Writing my personal statement

Date: around ?/09/2002

Probably the hardest part of my application- but I think I got it in the end

Now I had pretty much chosen my course, I could start thinking about the personal statement. I had seen the UCAS form, and so know around about how much I needed to write for it, so it was time to grit my teeth and actually write the thing.

For me the personal statement was probably the hardest bit of the application process to do. Writing, especially about myself, and my good points is not the easiest thing for me to do. Luckily I was able to get lots of help, my school gave me copies of the good, and not so good personal statements they had see, my friends and family helped out by reading and commenting on mine and I found lots of help on the internet.

I had decided I would be applying for Economics and maths but thought I might be applying to Oxford and they didn't have an economics and maths course, the closest was economics and management. With this in mind I decided to write my personal statement purely from an economics point of view.

The first thing I did was have a look at a sheet which they gave me on writing a personal statement. It consisted of headings which would be good topics write about and information about what sort of things to write under these headings.

What you want to study at university and why
Comment on: specific aspects of the courses that interest you (link this to aspects of you're A-levels you enjoy), examples of coursework you have completed, practical work you have enjoyed, things you have read related to the subject area, work experience or voluntary work in this area, conferences you have attended, personal experiences which lead to the decision to take this subject, where you hope a degree in this subject will lead.
My notes: Economics: particularly behaviour of large companies, dominates our life. Reflected in my coursework - monopolies. Maths, stats, economic models and finance. Target 2.5 and visit to Bank of England. Writing for my website.

Experiences which show you are a reliable and responsible person
Comment on: part-time job, business enterprise, community work, sixth form committee, Young Enterprise, World Challenge, Duke of Edinburgh award, Asdan Award, debating societies and what you've gained from these experiences.

My notes: Work experience - AND financial software development, part-time job - Tesco's, Formula 2001, Young Enterprise, School website designer.

Your interests
Comment on: What you like to do in your free time, sport and leisure activities, subjects you study which are not examined, musical instrument which you play or languages which you speak

My notes: Swimming - City of Oxford Swimming Club.
Website design and programming
Maths and logic problems
Drawing and designing.

Gap year
Comment on: Why you want to take a gap year, what you plan to do, how this may relate to your course or ensure that you are more prepared for university life.

My notes: not taking a gap year

Now I had a rough idea of what I was going to write about I could start thinking about the structure of my personal statement. I looked at personal statements (link) given to me by my school and the some I found on the web. I also looked at some university prospectuses and websites to find sentences or phrases related to economics which I liked the sound of some of these phrases are listed below.

Pick up any newspaper, and you will probably discover that more of the headlines address economic problems than any other topic.

That tells us economists are increasingly needed to help solve the problems of the world we live in-locally, nationally, and internationally.

An education in economics prepares students for employment in a wide variety of jobs or serves as an excellent foundation from which to pursue law school or other advanced degree work. If you think you would enjoy a logical, common-sense approach to looking at the problems and issues of society, economics may be for you.

The best reason to study economics is to gain greater understanding of the world
around you.

A major in economics sends a signal to prospective employers and graduate schools that you are capable of logical and critical thought, that you have basic quantitative skills, that you can adapt to changing circumstances, and that you are interested in the "big picture".

Students of economics become problem-solvers.

The fact is, economics affects our daily lives.

A challenging and diverse discipline

economics develops: analytical skills, quantative skills, research skills

It's interesting and relevant

Economics is often viewed as a dry discipline which has little to say about the real
world, however nothing could be farther from the truth. A good understanding of
economics will allow you an insight into a wide range of social issues and problems,
ranging from the most important and pressing facing the planet today, to every-day phenomena, central to the way society is organised, but that most people take for

As a student of economics you will also gain a highly marketable set of skills. You will be able to understand the complex nature of the economic problems that face the world today.

As a student of economics you will learn: to think analytically, critically and strategically, to reduce complicated problems to their important components, and formulate solutions to these problems, to apply up-to-date theoretical ideas as a framework for understanding the world around you, to develop you numerical skills, to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.

I also looked at the structure of personal statements and found they were normally split into a number of sections each talking about a different topic, but still nicely held together as a whole. Next I formulated a few goals for it which I would try to keep to during the whole statement if possible

1. I wouldn't over sell myself and sound too arrogant and pretentious.
2. I would try not to start any sentences with I, instead focusing on the course and the things I had done rather than myself
3. Try and have an interesting phrase to start and finish on, the finishing phrase should give the reader an impression of myself.
4. Try not to quote books, magazines or publications and make it sound like I had only read them so I could put them on the statement
5. Not lie outright and stay as close to the truth as possible

The structure was partly defined by my goals, but from taking the original statement I started with, the sort of things I had done and some advise on the internet I formulated a new structure.

Paragraph 1: Introduction to my subject, the parts I'm interested in and why
Paragraph 2: What I had done related to my subject which wasn't on the UCAS form
Paragraphs 3 and 4: work experience and things I had don in school
Paragraph 5: My interests outside of school (also contained my responsibilities)
Paragraph 6: My goal of going to university and closing comment

With all this in mind I drafted my first personal statement. Below I am going to talk about the revisions my statement went though, you can also view an in-depth analysis of my final statement.

See the first draft of my personal statement

The first draft was almost totally stolen from another personal statement I found on the internet. It was used because the structure and because it had the sort of things I wanted to say in my statement in it. The first draft wasn't very complete, it had many typos and errors and was also a bit too long. The main problem was that some of the comments I had borrowed from the statement I used didn't sound right to me.

See the second draft of my personal statement

The second draft was similar to the first except I stripped out the annoying comments at the bottom about taking pride in all my work. I also added a section about my work experience, part time job and interests. I was much happier with this statement than with the first and showed it to my friends and family to see what they thought.

See the third draft of my personal statement

The third draft was very similar to the first but many spelling and grammar mistakes had been corrected. I had also thought about changing the first line because it wasn't written by me. I thought I would feel more comfortable with something I had written myself and there was less change it would appear on anyone else's statement. The new top line, though it was ok as a starting point, didn't really seem interesting or fit well enough with the rest of the first paragraph to stay. At this point I did a lot of research on the net to find something which fitted better

See the final personal statement
View an in-depth analysis of my final statement

The final personal statement had a whole new beginning, which was partly cribbed from somewhere else but mostly my own work. I also altered the second part of the first paragraph to make it more general to avoid questions on pricing theory - a subject I didn't know very much about. Much of the middle statement was the same but I added a paragraph about how I designed my schools website. I also the url for my economics website after much deliberation - I wasn't sure if putting urls was really allowed. I also changed the last paragraph to talk less about why I liked economics and more about why it would be useful for me.

When the final statement was complete I showed it to my friends, parents and my teacher. My friends and parents had already helped a lot and thought I should go with this version of my statement, my teacher also liked it too. Now the statement was complete I could make my final decisions about university and get the UCAS form sent off.