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5 Dos and Don’ts for a Successful Personal Statement

Writing a personal statement is a rite of passage. In order to apply for most universities – or a whole tranche of them at a time through UCAS – you need to outline the person behind the application in the form of a personal statement or letter of intent. But how can you tell if yours is going to grab the attention of your intended institution for the right or wrong reasons?

 

Here are 5 handy tips to help you make sure you are a surefire acceptance at the University of your dreams…

 

1) DON’T simply Google ‘University Personal Statement’ and then follow the proforma word for word.

Yes, the advent of the internet has meant a huge resource is available to students all around the world. And absolutely, you should draw on lots of examples to gain inspiration for your own foray into the world of writing about yourself. But simply following the top result on the world’s most used search engine is not going to gain you kudos with University admissions advisors.

Instead, do some subject or even institution specific research. Then, use that as a framework for your first draft. Do your first choice university have a key phrase used in advertising? Try to paraphrase it. Does your intended course require ingenuity, creativity or a drive for data? Incorporate that into your writing. DON’T simply Google it – if you put more time and effort into the crafting of your work it will show. Who knows? Maybe one day you could be the result when another budding student searches for ‘template personal statement’.

2) DO ask family and friends what they would say are your top qualities.

Many people – students or otherwise – find it incredibly difficult to honestly appraise their strengths and weaknesses. Either modesty or self-esteem prevent us from being able to confidently declare ‘I’m really good at x, y or z!’ So ask someone who knows you really well, and then reflect on their observations. Maybe you do have an eye for finer details that could be described as an ‘interest in the minutiae’, rather than just being ‘fussy’. Perhaps your passion for a particular sport or team could be construed as ‘vigour for life’ rather than fanaticism. Sell yourself, but be honest – and throw modesty to the side in order to ensure you present your best self to your chosen university.

3) DON’T use a thesaurus for every single word in your application.

Learn from the infamous Joey Tribbiani (a f.r.i.e.n.d.s reference that should translate to a modern generation due to the Netflix resurgence of the classic series in recent months). You do not need to replace ‘heart’ with ‘large aortic valve’. Neither do you need to list seven different adjectives to communicate that you are a hard worker.

What you should try to do instead is think of examples of scenarios that prove you have the qualities you are trying to exemplify. A great example would be avoiding the phrase ‘I love reading and going to the theatre’ for an application to study Literature. What would be better is to express that passion through an example of your particular interest in a performance you recently attended as part of your A-Level study. E.g. “The creative license employed by x in the recent adaptation of the ‘Woman In Black’ prompted me to re-read the original; I found the new perspective enlightening.” This not only shows you have a broader interest in story-telling as well as Literature more specifically, it also shows that you have critical reflection skills key to a good candidate for degree level study.

4) DO get someone with good literacy and grammar skills to proof read your personal statement.

If having to choose between there/their/they’re gives you cold shivers, or your/you’re not sure which form of a homophone to use – CHECK! A critical friend is a good friend, and when submitting as crucial a document as your personal statement you will want someone to cast an eye over it first.

You’re going to need to write several drafts before you ‘get it right’, so don’t be afraid to ask people to check it over. Any student going through the application process will be able to empathise, and your teachers know how stressful this can be for you. Asking for the help is the only way to be sure you get it.

5) DO plan ahead.

If you rush your personal statement, it will be obvious. The development of ideas will be patchy and the vocabulary is bound to be repetitive and – dare I say it? – boring. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, canvass for ideas, procrastinate, panic. Once you’ve done all that, write at least two or three drafts before you’re satisfied. For many students, the personal statement is their only opportunity to engage directly with the departments and universities they are applying to. The same level of commitment and attention to detail should be applied to the application itself as to choosing the institutions. Make sure you have planned ahead, and that way you can be sure you have your best foot forward.

So remember…

These hints and tips are a springboard to a successful personal statement. In summary:

    • Make sure you sell yourself well – take this opportunity to shine.
    • Make it personal – universities appreciate applications with a bit of personality rather than generic formulas and cliches.
    • Make it count – you have one shot.

 

Why Study Creative Writing?

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Creative Writing courses are growing in popularity, particularly within the UK.

The study of Creative Writing offers students a wide skillset which can attract a range of potential employers after graduation. But why should you study creative writing?

This article will explore:

  • What you can learn during the course
  • The potential careers that graduates go on to
  • What studying Creative Writing at Bangor University is like

What is Creative Writing?

Creative writing is seen by many as the ‘softer’ cousin to an English Literature degree, which may be perceived as a more academic discipline. However, this looks at it too simply and misses the benefits of studying creativity as a part of your degree.

English Literature is the study of what has already been written, whereas Creative Writing is the study and practice of new works. It explores prose, poetry, screenwriting, songwriting, short stories, journalism and experimental writing. Many universities offer Creative Writing as a course minor or as a joint honours degree, particularly in the UK.

Why Study Creative Writing?

Creative Writing degrees allow students to analytically look at existing works of literature, as you would during an English degree. Students then use this analysis to inform the creation of their own creative works.

Modules in creative writing are generally quite diverse and are often assessed through creative works. These tend to be submitted as weekly assignments, portfolios and supporting essays, rather than one long analytical essay at the end of a module.

Is Creative Writing for you?

If you are a practical person who enjoys creating original works such as stories, poems, writing a blog or contributing to magazines then Creative Writing may be right up your street. The skills that you learn whilst studying Creative Writing can make you highly employable in a wide range of disciplines including:

  • Journalism
  • Creative Industries
  • PR & Marketing
  • Content
  • Social Media

Creative Writing at Bangor University

So, what’s it like to study creative writing at university? At Bangor University, creative writing falls into two schools – The School of English and The School of Creative Studies and Media. This means that students who are taking a course involving Creative Writing can enjoy a range of joint honours courses. You can choose to study modules with either school, depending on how you wish to focus your studies.

Creative Writing through the School of English combines more traditional analysis of prose and poetry with author studies and historical writing modules e.g. Renaissance and Reformation. The School of Creative Studies and Media offers modules including:

  • Writing for Film and TV
  • Digital Journalism
  • 21st Century Writing and Publishing

You can mix and match modules from both schools. However, for your final year Undergraduate dissertation, you will have to choose which school you wish to write your dissertation. This will affect who is chosen as your supervisor.

For your final project, you can choose to write an analytical piece or a creative portfolio with supporting analysis. It will be the biggest project that you have worked on until that point, so it is important to write about something you’re passionate about. It will also be up to you to find a suitable supervisor to guide you through your project.

If you are looking to carry on studying after your undergraduate degree, your dissertation will be a big selling point to prospective institutions. The School of Creative Studies and Media also offers prizes for the best critical and practical dissertations.

Find out more about studying at Bangor University.

Do you like reading? Check out our tips on how to tackle big books.