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Exceptional Personal Statement Examples

Selling yourself in under 4,000 characters to an academic you've never met is pretty daunting even for the most confident sixth-form student. So we've put together some dos and don'ts to make sure you show yourself in the best possible light.

Here are eight don'ts

• Don't spend ages trying to come up with a perfect, snappy first line – write anything and return to it later.

• Don't use cliches. According to the Ucas Guide to Getting into University and College, the most overused opening sentences this year were variations of "from a young age I have always been interested in…" This looks formulaic and is a waste of characters.

• Famous quotes should be avoided, as these will be found in countless other applications. For instance, this line by Coco Chanel was found in 189 applications for fashion courses this year: "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only."

• Don't list your interests, demonstrate them. Professor Alan Gange, head of the department of biological sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, says: "Actually doing something, for example joining a national society or volunteering for a conservation organisation, tells me that students have a passion."

• Style matters. Don't be chatty and use slang, but on the other hand, don't be pretentious. Cathy Gilbert, director of customer strategy at Ucas, says: "If you try too hard to impress with long words that you are not confident using, the focus of your writing may be lost."

• Don't ask too many people for advice. Input from teachers is helpful, but it is important that the student's personality comes across.

Nicole Frith, 19, who has just started a BSc in Geography at the University of Durham, asked two teachers for advice on content. "I would seriously advise against asking teacher after teacher," she said. "There is no such thing as a perfect personal statement, and everyone has different opinions." Most admissions offices are happy to give general advice, and the Ucas website has video guides on how to plan and write your statement.

• Don't be tempted to let someone else write your personal statement for you. A recent news report says sixth-formers are paying up to £350 on the internet for personal statements written by university students. Ucas, which uses fraud detection software to identify cheating, warns of "serious consequences".

• Dont' skimp on paragraphs, despite their negative impact on line count. You want your statement to be readable.

And eight dos

• Organisation is the key. Caroline Apsey, 19, who started a medical degree at the University of Leeds this term, says: "Before I started writing, I made bullet points of everything I wanted to include, and ordered them from most important to least."

• Leave yourself plenty of time for editing. "Start writing early, so that you have lots of time to re-read it with fresh eyes," Caroline says. Then edit and edit and edit again.

• Be specific. Lee Hennessy, deputy head of admissions and recruitment at the University of Bath, says: "Don't just say, you're interested in a subject because it's interesting. Ask yourself, what it is, specifically, about the subject that interests you?"

Lee Marsden, associate dean of admissions for the faculty of arts and humanities at the University of East Anglia, agrees: "We want to know what excites the student: perhaps a book they have read or a play they have seen. There needs to be a hook."

• Show you are up to date with developments in your subject: perhaps you could analyse a recent journal article or news event.

"You need to tune in to what's current in your subject," says Louise Booth, assistant director of sixth form at Fulford school in York. "For example, if you're a politics candidate: have you been to see the prime minister or your local MP speak?"

• Around 80% of your statement should be dedicated to your studies and work experience, and 20% to extra-curricular activities. Hobbies are valuable, but must be used to reveal something relevant about the applicant.

"A simple 'I have done' list is not useful," says Helen Diffenthal, assistant principal for advice and guidance at the Sixth Form College, Farnborough. "Saying that you were captain of the cricket team doesn't make any difference unless you use it to show that you can manage your time effectively."

• Be original but treat humour with caution – jokes can fall flat.

"Original is excellent," says Gange. "I once saw a statement written in the style of a tabloid journalism article. It was factual and entertaining; the student gained a place here and got a first."

"We let through quirky statements if the student is quirky," says Booth. "Don't try to be funny if that's not you – it won't work."

• Correct spelling and grammar is vital, so use the spell-check on your computer and get other people, such as teachers, to proofread your statement.

• In the end, honesty is the best policy. Tell the admissions tutor, in your own words, why you deserve a place. "Just be yourself," says Nicole. "That worked for me."

by Michael Cheary

OK, so putting a personal statement together is never easy…

But even if you’ve written one before, how you write a personal statement will always depend on your current situation. In other words, what you write as a school leaver will look a lot different to someone who has many years of previous work experience.

To help you find the right one for you, here are some real personal statement examples – and how you can use them to make your CV stand out:

 

Free CV Template

Download Free CV Template

 

University personal statement 

First things first: personal statements aren’t just for your CV.

They’re also a key part of the UCAS application process, and a way to sell yourself to prospective universities. However, they will be much more detailed – and longer – than the one you write for a job application.

We’ve covered everything you need to know about personal statements for university here.

 

School leaver personal statement example

All personal statements should be tailored to the role in question. No exceptions.

Start by answering the following three questions: Why do you want to work in this industry? What skills make you right for the role (hint: use the job description)? And where do you want to go in your career?

However, school leavers should always focus on the latter – and what you can bring to the business, as well as focusing on the knowledge and skills gained through education, rather than employment history. Soft skills are also a great place to start.

Example:

A highly motivated and hardworking individual, who has recently completed their A-Levels, achieving excellent grades in both Maths and Science. Seeking an apprenticeship in the engineering industry to build upon a keen scientific interest and start a career as a maintenance engineer. Eventual career goal is to become a fully-qualified and experienced maintenance or electrical engineer, with the longer-term aspiration of moving into project management.

School leaver CV template

 

Graduate personal statement example

Similar to a school leaver personal statement, but with extra attention paid to specific things you’ve studied during higher education.

Once again, try and explain why you’re applying and where you’d like to go in your career, as well as the specific skills or knowledge you can offer. But try and drop in a few more details on your degree (projected grades are fine), as well as particular modules that have inspired you to work in this profession – if possible.

And remember: a personal statement written for a CV differs greatly from one written for a university application. If you haven’t written one before, you should start by reading our tips on how to write a personal statement.

Example:

A recent business economics graduate with a 2:1 honours degree from the University of X, looking to secure a Graduate Commercial Analyst position to use and further develop my analytical skills and knowledge in a practical and fast-paced environment. My career goal is to assume a role which allows me to take responsibility for the analysis and interpretation of commercial data for a well-respected and market-leading leading company.

Graduate CV template

Unemployed/redundancy personal statement example

Dealing with redundancy is never easy. But when dealt with in the right way, it needn’t be a hindrance when making applications.

Put the main focus on your employment history, and provide further information for your break in your cover letter. You don’t even necessarily need to mention it again, if you’ve already explained it elsewhere.

Remember, your personal statement is intended to sell yourself. So emphasise your positives rather than apologising for a negative.

Example:

Driven Retail Manager with over ten years’ experience in the fashion industry. Proven track record of success, including managing the top performing store in the region, and having the lowest staff turnover rate of all UK outlets. Currently out of work due to company closure, looking for the right opportunity to bring my expertise to a well-established fashion brand in an upper management position.

How to: Deal with redundancy

Redundancy CV template

Career break personal statement example

There are many good reasons someone may need to take a career break.

Some possible examples could include parental leave, caring for a family member, plans to travel or long-term illness. However, whatever the reason for your own break, it’s never something you should feel the need to justify to a prospective employer.

In fact, knowing how to explain a gap in your CV is mostly about confidence. So leave any extra explanation for your cover letter and focus your personal statement on your career before the break – and any skills learned during your time off which may be applicable to the role.

Example:

A highly motivated and experienced PA, currently looking to resume my professional career after dedicating the last five years to raising a family. Excellent admin skills, thorough knowledge of all Microsoft Office programs, as well as proficiency in minute-taking and extensive experience liaising with clients. After volunteering for one day a week with a local charity to refresh my skills, now fully committed to continuing my career on a full-time basis.

Career break CV template

Career change personal statement example

If you’re changing industry completely, think about any transferable skills and applicable to the sector you’re moving into.

Any numbers you can give to demonstrate your success could be crucial – even if you’re moving into an area where your expertise may seem slightly different. So always aim to back up your claims with real examples.

Focus on one or two achievements, demonstrate the impact they had, and you’ll instantly start adding value to your application.

 

Example:

As an experienced sales manager, my tenacious and proactive approach resulted in numerous important contract wins. My excellent networking skills have provided my team with vital client leads, and my ability to develop client relationships has resulted in an 18% increase in business renewals for my current organisation. After eight years in sales, currently seeking a new challenge which will utilise my meticulous attention to detail, and friendly, professional manner.

Changing careers: What you need to know 

Career change CV template

Final thoughts

If you’re still not sure of what to write, don’t panic.

Crafting a winning personal statement will take time, especially if you haven’t written one before. Use these examples as a loose structure to follow, and you’ll be able to add to them as your experience grows.

And remember: you should always aim to edit your personal statement for each role you apply for. That way, you can ensure you’re really selling yourself to their role, rather than simply sending the same generic statement for each application.

It should only take a few more minutes to complete. But if it’s enough to attract an employers interest, it will be time well spent in the long run.

How to write a personal statement

Personal statement dos and don’ts

Read more CV help & tips

 

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