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Your application

Now comes the tricky part! You know what you want to study (or at least the rough subject area) and hopefully have a good idea of where you want to study. All that remains now is to convince the relevant university that you would make an excellent student, hard-working, dedicated and enthusiastic. All in 4000 characters…..

The UCAS personal statement, (for students applying to universities in the UK) can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Other countries will have their own, often similar, requirements. However, approaching it with a clear head and as simply another stage in the journey can prove helpful. Schedule some time in your diary, in the way that you would for revision or going out with friends, take yourself off to a quiet space and don’t leave until you’ve completed your target - say 1000 characters in one sitting. It’s likely to take several attempts and drafts of the statement so be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Here are some things to think about before putting pen to paper.

Have a plan

Perhaps use a mind map to scribble out the various areas you want to cover in the personal statement. Ask yourself - what do they want to know about me and plan accordingly - don’t waste valuable space on information that admissions tutors will be able to get from elsewhere in the form. What qualities are likely to be important in the subect that you are interested in? Think of your key attributes, skills and successes in relation to these (or perhaps how you’ve overcome failure and hurdles) and list them all. You won’t necessarily be using them all, but listing everything in one place gives you plenty to work with and saves writers block later on.

Be yourself

Please, please don’t be tempted to use template statements that you can find online, tutors will be able to spot these a mile off and they won’t impress anyone. Statements are also checked electronically for direct plagiarism and this could seriously disadvantage your application. Be yourself - even if that has to be a slightly more polished version of yourself than others might normally see. Tell us genuinely why you want to study the subject and give us evidence that you’re enthusiastic, passionate and committed to what you do. Evidence of commitment won’t necessarily be directly related to the subject (although it’s great if you do have some evidence of this) but show us that you’re not the kind of person who gives up at the first hurdle.

Take your time

It might sounds obvious but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write your PS. A rushed attempt, completed in one sitting, is unlikely to be your best effort. Similarly, if you’re in the fortunate position of not applying this year then you’ve got plenty of time to think about what you can do to improve your chances. Applicants to vocational subjects such as medicine often have to show evidence of work experience and knowledge of their chosen profession, and while this isn’t the same in life science, who’s to say that some work shadowing in a relevant field wouldn’t be helpful? It also gives you something original to talk about.

Use resources wisely

We’ve already discussed not copying or paraphrasing from websites, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t helpful advice out there. In particular look through the guidance on the UCAS pages linked below and make use of other sources of help such as teachers. It can also be helpful to get someone to proof read your statement for any glaring errors or omissions. But remember, at the end of the day, it should be your own work and you need to be happy with it yourself. Good luck!

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This article is from the free online course:

So You Want to Study Life Science?

University of Glasgow

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