A blank page. A flickering cursor. A ticking clock.
Daunting, isn’t it?
- Endless possibilities on how to describe yourself, your hobbies, your hopes, your aspirations… But the words just don’t come to you.
- I mean, how hard can it be? It’s only a page of you rambling on about something you already know like the back of your hand: yourself.
- Yet it’s never that straightforward. Your mind is drawing a blank; exasperated, uncontrollable groans escaping your lips as your frustration builds. No one knows you better than you know yourself – yet at this moment in time, even you don’t seem to know what to say.
- In such a situation my advice is to pause, take a deep breath and stop overthinking. A personal statement shouldn’t be that hard and once you stop panicking, you will realise it isn’t.
- The best way to start is by embracing that blank piece of paper. Don’t think of it as a hindrance, but an opportunity to work out a plan of action. Begin by writing down any words that come to mind – adjectives to describe yourself, objects that you cherish, activities and subjects in school that you have enjoyed. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list but a brainstorm of ideas – possibilities.
- Of course that’s only a starting point. Extend your list: No one knows you better than you know yourself – but it doesn’t hurt to take on others view of what makes you… you.
- This is where your friends, your parents, your siblings and so on all come into use. It is unlikely that the exact perception you have of yourself matches that of others. They can also help you to put a more positive spin on things: while you may see yourself as simply an over-hyper neat-freak, others may see you as a diligent and organised individual who believes in structure and thorough planning. See the difference?
- This brings us onto the next step: taking your words and structuring them into sentences. Remember that variety is important. This means that don’t start each and every sentence in the same way: it gets boring.
- Chances are whoever is reading your personal statement has read hundreds of others from countless applicants before they get to yours. If you start each sentence with the same opening: “I am…”; “I like…”; “I want to study…” Then I’m sorry but you’re never going to stand out.
- So yes, please vary your sentence openers – I beg you. Use an adverb: “Undoubtedly, I believe that…”; start with a double adjective phrase: “Dedicated and honest, I have always aspired to…”or even a simple “Having volunteered as a…”
- Another key point to remember is to use a thesaurus. If you’re struggling with your words or simply wish to add a touch of sophistication to your statement, a thesaurus is a useful tool to help with this. Having said that, don’t overuse it to the point your sentence no longer means what it had once meant. A thesaurus is supposed to help with certain words, not all of them!
- Leading on from that, it’s important to ensure your statement flows and makes sense. Use paragraphs, Standard English and check your SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar). If that means you have to constantly read and re-read your work, so be it. In fact, once you’re confident with the statement, I would say have a trusted peer skim through it – fresh eyes can shed a whole new light on your work, helping to catch any errors that you yourself have become blinded to. They can also help you keep your waffling to a minimum. As I’ve pointed out already, your personal statement is unlikely to be the first one in the pile and the worst thing you can do is bore the reader.
- Finally, remember that your first draft is not going to be your final draft. So don’t be disheartened if you’re displeased with it at first. Start early and work at it, going away for brief periods to allow you to improve it – slowly but surely.