The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Personal Statement

Personal Statements

2nd November 2020

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The personal statement is often the most stressful part of the university application process for students. How do you deliver your achievements concisely without being too brief? How do you make the content authoritative without seeming uninteresting? How do you remain focused while delivering a well-rounded picture? While there is no exact formula for creating the perfect personal statement, there are common pitfalls that our experienced professionals are trained to avoid.

In addition to writing bespoke personal statements, we also offer an editing service. Often our writers see the same common pitfalls time and time again in the drafts that are submitted to us, so we thought that we would collate a few of these to show just some of the areas we address while editing and writing statements, ready for the 15th January 2021 UCAS application deadline.

The Personal Statement is not an Essay

We have seen many a draft that spends a majority of the word count analysing a particular aspect of theory or a case without actually stating achievements or experiences. While this may sound very impressive and be written eloquently, it does not fulfil the purpose of a personal statement- it does not tell the reader about you, your passion for the field or why you would be a suitable candidate for the course. While the integration of some theory and particularly the discussion of any relevant texts you’ve read is important, it must be in balance.

Stay Relevant

Some students can be tempted to provide a full chronological rundown of their life to date, but those two weeks of ballet lessons that you took when you were six may not be wholly relevant to an aspiring Law profession now. Our writers understand the importance of utilising the tight wordcount and staying relevant.

The Shopping List

At the other end of the scale from highly descriptive work is the overly brief statement that can better resemble a shopping list. This is the statement that reads like a quick-fire round of experiences without any explanations of what you learnt, how it informed your decision to pursue the field at university or what skills you gained. These are important aspects of each experience you discuss and remember only to include experiences you are willing to discuss at the interview.

Soft Skills

Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. In addition to excelling in the theory-based aspects of university, application teams are looking to see if you hold the necessary behavioural attributes that will influence how well you will work in the academic and vocational environments. These skills will vary depending on what course you are applying for, but some general soft skills include active listening, adaptability and leadership. It is also a brilliant way to tie in those extra-curricular exploits; for example, being in a school sports team may not seem relevant but, in fact, may evidence communication, teamwork and the ability to work under pressure.


A good structure is the foundation of a good personal statement. By this, we mean a logical structure, where each new paragraph follows on from the last and there is a clear beginning, middle and end. Avoid repetition and coming back to discussions that you have already gone into further up the statement. This will allow the reader to follow your train of thought and concentrate on your achievements.

An Impactful Introduction

A good statement needs to hold the reader’s attention from the offset – it needs to grab the application team’s interest so that they want to read ahead and do so with a sense of expectation. This can be achieved in many ways- it can be emotive, a personal anecdote or a gripping statement about current affairs.

Language, Spelling and Grammar

Poor language choices and incorrect spelling and grammar carve the benchmark of a rushed and poorly thought out statement. One of the core aims of a personal statement is to show that you have the capability to succeed on the course. Grammatical errors are a red flag to an applications team that is looking for candidates who can meet the written demands of an undergraduate programme. All of our statements, bespoke and edits, maintain standards of impeccable English.

These are just a few of the common errors that we look out for when writing and editing statements. As we head into added national lockdown measures this week and are taken further away from outside distractions, there has never been a better time to get your personal statement ticked off the application checklist ready for the 15th January 2021 deadline. Whether you need a bespoke statement or an edit of an existing draft, Oxbridge Personal Statements are here to help.