This is a tell-tale sign that someone doesn’t have enough interesting stuff to say, usually because they have not put sufficient thought into the planning of their personal statement. “My name is John Smith…” (yes, we already know that from your UCAS form) “and I am currently a student at North London Secondary School…” (yes, we know that too. Now, please, tell us something we don’t know.) Your personal statement has a fixed space limit, so use it wisely. And get the tone right. “My name is John Smith” is not an appropriate tone to use in a formal piece of writing. Worse still, “Hello, my name is John Smith…” Sadly, I’ve seen it more than once.
Information such as your name, your school and where you live is simply not needed, unless it happens to be particularly relevant to the ‘story’ that you are telling. Of course there may be times when it is necessary to repeat information given on other parts of the form. It would be very confusing to read a personal statement in which, for example, you give information about the skills you developed during your particular A levels, without naming what it was you were studying. You just need to make sure that things are put within a relevant context so that you are actually expanding on the original information with something extra. “Studying French at A level gave me a great insight into how languages are constructed as well as broadening my interest in other European cultures….” is fine. What isn’t fine is to list for the sake of listing alone: “I studied AS levels in French, English Literature, Maths and History.” Or “My part time work has included roles at B&Q, Royal Mail, and TN Legal”. And you certainly must never take up a whole paragraph listing all ten GCSE subjects and the grades you got for them.
Slightly different here as this isn’t information already given by you, but it is to do with listing; I’ve seen lots of personal statements where the student seems to think it is impressive to repeat the course content from the university website, almost word for word: “I am particularly looking forward to studying the science of nursing, the foundations of nursing, therapeutic pharmacology and clinical reason and decision making”. I believe students who do this think it makes it look like they’ve researched the course well. It doesn’t. It looks as though they copied it straight from the website as they are struggling to think of anything else to say.
So, if you feel you are having to spend too much of your personal statement either listing from information already given on your form, or listing directly from university websites, chances are you haven’t spent enough time on the planning process of your statement. You need to take a couple of steps back, perhaps spend some more time on brainstorming ideas or giving a little bit more depth of thought to the ideas you are giving, before you are ready to start constructing your statement.
Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £60. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.