Your personal statement needs to stand out. It needs to be a tool that means you end up in the ‘yes’ pile instead of the ‘reject’ pile. And the way you structure that can have a massive impact on the opinion of the person reading it.

Your personal statement is a short insight into you as a person. I say short because it's 4,000 characters and it's hard to get across how amazing you are in only 4,000 characters. The box that you have to fit it into is a limited size, so it can be tempting just to write one large block of text to try and squash as much in there as possible.

But that is hard to read, and you have to think about the admissions tutor for a little bit here. They probably have thousands of personal statements, references, predicted grades, and applications to look through, so the more comfortable a personal statement is to read, the better, the kinder it is on the eyes and the more structured it is, it's going to flow logically and it's going to make it easier for the admissions tutor to read.

It is a good idea to have structure and paragraphs and to structure paragraphs around the key concepts. Why you want to study the course, how suited you are to study the course, and then everything else.

You should start off with the most important why you want to explore the subject. Admissions tutors look for students who are interested in the course they are studying. Students who can stick out for three full years of intense study on one subject. They want students who love the subject, so explain why you love architecture, why you'd make a brilliant vet, why you want to know more about Russian Revolution or environmental politics.

Your next paragraph, the most significant part is going to be proving to the admissions tutor that you are passionate about this, that you have done the background to show how much you want to study this subject. Anything that you've done to show how you've engaged with this, so your EPQ, any MOOCs that you've done, books that you've read, courses you've been on, lectures, shows, anything to show how passionate you are about this subject. Show the admissions tutor that you've gone above and beyond what your A-Levels have taught you, that you haven't just sat there and absorbed the A-levels passively, but you've gone and found out information independently. If you've done any relevant, and relevancy is vital, voluntary or work experience, put that in there. Talk about what you've gained from it, what research you've done, any possible future careers, any essential competitions you've entered or won or how you've engaged with the online community, possibly setting up a blog or doing some YouTube videos. This should be the most significant section, and it should show off how especially suited you are to study this course.

Lastly, should be all of the other fantastic things that you've done, which aren't necessarily very relevant to the course, but have given you loads of exciting experience. Any part time jobs that you have, show that you're reliable, that you can turn up, that you're hard-working, that you're not scared of 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning. Any volunteering, for example in the guides or the scouts, shows that you can work with other people and that you can be relied upon. Any projects you've done, where you've worked with other people, maybe you've done a bit of volunteering in the school, so that's going to show your excellent communication skills off. Anything that isn't related directly to the course but is about you. An admissions tutor is going to read hundreds of personal statements, all of whom are doing the same A-Levels and have the same predicted grades, so your personal statement is the way to make you stand out and show off how fantastic you are.

Harrison's story - Applying for university 

The application process was actually fairly simple. Luckily in my case, it was all done through the 6th form using UCAS, all I had to do was supply the relevant information. Which universities I was applying for (5 in total; 1 firm choice and 1 insurance choice), the courses, personal information etc. The most difficult part for me was probably the personal statement. You have to write a short 4000 character paragraph which includes hobbies, interests, any relevant experiences you may have been through (in relation to what you're applying for). Like with any application, you have to sell yourself with the personal statement, so creativity is the way to standing out, which can be difficult given how small the character limit is. Another stressful part of the application process is applying for the student loans. This is done on the student finance website where you put in your personal information, which uni you will be attending, your chosen course, where you'll be living during your study (in my case 3 terms), whether you'll have financial depenants and whether or not you're expecting to work during your study. As I was living at home still, the next part of the finance application falls to student finances contacting my parents to provide personal financial information in order to gage which level of maintenance loan I was eligible for.