Improving a good start

The following student has written a Personal Statement to support an application to read History. This is an early draft which needs improving.

I enjoy History lessons so I have decided to pursue the subject at degree level.

  • They start by explaining why they've chosen the degree.
  • This statement could be stronger. It doesn't feel like a very insightful reason behind their choice of degree. An explanation of why they enjoy History would be better.

At university I look forward to examining a range of historical sources. I am particularly interested in French history and trips to France have broadened my historical awareness.

  • Each sentence tries to offer a different point.
  • The second sentence in this paragraph doesn't really link the two points. When a longer sentence is used, both halves really need to work together to make your point strongly.

As a school prefect I hold many responsibilities, including organising and attending school functions, delivering speeches to the school body and being an active member of the school council. Having played in school concerts with the keyboard orchestra when I was in year nine, I have recently taken up piano lessons.

  • They refer to a position of responsibility (in this case, school prefect) and elaborate by giving examples of the duties they have. This helps create the impression of a student with varied interests.
  • They keep references to musical experience concise.
  • Giving examples of prefect duties is useful, but it would be better if they talked about the skills they've gained by doing them (e.g. public speaking, team working).
  • They're writing about two different aspects of life here (school prefect duties and musical experience) but struggling to link them together. The common theme they have is participation. Focusing on this would help the paragraph feel a lot more logical.
  • The reference to Year Nine isn't really needed. It sounds like it was a long time ago, and references should be as recent as possible.
  • Mentioning piano lessons is good, but it would be better if they explained what this hobby has taught them or shown why this information is relevant to their personal statement.

I am a keen sports player and I am a member of the school hockey team, netball team, the athletics squad and the volleyball team, earning me the "Sports Personality of the Year" award. I have taught information technology skills to younger students and helped a particular student to overcome language difficulties. I have organised sports days and Christmas parties for the elderly, and written, directed and performed a series of short plays.

  • This is clearly an active and well-rounded individual, not just an academic.
  • Referencing IT is good, but the admissions tutor will be wondering what they learnt about themselved. What skills have they used?
  • Assisting other people presents another aspect of the student's personality.
  • It's hard not to write "I" lots in a personal statement. But if you can avoid using one at the start of every sentence it will make your statement more enjoyable to read.
  • Mentioning team sports is good. Mentioning the skills gained from participating in them is event better.
  • The sentence about technology skills and overcoming language difficulties isn't really explained, so is probably best left out. If you can't explain something clearly in a small amount of words, leave it out.

I have always enjoyed reading but more recently my A-level studies have enabled me to explore foreign literature.

  • If reading is enjoyable, it's good to say so.

Currently, I am involved in the European Youth Parliament Competition in which I will be representing my school at a residential debating conference. The winner will represent the United Kingdom in Cyprus. This venture enhanced my general knowledge (specifically of genetic engineering and drug legislation).

  • This is excellent – including a role in an academic competition, which involved public speaking.
  • It's better to be specific – the issue discussed in the competition is an interesting detail.
  • They could definitely have gone further in talking about the competition, especially the skills they gained.
  • It also feels like it's missing a strong concluding statement that connects back to their choice of degree.

The finished article

I have always been fascinated with the past, beginning with childhood interests in time travel and mythology. This interest continued with student exchanges to France and Germany, which gave me the opportunity to study 18th Century French history and dictatorship and to widen my historical scope. A trip to France, where I studied issues relating to the World Wars confirmed my interest in History and my decision to pursue the subject at degree level. At University I look forward to analysing varied interpretations of history and the original sources upon which they are based.

As a school prefect I have held many responsibilities such as organising school events, delivering speeches, and participating actively on the school council. The experience has taught me to use my own initiative and developed my skill of public speaking and diplomacy. I also involve myself fully with the school music performances. Having played in concerts with the keyboard orchestra, I have recently taken up piano lessons and gained a wider awareness of music, especially of Debussy and romanticism.

Playing in various school sports teams has earned me several awards including that of "Sports Personality of the Year" and taught me the importance of communication, teamwork and self-reliance. Organising a series of plays and other events for the elderly was a fulfilling challence. I also found that the experience of assisting younger pupils with IT and language development was extremely rewarding.

I have always enjoyed reading, but more recently my A-level studies have enabled me to explore foreign literature. Brecht is particularly absorbing for his insight into the way people attempt to overcome the horrors of war.

Currently, I am helping to produce a film for the European Student Travel Company concerning the career opportunities for young people in Europe. Also, I represented my school at a national selection conference for the European Youth Parliament. This venture not only enhanced my general knowledge, but improved my teamwork, language and debating skills, which will be particularly useful for my course at university.

Ready to make your mark

If you're ready, go back to your first draft to see how you can improve it. Good luck!