An application to British universities is made up of several components, such as predicted grades, references from teachers, and other requirements from the universities in question like interviews or sample essays. However, perhaps the aspect of the UCAS application that students worry about most is the personal statement.
A personal statement is short – just 47 lines or about 500 words, which is only slightly longer than this article. That space provides the student with the opportunity to explain why they want to study the subject they have chosen, what motivates them, and implicitly, why the universities to which they’ve applied should offer them a place. That’s a lot of pressure for a very short piece of writing.
And there’s a lot that can go wrong. For instance, students may be misled by American universities into devoting several paragraphs to their extracurricular activities, which British universities typically have much less interest in unless the activities relate directly to the course the student has chosen. Students may fall into clichés (the stories of a childhood chemistry set, or the literature student who “just loves words!”) without realising how many times admissions tutors will have read similar stories and reasons. It isn’t the case that every personal statement has to be entirely original, but it undoubtedly helps if the admissions tutor isn’t bored by what a student has written.
This is without even getting into the world of more complicated personal statements. For students who are applying to different courses at different universities, such as History and Politics at one university, but History and Classics at another, the personal statement is a particular minefield. The personal statement can also be used to briefly outline mitigating circumstances around poorer grades, which adds additional pressure as well as complexity.
No reputable tutor will write a personal statement for your child (and universities are adept at spotting this anyway) but what a tutor can do is guide your child through the process, give feedback, steer them away from pitfalls and generally make the writing of a personal statement that bit less stressful. This requires considerable experience in the university application process – given all of the above factors that need to be considered – and is therefore usually quite expensive. It’s important to remember that the personal statement can make or break a university application. If you’re investing in your child’s grades, it’s sensible to invest in their personal statement as well.