What Not to Include in a Personal StatementSee All Uni Advice Articles
We have already discussed what to include in your personal statement and the most important parts of a personal statement. Now it is vital to understand what not to include in a personal statement. The personal statement should give universities an insight into how you are as a person, why you want to study a specific subject and how great you are as a person. Avoid the following things to ensure that your personal statement not only represents who you are as a person but also your best assets.
Don’t write too much about things you didn’t do
There are many things students shouldn’t include in a personal statement. Students should avoid writing about how they didn’t complete certain projects, or revised for their exams, or took part in extracurricular activities. Universities want students who do these things, so talking about how you didn’t do them will only have a negative effect. Sometimes, the actions that didn’t take place can be just as bad as awful things that happened. To be safe, leave them out.
Should I write about my gap year?
Students who take a gap year can definitely write about this within their personal statement. The only issue is to write about the year positively. Explain why you chose to take a gap year – if it is due to personal issues, health, or a sad event happened or if you’re retaking your exams during a gap year, mention it briefly – but don’t dwell on the bad points. Then you can describe what you completed in the gap year, whether it was volunteering, gaining work experience that is related to your degree. For example, if you had to take a gap year due to failing your A2 exams, you could talk about how you worked during the year and re-sat your exams as you are passionate about the subject or how the travelling on a gap year helped you. This way you have turned around two negatives (failing your exams, and not securing placements) into a positive by talking about how dedicated you are to the subject and attending university.
Therefore, the gap year is an overlapping issue. Students can talk about taking a gap year before university but should pick out the best and most positive points from their experience and ignore the negative parts.
Don’t try to be funny
A personal statement is a formal and important document which should be taken seriously – especially if you want a place at university, it’s the same as filling out a passport application or the documentation for European Health Insurance! Individuals should avoid attempting to make their personal statement funny or to add a little bit of humour to certain areas. There are many reasons as to why students should avoid humour; humour presented in writing can be hard to interpret and most of the time interpreted completely differently to how it was originally intended, it may make it seem that you don’t take your application or academic attributes seriously, it could affect the university’s decision.
If you are tempted to throw in the odd joke or to write in a humorous way we advise you to avoid this completely. Universities are looking for a covering letter style piece of writing that displays your best assets and proves to them that you are a safe choice to being a student at their institution. Adding humour or trying to change the tone of the statement can affect this greatly. You can see Personal Statement examples online that’s how you how to effectively use humour in a personal statement.
Don’t quote or reference things that you don’t fully understand
It can be inspiring to write about a person, book, quote or event within your personal statement – but only if you understand it. It is easy to pull something off the internet or to read Wikipedia and feel that you are an expert. But in many cases, you may not fully understand the reference at all. Also, ensure that it is absolutely correct. One way to create a terrible impression is to google a quote from Shakespeare and end up believing it was Justin Bieber who initially said it. Big mistake. You will use different software at university, but most of those will help you with referencing as well, so why not start helping yourself, now.
Quotes and references in a personal statement isn’t part of the standard personal statement setting, but if it does fit, or is only in a small part of the statement then feel free to add it in. As long as it works with your writing well, and is related to the subject you are hoping to study. If you are feeling unsure about whether to include something in your personal statement you can quickly ask your tutor for advice.
Avoid slang, abbreviations and swearing
Never use slang, swear words or abbreviations when writing your Personal Statements. Slang will only make your writing look sloppy, and the University will be unimpressed. Colloquial language should not be used in your writing at all. Also, do not swear at any point during your personal statement, it will only negatively affect your application. Swearing will not help to showcase your passion towards a particular subject, and can offend people.
Lastly, abbreviations should be avoided for most scenarios. Most of the time you should be able to get away with writing the full length of a word, person or subject out. However, if you are studying a certain field, such as computing, you can shorten certain aspects to their standard abbreviations. For example, you write Information Technology (IT) once and from then on you can then type IT instead if you’re applying for an Information Technology degree. With abbreviations, it is only safe to use them when they are globally recognised. Don’t write ‘trending’ or new abbreviations that many people may not understand, such as LOL, or IG, because it will make your statement look bad af.
Bad spelling or grammar
It can be detrimental to your UCAS application if you allow bad spelling or grammar to appear on your submitted personal statement. Ask your personal tutors, friends, family, career advisors and teachers to read your statement for errors. These errors can cost you a university offer if they could have been easily rectified. Use spell checks on your computer, as well as leaving a few days in between editing your statement to allow your mind to look at it with fresh eyes.
Avoid trying to sound intelligent or complex
Although University is a higher education level than sixth form or college it doesn’t mean that you have to try to sound smarter than you are. Admission tutors want to read about you and who you really are as a person, so don’t try to silence that. Attempting to sound smarter like, using bigger words or a thesaurus may not work. Sometimes the best words to use are the simplest, and natural. Try not to over complicate your statement as this will show when someone is reading it.
Don’t copy text from the internet or someone else’s statement
One of the worst things a student can do is to plagiarism – which is when you copy or reference someone’s work and not cite them. Copying your friend’s statement will only ruin your chances at attending university as their statement is catered to them, their university and degree course choices. They will also speak about their hobbies and interests that you may not have, and not seem relevant to mention, making your statement irrelevant and inefficient. Our Personal Statement Editor includes a lot of previous personal statements that have been used, however, the editor will not allow you to continue without a certain level of authenticity.
Never copy a personal statement from online, whether it is a full text or a sentence. Some universities can check whether words in your statement were used elsewhere and if this comes up you won’t be accepted and many will also use a plagiarism checker, too. Also, similar to above, it won’t be catered to your application or represent who you are. It also could be poorly written or set out incorrectly. If you do have any questions it is best to speak to your personal tutor, career adviser or teachers.
Don’t write about anything that is irrelevant
When writing your personal statement and once you get into the flow of writing about all of the good things about yourself it can be easy to go off topic. Try to cut yourself away from doing this, or reflect back on your work often to see if it is happening to you. Talking about irrelevant work experience, projects or subjects will only show the university that you either a) don’t understand how to write the statement b) have no relevant things to discuss c) that you don’t check your work. Which are all negative points.
If it is related to your degree course or subject try to fit it in, if it doesn’t have a good reason to be in the statement, then take it out. There may be instances where something doesn’t seem relevant but there is a reason you want to talk about it, have it checked over by a teacher. Some examples can be; overcoming an obstacle, mitigating circumstances, an experience that wasn’t helpful but leads you to your current desire, something that has gone wrong but you rectified, etc. If you find yourself struggling, then be sure to ask for help with your personal statement.
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