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What Makes A Good Personal Statement?

What Makes A Good Personal Statement?

For future A-level students who have not yet begun writing their personal statements, or for those of you who are frantically trying to piece one together in order to apply for a law course this year, this article is for you.

It might sound obvious, but, above all else, a personal statement must be personal. A golden rule in any application process, when explaining why you should get the position as opposed to others, is not to be too general. Therefore, do not say things that can easily be said by someone else. There are a number of other areas that I shall explore throughout this article which are also particularly important to note.

Being Unique

It is important to explain to the admissions tutor reading your personal statement why it is you should be offered a place. This is perhaps easier said than done. Below are a number of questions you should be asking yourself when writing your application.

– What is it you have done which makes you stand out from your current friends in sixth form?

– What have you accomplished inside and outside of school?

– What are skills you have derived from these activities, and how do these relate to your ambition to study law?

– Have you engaged with current affairs through the reading of newspapers and topical magazines? If so, what have you learnt from these that relates to the study of law?

– What events have you attended? And how did these events further your interest in law?

Your personal statement should revolve around these types of questions. Demonstrate to the reader of your personal statement that you actually know something about law in the real world and its impact. Watching a television series such as Suits or Silks will not set you apart from others. However, if you follow this up by perhaps reading a book on the criminal justice system in the UK, it will show the admissions tutor that you are genuinely interested in studying law.

As a general rule, try to avoid quotes. These are the product of someone else and do not necessarily tell your reader what you have learnt or what you are interested in.

Simplicity

This is a rule that applies when writing a personal statement for any course. It is essential that you do not bombard the reader with long sentences. Short sentences will keep them interested. Additionally, try to avoid being verbose. Including lots of long words is not necessary. This is because admissions tutors do not want to waste their precious time having to pick up a dictionary to understand what you were trying to say.

This general rule of not being too wordy is important to hold on to. Lawyers themselves tend not to use complex words as, more often than not, they are acting on behalf of a member of the public. However, this does not mean that you should not use this opportunity to show off your writing skills. Having a good structure to your personal statement is vital. If it is constantly jumping from one point to the next then your reader will be unable to follow it.

Think of certain things that you can use to help divide up your paragraphs. For instance, the first paragraph may be used as an introduction to set out the motivation you have for studying law. Next, you could talk about the skills you have learnt at A-level and how they are going to help you in pursuing a law degree. You may dedicate another to work experience, wider reading, or to the extra-curricular activities you are involved in and what skills you have learnt from these. How this links back to simplicity is that you do not want to have long, convoluted paragraphs which have no direction.

Being Relevant

This means that, when you come to write about what activities and/or sports you are involved in, do not forget to link this back to why you want to study law and how these activities have benefited you. What have you learnt from being captain of the rugby or netball team, and how is this relevant to the study or practice of law?

It also means that you should thoroughly research areas of law or certain topics related to law that you find interesting. If you are well informed on topical issues such as Britain’s ever-tenuous relationship with the European Union or the controversial area of bankers’ bonuses, then this is something to to include in your personal statement. From this, explain your interest in and motivation for wanting to study law at university.

Furthermore, make sure you have fully researched the universities to which you are applying. Although you should not specifically refer to the names of the universities in your personal statement, do perhaps try and tie in your personal statement in with what they are looking for.

Plenty of Proofreading and Re-Drafting

It goes without saying that, before you send your personal statement, you should proofread it multiple times. Ask someone else to also read over your application and welcome any feedback they may give you. It can be difficult to seek the help of teachers or careers advisors, but it is vital that you do so. They may pick up on grammatical errors or even provide you with some ideas on what to write about if you are stuck.

In order to fully benefit from this process it is necessary to start writing your personal statement early on. For me, I had completed a first draft as the summer holidays were starting. This meant that I had the beginning of my final year to re-draft and critique my personal statement. Consequently, I was able to send off my UCAS application by October and received some offers whilst my friends were still writing their personal statements! The lesson is simple: begin early.

Finally, remember that all law students have gone through this process and none of us enjoyed it, so do not think you are the only one! As I have already explained, make sure you start early and give yourself plenty of time to write your personal statement before the deadline for applications comes round. Keep in mind this advice from Steve Jones of the University of Manchester: ‘There’s no big secret to the personal statement: universities just want applicants who are well prepared and have lots of potential’.

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