24th June 2020
Common Personal Statement Traps (Part 1)
- Unsure if you should include a specific part of your personal statement in for the admission team to read?
- Do you want to make sure you don't get immediatly thrown into the reject pile?
1. Unoriginal opening paragraph...
A lot of people fall in this trap. This is one of the most
important paragraphs in your personal
statement. The person who is reading this needs to know why you deserve
The opening paragraph is your chance to catch the eye and mind of the admissions staff reading your personal statement. Think about it, the person reading this will have read hundreds if not thousands of personal statements before. You need to show them why they should choose you; having a good opening paragraph is a great way to do that and draw their attention to your statement.
It is a difficult balance to strike: wanting to be your true self but at the same time wanting to impress the reader. A good way to find this balance is by asking someone to read your opening paragraph for you and give you some feedback.
2. You Are Too Descriptive!
You may do many different types of activities or
volunteer at many
charities, but, if you don’t
know how to express that in the right way, it can simply backfire.
Basically, it is not about how many things you have done, it’s about what you’ve learnt. Try to avoid being too descriptive and explain what you write.
- ❌ For example, don’t just write, ‘I
volunteer at my local charity shop for a few hours every week’.
This will just sound a little bit vain which is not what you want to convey to them really.
- ✅ Instead, you can write, ‘During my volunteering
at a charity shop I
practice my communication skills whilst I run the shop on my own for 6 hours, twice
I feel that I am very grateful to be able to make such a positive impact on my
Notice how the second statement is a lot more explanatory, specific and reflective than the first one. By no means is this the perfect example, moreover, this is the sort of thing you want to try and keep in mind whilst writing your statement. Or at least, when you claim something.
3. Poor SPaG...
Spelling, punctuation and grammar. The university is
after the qualities
that you have. So
it’s about the content of the personal statement. Moreover, the way you
content can make a difference. The least you can do is get these
three things right.
You can do many things to achieve that. Other than auto correction options, you can ask somebody to check your grammar.
You can find free UCAT resources and free practice questions here on our website.
4. Lack Of Structure And Repeating Yourself!
Basically, the first one leads to the second. If you
have a clear structure, a plan,
of your personal statement, you will eventually fall in many traps:
repeating yourself is
one of those.
Be sure that when you come to write your personal statement you know how you’re going to go about that. Of course, you can always change your first draft but it’s also good to have an idea of how you will write your first draft. Then, you can build on that and improve rather than rewrite it drastically.
You can learn more about this in our post on how to write your personal statement.
5. Not Being Personal Enough...
It is understandable why someone would do that.
You’re trying to
impress the reader given the
importance of doing so. However, try and avoid being too generic. If
ask ten people to
write a personal statement and read it afterwards, you will probably
that the ten
personal statements sound very similar even if people wrote
on their own.
This is because everyone’s brain will go into autopilot mode to try and impress the reader. In this scenario you may fall into the trap of talking about what you’ve done instead of who you are. This is really dangerous.
Your personal statement is supposed to be about YOU. You need to show the university why YOU deserve to be picked instead of all the other applicants. Sure talk about the things that you have done; though be explanatory rather than descriptive...see above. But also make sure you talk about you.
- 💡 For example, instead of writing about helping the
elderly at a care
talk about how
that makes you feel and why is it so important to you
you do that.