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Supporting your student

The perfect personal statement

An image of Chris Mullen

Chris Mullen is our Education Liaison Manager and along with managing the Education Liaison team, provides higher education advice and guidance to students in schools and colleges across the UK.

Before joining Edge Hill, Chris also used to work as a youth coach for Accrington Stanley Football Club and graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BSc Science and Football degree.

In this piece, Chris shares his top tips on how you as a parent or supporter can help your student to submit a perfect personal statement.

“Mum, can you just read this for me?” was a common shout in my house across the summer and into my 2nd year of Sixth Form. Not only for my A Level and BTEC coursework, but more frequently when writing my personal statement.

Being the first in my family to go to university and with only my mum at home, she provided me with the support that I needed. I really couldn’t have applied successfully without her help. With that in mind, I’ve written some key points which will provide you with some advice if you are supporting a student to apply to university.

What is a personal statement?

It’s part of the online university application process and is the section that will take the longest for students to complete on their form. It’s 4,000 characters or 47 lines long, whichever comes first (roughly a side of A4 paper). Most university courses don’t actually invite applicants to interview, so the personal statement can often be a student’s only chance to impress their chosen universities and for students to show why institutions should want them. The one personal statement that applicants are required to submit also goes to all five of the student’s university choices too.

An image of multiple people sat around various small tables in The Hub on the Edge Hill University campus. One set of these groups of people are looking at an iPad that is placed on the table.

How can I support my student to write their personal statement?

The key here is that you don’t have to understand the content of what is written (my mum certainly didn’t have a clue about my very specific Sports Science passion!) However, what she did do fantastically well was look at sentence structure, whether it flowed nicely, paragraph structure and whether I had followed any guidance provided through my Sixth Form and UCAS themselves.

Whatever school or college that students go to, they will often be provided with excellent supporting resources, whether this is an in-house handbook, resource from a university (these are generally impartial when referring to personal statements) or access to virtual support platforms such as UCAS Hub or Unifrog. On top of these resources, they will also likely have the chance to submit a draft of their personal statement to subject or form tutors, their careers team or university representatives before they send off their application for real.

Are there any deadlines?

Schools and colleges will ask students to complete drafts of their personal statement, including their final draft by certain dates so that they can be checked, and feedback provided. It’s really important that your student works to the date that their school or college set, so knowing this yourself or highlighting it somewhere such as the kitchen fridge or calendar can be really helpful.

It’s not a case of hounding them but giving them a gentle reminder and checking in on their progress. These opportunities for feedback are not to be missed, particularly if it’s a chance to receive advice from experts (whether teachers or university staff), as they are often people who’ve seen students go on to a multitude of courses, at a multitude of universities over a number
of years.

Do not be afraid to offer your help

I’m not going to lie, I had some stressful moments trying to write my personal statement, along with completing various school assignments at the same time. However, the advice, guidance and support you can provide as a supporter is invaluable to your student, even if it is just a simple read through from time to time.

Having a pair of fresh eyes to read over something that they have spent a lot of time writing can be invaluable and you’ll often pick up on simple mistakes that they may have overlooked. You never know, you may even become a bit of a subject expert, my Mum certainly felt a career change coming on…

June 8, 2022