My Top 10 Most Common Personal Statement Errors - (2) Poor (or no) structure


OK, so I admit, structure is my ‘thing’. I get very annoyed when I see personal statements that have given little attention to proper order and planning (and I see lots of them). But let’s face it, an admissions tutor is likely to feel the same way. The vast majority of degree programmes are going to involve some amount of essay writing and it is important for you to realise that your personal statement is likely to be viewed, in part, as a reflection on how able you are to put together a well-structured piece of written work. It needs to flow. It needs to have a proper start, middle and end.

I’ve already touched on this subject on a previous blog post (Starting uni in 2016? 6 ways to get ahead this summer - Step 6 - Draft Your Personal Statement) in which I state that there is no specific order or structure that you must use. What is important, however, is that you spend sufficient time planning and drafting your statement in the same way you would if you were writing an essay. One of the most frequent amendments I make to the personal statements I see and review is swapping the order of the paragraphs or chopping them up and moving them around, and I usually give first drafts back covered in arrows. You should aim to present your statement in its optimum order so that it creates the most impact and is easy for the admissions tutor to read and follow (don’t forget - youknow your life history but they don’t. They don’t have the background knowledge of ‘your story’ that you have, so you may need to spell things out a little more clearly than you first think, particularly with regards to when things happened). Experiment with the order if you have to.

It is fair to say that whilst most UCAS applicants get the idea of having a clear ‘start’ (usually based around why they want to study the subject) and a ‘middle’ (the stuff they have done , both academic and non-academic, which backs up their application) a great many students don’t realise that their statements should have a clear ending. In the same way that an essay ends with a conclusion think about a way of rounding off your personal statement. Please don’t leave it hanging in mid-air. We focus a lot of first impressions, but last impressions also count. You don’t necessarily need a whole paragraph here - maybe just a couple of sentences reiterating what university means to you and, perhaps, what you are hoping to gain from the experience. Give it a nice positive ending.

Finally, a word on layout. As tempting as it is to optimise all 47 usable lines of the personal statement by limiting the amount of paragraphs you use, this will not make it easy for the admissions tutor to read. A statement broken up into bite-sized chunks will always be more appealing to them. And on the flip side, and admissions tutor does not want to see a series of paragraphs each containing just 2 sentences. You need to strike a balance between breaking it up into enough paragraphs and not wasting too much space with empty lines. Good luck.

Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £45. Email 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.