Most personal statements are very similar in structure and content, because every applicant includes the same kinds of elements and follows identical guidelines. There’s a good reason for this lack of originality; universities and employers regularly require specific information including commitment to your field of study, academic expertise, transferable skills and professional ambitions.
But what if you want to write a personal statement that conveys your personality or unique context? How can you develop original personal statement ideas?
When developing original personal statement ideas, three specific approaches will keep your application on-track, whilst adding some personality. Focus on practical experiences and skills, create a future history that illustrates your potential, and write your statement in chronological order.
You might not want to try all of these ideas in one personal statement, but at least one of them is sure to work for you. I’ve broken each one down for you in more detail below…
Focus on Practical Experiences Not Academic Skills
One way to create an original personal statement is to focus on relevant practical experiences within your subject, rather than on your academic record. When ability, suitability and commitment to a field of study is more important than your grades, this can really help your application stand out.
Practical experiences can highlight your academic suitability very forcefully, especially as they are a proven aspect of your application, in a real-world setting. That can be very appealing to admissions tutors as it indicates a level of ability and commitment that qualifications alone don’t show.
You can check out some great advice on writing about your practical experiences at themedicportal.com and discover more here about how to develop outstanding personal statements.
They don’t have to be especially physical; they’re just opportunities that you might have taken that extend your skills outside of a classroom setting. Some great examples of the kind of practical experiences that might turn into compelling personal statement ideas are:
- Attending courses outside of school/college
- Volunteering at a relevant organisation
- Working part time in a relevant industry
- Joining amateur groups, clubs or societies outside of school where you can actively engage in your relevant interests
- Making your own performances or products or offering related services
- Competing in relevant leagues/competitions
- Publishing your work yourself, or via submission
- Developing an online presence of value
How can I Structure my Personal Statement?
To successfully structure your personal statement in a way that emphasises the value of your practical experience to your application, you will need to place these elements first. When you’ve established a compelling overview of your practical engagement, you can reinforce your application with the academic details.
If one of your personal statement ideas is to demonstrate your practical skills to show originality and engagement, then your paragraph structure might look like this:
|Paragraph 1||Clarify the reason why you are so engaged by and suitable for the study of a particular subject. Relate to a relevant moment of introduction or inspiration. Indicate that you have actively sought to develop your interest, with some details.|
|Paragraph 2||Outline a successful aspect (or more than one if clearly connected) of your practical engagement with the subject. Consider a high-level achievement or high-status opportunity, such as internship, public performances, or connection to a respected practitioner.|
|Paragraph 3||Outline a further aspect of engagement, remembering to make connections between the skills value of the activity and the course requirements. Consider experiences where you have been motivated to create opportunities or have self-published/initiated your work.|
|Paragraph 4||Consider experiences here that offer transferable skills, and begin to lead into relevant areas of academia. Perhaps a good place to consider groups/societies and online accomplishments, which can feed into your written and research skills.|
|Paragraph 5||Outline relevant academic skills here, but always related to their practical application, and reiterating the way they can be used to reinforce and underpin more practical activities.|
|Paragraph 6||Show evidence of wider reading and research, in a way that relates to the demands of the course. Interweave this with a demonstration of your understanding of relevant industries and your ambitions within them, which should be met by the course content.|
|Paragraph 7||Clarify your value to the university or employer, echoing your opening paragraph in terms of engagement and experience, clarifying the positive role you intend to play, the relevancy of your experiences to others and function of the institution in your continuing journey.|
Here’s an example of how a short paragraph that places the focus on practical experience might look. Remember, any paragraph you write needs to communicate your engagement with the subject, show how you can connect to the demands of the course and indicate your depth of ambition in relation to what the course has to offer:
If you’d like some help writing your personal statement, then I often recommend Grammarly to the applicants I work with. It’s a free piece of software that significantly improves your spelling, punctuation and grammar, helps you check your document for errors and gives you a range of options for rewriting.
You can check out the free version of Grammarly here or hit the banner.
Create a Future History in Your Personal Statement
Use your personal statement as an opportunity to look ahead and paint a picture of your future self by defining your journey over the coming 5, 10 or 20 years. By describing exactly how you see yourself growing in the years following the course you are applying for, you can illustrate both your dedication to and understanding of your industry.
You’ve got to make sure that you don’t just write a fictional narrative, of course. Admissions officers always want to read about what you’ve accomplished, but you can phrase it in such a way as to signpost the route you plan to take towards a rewarding career. By doing so, you’ll be able to illustrate the ways in which accessing the course can help you to achieve your dreams!
Here’s an example…
Write a Chronological Journey & Share Your Subject
Rather than working through a checklist of ingredients, a more original and engaging way to structure your personal statement is to write from a chronological perspective, detailing relevant experiences and qualifications in the order they occurred, and consequently illustrating your journey.
Here’s a suggestion for the way you might structure a chronological personal statement:
- Identify an inspiring moment or motivational experience that has prompted you to study the subject
- Outline your early education and independent studies that fully relate to your subject and provide a strong level of foundational knowledge
- Show evidence of your early research and engagement with the subject outside of the formal curriculum so that the reader understands the depth of your knowledge
- Illustrate your practical experience in the subject and the related skills you have developed as a result
- Clarify the relevance of your current studies to your application
- Indicate how your current wider reading has deepened your knowledge of your subject and added to your awareness of related industries
- Evidence your suitability for the course or subject that you are applying for, based on your current level of education and experience
- Outline the ambition you have for your future in this subject, in relation to both the course and subsequent routes through industry
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
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