Last Minute Personal Statement Tips: Finish It Fast!

We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve been putting off writing a personal statement, or perhaps you’ve only just decided to apply for a course or job and the deadline is tomorrow.

Don’t worry. You can write a great last-minute personal statement from scratch today.   

A last-minute personal statement can be successful, even if rushed. Remember that admissions teams want to see evidence of your suitability and experience, skills and motivation. Focus on these elements, along with your value to an institution, and you’ll write a fast, effective application.

I’ve outlined the key steps to take below, along with some advice on who should be kept informed, how to write your personal statement in a single day and what to do if you think your personal statement is too short.

So, stop worrying and start reading…

Last Minute Personal Statement Tips & Tricks

How do you Write a Last-Minute Personal Statement?

If you’ve just decided to write a personal statement and you’re up against the clock, follow these four steps to create a successful document in a short timeframe…

1 Make a List of Subject-Relevant Experiences and Achievements

Even if you haven’t done it consciously, you’ve almost certainly developed experiences that have prepared you well for your choice of course or role. Start by making a mind-map or list of these or grab a pack of sticky notes and cover your wall with ideas. 

Relevancy is vital, but examples might be:

  • Books you’ve read
  • Lectures, performances or videos you’ve seen
  • Subjects you’ve studied
  • Pending and achieved qualifications
  • Additional courses you’ve attended, IRL or online
  • Practical engagement

When you’ve got a list of specific experiences that have prepared you (even if you have to ‘work backwards’ to make them fit), prioritise them from most important to least. If you’ve got at least five, great, you’re on your way. Eight is ideal, and ten is too many.

This is the first section of your last-minute personal statement.

2 Think of Five Useful Skills and Where you Learned Them

Universities and employers love to see evidence of specific and transferable skills in your personal statement, as you’ll be expected to rely on these for independent study. You can easily identify a range of skills, without stretching the bounds of credibility.

There’s a great post on what these skills are and how you can use them to develop a successful personal statement here.

Once you’ve got your top five skills, with evidence of their value, write them up.

This is the second section of your last-minute personal statement.

3 Establish Three Reasons why you Want to Study the Subject

This is not always as easy as it appears, especially if your application is close to the deadline because you’ve only just made a decision about a particular subject or course.

Nonetheless, admissions officers will expect to see compelling reasons underpinning your application. In the case of an undergraduate application, you should write about your interest in the subject, not about your interest in studying at a specific university.

Postgraduate applications tend to be targeted to a specific institution, so you can write about your interest in both the subject and the institution.

Whether you are applying for a job or to study a specific subject, the same rule applies; take the time to do your research, even if you are writing a last-minute application. Your three reasons should reflect your knowledge of the subject or industry, be realistic and connect with the course content you are likely to encounter.

This is the third section of your last-minute personal statement.

4 What Will you Offer the University or Employer?

Your answer to this question becomes your final brief paragraph, ending your personal statement. What you are trying to establish here is the level of value you will bring to the institution you are applying to. How will their community be enriched by having you in it?

You can check out my detailed post on great final paragraphs here, but to save time, you just need to write a single sentence that begins with…

“I look forward to positively contributing to your community by…”

Maybe you are a great peer mentor or maybe you have life or industry experience of value to others. Perhaps you will bring a dynamic and collaborative attitude or maybe you’re a passionate advocate of student rights and aim to volunteer with pastoral services or the student union.

End by making clear exactly what makes you a great catch, compelling the reader to make you an offer.

So, that’s a rapid-fire strategy for writing a last-minute personal statement. Don’t overthink it, just make those lists (you’ll notice they get shorter as you go through, with the bulk of the content in the first section) and then write them up so that they flow!

Keep Everyone Informed and up to Date

Even when you are working to meet a fast-approaching deadline, it is still important to keep everyone up to date with your progress. Although you might feel as though you are on your own, most applicants work with several individuals or organisations that play a part in their application.

It’s in your interest to make sure they know when to expect a personal statement, even if you’re a bit stressed or frustrated by your progress.

Who Needs to Know When you are Ready to Submit a Personal Statement?

  • Your current school, college or employer
  • Your school or college tutor, counsellor, sponsor, agent or principal
  • Your referee(s)
  • The universities or employers you are applying to (especially if your application is late in the process)
  • Third party agencies like UCAS or Common App
  • Parents, friends and other relevant personal support networks

Can you Write Your Personal Statement in One Day?

It is entirely possible to write a complete personal statement in a single day. You should gather your resources together so that your sources are at hand, set up your workspace and clear the day of other distractions. You should also have completed course and subject research in advance.

One Day Mindset

Mindset is important when you are planning to work fast. Here are my top five tips for getting into the zone when you are up against time:

  1. Don’t doubt your instincts – if you don’t think something’s worth including, don’t include it.
  2. Once you’ve written something that works, leave it alone and move on.
  3. Don’t work so fast that you become disorganised. Complete one section or topic as fully as you can, then move on, rather than bouncing around the document.
  4. Don’t become distracted. You have one job to complete, and one thing to focus on.
  5. View the task as a positive opportunity to lay the foundations for the next phase of your life, not as a stressful obstacle to the future.

Once you are ready to go, break your day down in the following way:

Hours 1 & 2
Plan your personal statement structure (you can find a really helpful free template here) or use the four-point system from earlier in this post.
Gather relevant content and either copy and paste into the relevant sections or type original content in.
Check that any references, quotes or titles are spelt correctly, even if the rest of your original content remains unedited.
Once done, put away/close all your sources or notes. From now on, only use the single document you’ve just created.
Hours 3 & 4
Using the ABC method, refine each point or piece of content, making sure that you clearly explain the Activity you took part in, its Benefit to you and the relevancy of that experience to the Course you are applying for.
Don’t write too much, just pick examples you feel confident about including and that legitimately illustrate your suitability.
Link your paragraphs together with relevant sentence starters, in order to establish a sense of flow.
Cut material that doesn’t seem to be working and develop a complete draft.
Hour 5
If possible, pass your draft personal statement to someone else to read over. Ask them to look for errors and significant omissions only – you do not have time for detailed feedback or to refine otherwise suitable content.
Develop your document based on any feedback received, but always focus on the idea of suitability by asking “Does this point illustrate my suitability for the course, role or subject?” If not, then take time now to develop it, or make the decision to cut it.
Read your complete draft through slowly, and check that a reader that does not know you personally would understand the points you are making.
Hour 6
Edit your personal statement down to the required word or character count.
Proofread once more, checking for obvious mistakes as well as sense and flow.
Save, upload and submit without making any further changes.
How to Write a Personal Statement in one Day

If you’re editing and proofing in a rush, I would always use a tool like Grammarly for great results. The free version is intuitive and will help you nail spelling, punctuation and grammar fast. You can check it out here or hit the banner.

Is my Personal Statement too Short?

A personal statement is too short if it runs to less than half of the available word or character count. Applicants are not usually penalised directly for submitting a short personal statement, but shorter statements will contain less compelling content, and evidence your suitability less fully.

When you are making a last-minute application, and you’re working fast, there is no need to worry that your personal statement may be too short. It’s far better to produce a shorter, well-written version than a longer unedited one, or to miss the deadline altogether.

Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support. You’ve got this! D

Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.

David Hallen

I've worked in the Further Education and University Admissions sector for nearly 20 years as a teacher, department head, Head of Sixth Form, UCAS Admissions Advisor, UK Centre Lead and freelance personal statement advisor, editor and writer. And now I'm here for you...

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