It’s little wonder that it’s the part of the UCAS form that every student dreads: the personal statement is your chance to explain – in a precious few hundred words – why a university should make you an offer.
The pressure is on, and it’s not helped by the fact that there are a few common problems making things more difficult for some students.
We’ve previously given you some tips on how to write an effective personal statement, but in this article, we tackle some of the common issues head-on and show you how to make sure your personal statement still shines.
It’s notoriously tricky to write a personal statement for a joint honours course – that is, a course on which you study two different subjects.
Don’t fall into the trap of stating your enthusiasm for studying a particular module if it’s not provided at all your university choices, because it will look odd to the universities who don’t cover it (and may be enough to lose you a potential offer).
Avoid specifically naming any course in particular, as this is another dead giveaway to admissions tutors that another university may be your first choice.Approaching it this way has the advantage of allowing you to talk in more depth about the main subject; if you’re trying to talk about two subjects in a very limited amount of space, you may not be able to say everything you want to say.On the other hand, if you can show how keen you are on both subjects, and even talk about why you think it makes sense to study both, then your personal statement may come across stronger than that of a student who only talks about one subject, with no explanation as to why they have applied for the joint honours course rather than that one subject on its own.This may be a sensitive issue and it’s probably best not to dwell too much on in your personal statement; you don’t want to look as though you are angling for the ‘sympathy vote’.However, genuinely extenuating circumstances that explain a bad grade should be mentioned in passing, along with an explanation of what you’re doing to make up for it and, ideally, evidence to back up your claim that you’re trying to do better.Acknowledge – briefly – that your grade(s) aren’t as good as you’d like, but tell them what you’re going to improve your forthcoming grades, and prove to them with your intelligent remarks in your personal statement that you are academically gifted.Explain that you’re taking on extra classes to bring your grades up to scratch, or that you’re reading around the subject even more in an effort to improve.Without this kind of evidence, you may find that it’s more difficult to win them over; but if the rest of your application is strong, you may just be able to do it.This is the hardest reason to account for poor grades, because there isn’t really much you can do about it.Nevertheless, easy or not, it’s definitely worth acknowledging it in your personal statement, because the admissions tutor will have noticed – so it’s no use pretending it’s not the case and hoping they won’t notice.Let’s look at some of the possible reasons for low grades and consider each in turn.