Supporting your teen with their personal statement for uni

At this time of year, a large number of teens (and their parents!) are travelling the country visiting universities and thinking about their options for courses and locations.

A big challenge for many young people is how to stand out with a personal statement which truly represents them and gives the universities a reason to consider their application seriously. As a parent it can be stressful when trying to help, so here is my guidance to help you support your son/daughter.

Firstly, it’s important to note there’s lots of guidance on the UCAS website, including some generic headings to complete which will help you create a statement. But having written quite a few UCAS personal statements, here are my tips for making it the best it can be.

Authentically them

It’s tricky for teens to answer questions about what makes them different – largely because they would prefer to be the same as everyone else. So rethinking the questions can help to craft a part of the personal statement which really shows off the essence of them.

Because in this context, standing out isn’t about having something rare, it’s about young people knowing themselves and what they can bring to a university. No two people are the same, but it takes some thinking to come up with why teens are different.

Get your teen to think about what their passion is – and what they like about it so much. Does that link to the kinds of courses they’re keen to apply for?

What skills and abilities would they bring to the university? What are their long-term ambitions? And what transferable skills do they have? Encourage them to think more deeply than “good at working in teams”, bringing in examples from part-time jobs or voluntary work if you have them.

Some schools are better than others at supporting young people to understand this kind of thing. And, as a parent, you might find it frustrating when trying to help your teen. Try asking them how their teachers would describe them; maybe even get their teachers to write this down. Also, encourage them to think about what do they love to do and are good at.

The simple fact is that, in a competitive world, we all need to learn to pitch ourselves and for many young people, applying to university is their first experience of that. And it’s really important that their personal statement feels genuinely like them and not a copy and paste of generic statements from the internet!

Generic enough to get through, specific enough to add value

Many young people will be applying for different courses (up to five different ones), so it’s impossible to be specific in a personal statement about the reason why you want to study a particular course. Look for similarities in the courses and encourage your teen to explain what interests them about those consistent elements and how this aligns with their passions and skills Admission tutors are usually looking to make sure the applicant understands the core themes and can sense their desire to learn.

Encourage them to think about what have they already done that prepares them to study those courses – whether at school as part of formal qualifications or outside of school? What are the courses a springboard to in their mind? What’s their vision for a career, not just a degree? What appeals to them about this career What do they want to gain from the university experience overall? Push them to think about both the academic reasons for going to uni as well as the extra-curricular ones; you don’t want them to sound too much like a slave to their studies!

4,000 characters

4,000 characters – a bit less than the length of this blog – may seem like not enough to some and too many for others – the trick is to write it first without worrying about the character limit and then edit where needed.

Sometimes it may be easier for your teen to talk it through while you take notes of what they say and how they say it to help them capture their natural thoughts and feelings. Use the UCAS questions to help you to do this.

Do it bit by bit

Encourage your teen to prepare the statement bit by bit. Start early jotting down ideas and use the summer term to start to write it so there is plenty of time to refine it. They need to give their teachers time to do their bit and get input and feedback from their tutors as well as someone to double check spelling and grammar when they go back to school/college in September. It needs to be ready to submit by the October or January deadline, depending on the courses. It’s not a race to get it done so don’t let them be influenced by others who have already finished or haven’t even started. Just focus on making it great.

Writing a personal statement can be daunting for your teen, you can help them succeed with gentle encouragement and patience, but if you need help and support from someone objective in a safe and supportive environment, give me a call to book a free chemistry session on 07765 894040.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.