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Between the stresses of exams, the pressures of extra curriculars, and trying to maintain some sort of sanity and social life, students don’t really have a whole lot of time to be thinking about their personal statements. But this is vital for university applications. It’s the only opportunity you get to really sell yourself. These days, grades are only a fraction of what universities are interested in. They’re much more concerned with what kind of a person you are out of school. Are you involved in your local community? Can you prove you’re dedicated? Are you good at keeping your life balanced and taking on extra responsibilities?
Universities love to see all of these things. Obviously, school has to come first; but if you have the opportunity to pursue your passion, grab it! They especially like it when you can relate skills you’ve learnt from these experiences to your course. For example, if you want to study Chemistry, apply for the Salter’s Chemistry Camps. Biology? The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland hosts a summer science school annually at Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park. If you want something more low-key, why not get involved in a school committee? Nobody wants a couch potato, so show them you have a good work ethic. If you can’t find any jobs in your area, start volunteering at a charity shop; they can always do with more people. When it comes to actually writing the personal statement, a lot of people are at a loss of how to start. So here are some tips:
1. Brainstorm. Don’t just start writing, you’ll get jumbled up. Get organised and jot down everything you do – in and out of school.
2. Look at examples. Check online for personal statements people have already sent to universities; particularly if you can find ones on your course. Be careful not to plagiarise though.
3. Speak to your parents and teachers. Despite thinking they’re a bunch of old fuddy-duddies, they can actually have useful tips and information. They might also think of something you’ve missed out.
4. Come up with a great opening line. First impressions really do count. Don’t use the standard ‘I am interested in studying Journalism because…’
5. Check over it. Your first draft should never be your last. Leave it for a while, and then check it later with fresh eyes. Ask friends and family for suggestions.
6. Always look for things to add. If you’re convinced there’s nothing to do in your area, Google it. There are plenty of opportunities out there, but you can’t expect them to land on your doorstep. Be a go-getter. The most important thing about a personal statement is in the name. Personal. Make sure you reflect your personality. Good luck!
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