Writing a successful personal statement
1. Get the basics right
You need to spend a lot of time making sure that your personal statement sounds professional – this means excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation, and a good choice of words. It is definitely advisable to read example personal statements online, but you need to make sure that you don’t let any stock phrases creep into your own statement. There is nothing worse than a personal statement which looks like it has been cut and paste from the internet. Make sure you ask someone else to check your statement – it is all too easy to miss errors when the same 600 words have been swimming before your eyes for a whole day.
2. Follow the instructions
The online application form contains very specific instructions about what you should include in your personal statement, even providing a bullet pointed list of what is needed. Additionally there is another useful bullet pointed list in the Application Criteria. It might sound obvious – but you need to include everything on these lists – if you miss anything then there is a high chance that your application will be rejected. At the same time, you don’t want to make your personal statement sound wooden by simply following lists – always make sure that what you are writing flows well and sounds natural.
It could be well worth printing off the application instructions and ticking off each point to make sure that you have covered everything. If a candidate looks like they haven’t followed instructions then it puts their application in a very bad light. There is a strict limit of 600 words – make sure you stay within this length, but also make sure you don’t write a statement which is too short – candidates who submit a statement which is nearer the minimum of 300 words may look like they are struggling to find things to write.
3. Make it relevant
Make sure you focus on relevant experiences - particularly your experience of teaching and observation in schools. It is fine to include other experiences, but you always need to make sure they are linked back to the purpose of your application – i.e. your ability to be an inspirational and passionate maths teacher. If you coach a youth football team then you need to relate this experience back to your passion for teaching young people, rather than emphasising how much you love football.
If you have an experience which is not directly related to working with young people then it is important that you make it relevant, for example if you worked weekends in a restaurant, then you may have discovered that you enjoyed training new staff, helping you decide on a career in education. You might find yourself in the lucky position that you have far too much relevant experience to fit in the statement, meaning that you need to be ruthless and prioritise what to put in.
4. Don’t repeat yourself
Don’t include anything in the personal statement which you have already included in the application form – this is simply a waste of space. Your degree is already listed on your application form, so there is no need to include it again in the personal statement. It can be tempting to include absolutely everything in the personal statement, whereas you need to be looking at your application as a whole – have you covered all the points across the whole application?
5. And finally...
Try and remember that the effort you put into your personal statement will be well worth it and will hopefully be the first step on an exciting and rewarding adventure. When you read your personal statement, you need to imagine it sitting in a large pile of statements from other people. Does yours read well? Is it relevant? Does it have an excellent opening paragraph? If using clichés such as “maths is my passion”, expand on this by explaining why you are passionate about maths, and what is it that gets you all fired up. It’s OK to say you love a specific equation, or that it’s applicable to everyday life but show us how you interpret that. It’s a line that’s all too easy to say and all too hard to prove!
You could have the best teaching ability in the world, but if you have a poor personal statement then you won’t be invited to the assessment centre. On the other hand – if you make the effort to write an excellent personal statement, then you will be giving yourself the best chance possible of progressing to the next stage of the application process.