What Not to Do When You Write Your Personal Statement

The opening line is the most important of the personal statement, so it is crucial that it is engaging and tonally appropriate. More students slip up on the very first words of their personal statement than anywhere else, usually in an effort to be impressive. It is vital to avoid trying too hard: admissions tutors are unlikely to be as awed as you might hope by quotations, flashy openings or quick-fire jokes.

At the other end of the scale, too many students will open their personal statement too flatly, often with a cliché. These need to be avoided: not only will they dull the brain of the reader – and remember, admissions tutors will have to read hundreds if not thousands of personal statements – and will increase your chance of receiving a high score from plagiarism checking software.

There are other clichés that students will often use throughout their personal statement. Try to avoid baldly stating your ‘passion’ for the subject, and avoid writing about the length of your interest in it. It is also usually best to avoid using personal anecdotes, particularly if they are something along the lines of ‘I have wanted to be a doctor since I once nursed a pigeon back to health’ – unless your anecdote is unique and academically relevant, it is probably best left out.

One of the reasons to avoid anecdotes is that they can be tonally inappropriate. Admissions tutors are looking for personal statements that, while personal and revealing of the candidate’s personality, are written in clear, formal English. This means that various forms of informality and joviality – jokes, asides, puns, etc. – are best left out. The personal statement should explain your interests and skills clearly and concisely.

It is important to focus on your actual interests and skills. Admissions tutors are unlikely to be impressed by long words you looked up in the thesaurus, or by smart-sounding books you referenced for their own sake. They are looking for potential more than achievement, so you need to show them the real you. Let your abilities speak for themselves.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, you should avoid any errors in your personal statement. The personal statement is to some extent a hoop-jumping exercise, and any statement that contains typos, bad grammar or unusual formatting fails to make it through the hoop. Fortunately, our comprehensive Editing and Writing services guarantee perfect, error-free and beautifully formatted documents that are ready for submission.