Tag Archives: Personal statement errors

Read My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors – (10) Too generic

too genericSo I’ve reached the final installment of this blog series and I want to address one of the errors that is sometimes so hard to put your finger on.

As an experienced careers adviser I often read through sound statements from good students which, in theory at least, hit all the buttons.  But upon reaching the end and reflecting, I just feel a huge sense of disappointment – as though it’s been a missed opportunity.  I find myself saying to myself “but, I don’t feel I know anything about you.  I have no sense of who you really are”.  In these cases, the issue is usually that the personal statement has been just too generic.  Yes, it may well follow a solid structure and contain all the elements that it should, but it gives me nothing more.  The author hasn’t given me that extra detail/enthusiasm/personality/insight that I really want to read.   As a result, I remain unconvinced by their application.

There can be nothing more satisfying than meeting a student for the very first time, spending just 5 minutes reading through their personal statement and by the end of it finding that you have been able to form a really clear idea of who that student is and what motivates and drives them – a valuable insight into their personality.  Rarely are these the people with interests that include “reading, going to the cinema, and socialising with friends” (and if they are, in fact, genuine interests of theirs then they will certainly be telling me a little more about the genre of books and films that they are interested in or particular works that they have read or seen that have had an impact on them).

Don’t aim to be just like everyone else. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd.  It is called a personal statement for a reason – it needs to be personal to you.  How you decide to do this is entirely up to you.  It may depend entirely on what you can offer.  Maybe it is related to your own personal story.   Or perhaps it is more about the particular way that your story is told.  The most important thing here is to be true to yourself and to write honestly.  I know when I’ve read such a statement because I find that I am smiling by the time I reach the end.  So aim to write a personal statement that is going to put a smile on the admissions tutors face.

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Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40.  Email info@momentumcareersadvice.com if interested or read my blog post “What is involved in a UCAS personal statement review?

If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.

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Read My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors – (9) Too focussed on career goals

child doctorThis may seem a strange one, but please bear with me.  The danger here exists mainly for those who are applying for courses which are seen as being vocational, but which are in fact, still academic degree courses.  Students mistake their UCAS form for a job application.  I’ve read, for example, a large amount of statements from prospective accountancy students explaining why they think they’ll make an excellent accountant and what aspects of the job they are most looking forward to.  But little or nothing about the course they are in fact applying to.

Admissions tutors are academics.  They thrive on the theory and the teaching of their subjects.  If they didn’t then they probably would have got a job in industry.  First and foremost the decision they will be making will be based upon the question “do I think this student is interested in studying xyz for the next 3 or 4 years, and do I think they will be an interesting and capable student to teach?” They are less bothered about how well you are able to make a career out of the subject (bearing in mind that there is no reason at all why you even should make a career out of the subject in the vast majority of cases).  At the end of the day that is someone else’s decision to make, a few years down the line.

Obviously it will depend upon the degree you are applying to as to how much emphasis you should include on your future career choice.  If your course is vocationally very directed, such as social work or pharmacy, then of course you will want to show that you have a good understanding of what the career involves, along with detail of work experience you have done which has allowed you to gain this insight.  But you will also need to show a similar understanding of what the course entails, and a genuine interest in the learning the theory.  If your course is less vocationally focussed then your emphasis on career aims and suitability should reflect this.  As I said at the beginning, the danger lies often in courses such as journalism, law, accountancy – in which students wrongly believe that there is only one work option for them at the end, and mistake their UCAS personal statement for a job application form.  Rather, they should be focusing on what they are looking forward to studying, and the skills that they think they will develop from the course itself.

In summary, be sure to sell yourself as a great student rather than a great employee.

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Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40.  Email info@momentumcareersadvice.com if interested, or read my blog post “What is Involved in a UCAS Personal Statement Review?

If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.

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Read My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors – (8) Overuse of a thesaurus

burning books“The amplification of the inexplicable joy as I finished producing my first piece was too palpable to ignore. It perpetually hung in the surrounding air as waves of electrifying impetus to the growth of the infantile writer residing in every fibre that constitutes my body…”

Sadly, lots of applicants appear to believe that their personal statement is the perfect time to start experimenting with a thesaurus.  Simply put, it isn’t.  By all means have one handy.  It can be useful to have if you are getting into a habit of overusing a particular word and need to identify some alternatives.  But please do not use them to construct whole sentences.  It will ruin the flow of what you are trying to say and, believe me, it will be very obvious to the reader of your statement that this isn’t how you normally communicate.  Keep it clear and concise.  That will make it much easier (and more enjoyable) for the admissions tutor to read.

Whilst on the subject of choosing the right words to use, I want to give a mention to the subject of plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a red-hot issue with admissions tutors at the moment, due to the explosion of sample personal statements that can be found on the internet.  It is very important that every applicant understands that their personal statement will be scrutinised by anti-plagiarism software and if it brings up a suspicious amount of similarities with other personal statements either submitted in the past or found on the internet then it will be flagged up and, in worse case scenarios, your application/s will be rejected because of it.  I want to emphasise just how sensitive this anti-plagiarism software is.  ‘Borrowing’ a sentence and using your thesaurus to change 2 or 3 or the words in it will get picked up.  The best way to ensure that you don’t fall foul of the plagiarism rules is this: by all means, read all the personal statements you want to in preparation of writing your own.  Use them to let you form your own ideas on what makes a weak and a strong application.  But when it comes to physically writing your own, put everyone else’s away.  Don’t have any access to them.  Certainly don’t have them in front of you as temptation.  That way, the words that you write will truly be your own and no one else’s.

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Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40.  Email info@momentumcareersadvice.com if interested or read my blog post “What is Involved in a UCAS Personal Statement Review?

If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.

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Read My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors – (7) Poor spelling and grammar

bad spellingAgain, I find myself saying “put yourself in the shoes of the admissions tutor”.  If he or she has many more personal statements received than places to offer, then he or she is going to be looking for reasons to reject applicants first and foremost, not reasons to make an offer.  The easiest, most straightforward way of doing this is to eliminate the candidates with unacceptable levels of spelling and grammatical errors.  Even if the statement has good content it is going to scream out “this is a careless and rushed attempt”.  They will be given every reason to think that your approach to work whilst at university will be exactly the same.

If you are anything like me, the more you read a document of your own, the more blind you become to the errors it contains, and this is why I advocate proof-reading by at least 3 different people.  Spellcheck is a good start but it is by no means fool proof.  So read your finished statement through with a fine-toothed comb before forwarding it to 2 other people to do the same.

Oh, and absolutely no text-speak, please!

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Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40.  Email info@momentumcareersadvice.com if interested, or read my blog post “What is involved in a UCAS Personal Statement Review?

If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.

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Read My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors – (6) Statement is too short

too shortUCAS has given you 47 lines (or 4,000 characters) for a reason – they expect you to use them.  If not all of them, then the vast majority.  If you cannot do this then you need to go back to the planning stages as clearly you are not going into the detail that will be expected of you.

One of the worst examples of this that I have seen over the last 12 years was a dentistry applicant who felt that a short 5 line statement would be enough to get them into one of the most competitive courses that exists.  Thankfully this example is extreme and it was, quite clearly, a lack of understanding on expectations.   But there are always students who think that academic standards alone are going to be enough to get you onto the course of your choice.  This is simply not true.  Even with an A2 prediction of 4 A*s, a 5 line personal statement will never be enough.  And nor will 25, or even 35 lines.  45, however, and you’re in with a good chance.

If you are really struggling with the length of your personal statement then don’t panic – get it reviewed by someone who is familiar with the application process (a careers adviser, a tutor) and they should be able to spot areas that you have either missed out completely or that you need to expand upon.  As I have said before, it is very rare – certainly in my professional experience – that a statement is deemed ‘perfect’ at first draft so as long as you have completed it in plenty of time, it is a problem that can be quite easily overcome.

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Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40.  Email info@momentumcareersadvice.com if interested, or read my blog post “What is involved in a UCAS Personal Statement Review?

If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.

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