Most sixth form and college application forms include a section where you write something about yourself. It could just be a few lines or, more scarily, a large empty space with no word limit.
This is often the first time you’ve ever been asked to ‘sell’ yourself so it can seem a bit daunting.
But don’t worry – it’s the same for everyone applying and in most cases it’s just information so the college can get to know you a little before you start.
So what should you include?
It’s really not too difficult to work out. Follow these simple tips and everything should be fine.
Do your research
You’ll almost certainly need to explain why you want to attend that college.
Find out about the college’s facilities and courses. Think about why you want to attend. Is it the courses it offers? Does it have a great reputation for sport or drama? Maybe it has an excellent academic reputation and strong exam results.
Think about life after college
Most college application forms will ask something about your career or uni intentions.
You may know exactly want you want to do after college – if so, fine. But you may have no idea of your uni or career path, just a broad sense of the subjects you really like and others you don’t get on with at all. This is probably all you need at this point.
If you do have a clear idea of your future, now is a great time to check whether or not your ambitions are still relevant, realistic and achievable.
Do exactly what the form asks
Read the wording carefully. What exactly does it ask you to do? Is there guidance on what information to include? Is there a word limit?
Make sure everything is done exactly as requested.
Don't feel you have to include loads of detail
No one expects you to have travelled the world, done masses of voluntary work and excelled at football, ballet and chess. But if you do participate in any organisations or sports it’s worth mentioning.
Check spelling and grammar
This is not a good place to make these kinds of errors. Although the college is likely to be forgiving it’s better to read your form through a few times for errors (they’re so easy to make). If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points, maybe get someone else to check for you?
Article by The Learn Ranger on Wednesday 22 November 2017
The personal statement is the part of the application form where students can “sell” themselves to admission tutors. Applicants must write up to 4,000 characters, or 47 lines, to convince universities to offer them a place. But finding the right tone is tricky. Boasting is out, modesty is self-defeating and trying to be funny can be dangerous. No wonder that applicants turn to family and teachers for advice. But are they getting the right guidance?
A study by the Sutton Trust found that the academic focus of the personal statement is not always understood by teachers, who tended to praise general passages about subjects. The tutors liked to see more detailed discussion and analysis of particular aspects of the subject that had caught the student’s interest and made them think.
Universities don’t want banalities, cliches or flattery. They want to see concrete, recent, relevant examples that demonstrate the student’s interest and understanding of the chosen discipline. It’s not enough to have wanted to do something all your life or to be fascinated by history or passionate about politics.
Writing about yourself is stressful, but once you get your ideas down on paper, then it’s not so bad, says Adam Mawardi, 20, a second-year law student at Keele University. “I did my first draft and thought: good, job done. Then I read it through and realised it was incoherent in places and lacked structure. It took a lot of revisions to get it right. It’s like a job interview: you have to say why you want it, what you like about it, the qualities you would bring and then, at the end, perhaps something you have done that makes you unique.”
Why have you chosen the course?
A good personal statement focuses on the course and why the applicant wants to do it, says Kelly Boulton, undergraduate admissions manager at the University of Nottingham. “We want to see that you are passionate about your chosen subject and find out what you have done beyond your exam studies that demonstrates that interest.
We want to hear what they do to pursue their interests outside the curriculumKelly Boulton, admissions manager, University of Nottingham
“Applicants should explain why they have chosen the course and what in particular interests them about the subject,” she says. “We get a lot of people saying things such as ‘ever since I sprained my knee at the age of five I have wanted to be a doctor’, when something that they have experienced or noticed over the last couple of years would be just as powerful.
“Sometimes applicants go into a lot of detail about what they are studying for A-level, wasting valuable space, because we want to hear what they do to pursue their interests outside the curriculum. It might be further reading for English or visiting ancient sites for history or exploring the relevance of an economic theory to what is going on in the world today.”
Extracurricular pursuits, positions of responsibility and part-time work help to give a rounded picture. But don’t just list them, Boulton says: point out the qualities they have developed that you can bring to the course.
Parents can help by making sure the applicant checks grammar, spelling and punctuation, and does not use colloquialisms or text-speak. But it can be a time to hold back. Personal coach Linda Smith admits her son knew best: “He did his earlier this year. I made it more personal; he reverted to the original. It seems he was right: he got an unconditional offer to read English and drama. There’s definitely a technique to this and he seemed to have acquired it.”
The Ucas process: how it works
- Ucas Stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the centralised system to match applicants with places.
- Apply Students apply for up to five university courses through the online system.
- Track Ucas sends the application forms to the five universities. Unis can offer a firm place, a conditional one on meeting set grades, or a rejection.
- Choices Applicants can accept two offers: firm and insurance. The insurance choice should be a safety net, offering lower grades.
- Extra choices Those with no offers can apply for other courses through Track.
- Results When exam results are published, candidates get confirmed places for either their firm or insurance choice or are put into clearing.
- Clearing The process that matches unsuccessful applicants with available places. Applicants seek universities themselves through the search tool and apply to each individually.
- Adjustment Applicants whose exam results meet and exceed their firm offer have a limited period to apply to different universities or courses.