, so don’t waste it by quoting famous people, no matter how much the quote means to you.

#3 – Wasting space with lists

Another way to waste valuable space is to list things such as all of the books you’ve read on the subject or work experience placements you’ve done.

It’s much better to choose one or two things to discuss and reflect on instead of than squeezing in everything you’ve ever done.

#4 – Lying, exaggerating, or making sweeping claims

Your personal statement is meant to make you look good, but that only works if you’ve really done the things you say you have and you’ve got the evidence to prove it.

Saying “I have amazing leadership skills” is all very well, but you also need to demonstrate that by discussing your experiences which have developed those skills.

And don’t even think about bending the truth or outright lying. You never know when you’ll be found out!

#5 – Using clichés

Just like quotations, admissions tutors have heard all of the clichés before. They don’t want to hear that “I’ve been interested in Astrophysics since I was a small child” or “the economics of Modern China interested me from a young age”.

Not only do these clichés not really say a lot, but in some cases they can make you look a bit ridiculous. After all, is a toddler really going to have a burning interest in the economics of any country?

#6 – Using over-used words

It’s not just clichés you need to avoid, it’s over-used words in general.

“Passion” and “passionate” are two words which admissions tutors cite as being among the most over-used in personal statements, so find a way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a subject without resorting to saying you’re passionate about it.

#7 – Trying to be funny

Humour is very difficult to convey when you’re not face to face with someone and trying to be funny in your personal statement is a big risk. You want to be remembered for all the right reasons, not all the wrong ones.

#8 – Sounding like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus

 Of course you want to demonstrate that you have a wide vocabulary, especially if you’re applying for a course such as English, but you don’t need to sound like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus.

#9 – Including irrelevant information

We cannot stress enough, 4000 characters is not a lot of space, so if something isn’t relevant to your course, don’t mention it.

Whilst it’s nice that you’ve been on lots of holidays or in Year 9 you played Tallulah in Bugsy Malone, if that doesn’t relate to your degree, leave it out.

#10 – Being negative

You only have one chance to sell yourself to admissions tutors and that’s what your personal statement is for. Stick to the positives and not why you dropped certain A Levels or didn’t get a particular work experience placement for example.