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When Should I Start Writing My Personal Statement?

27/03/20249 minute read
When Should I Start Writing My Personal Statement?

Wondering when to kick off your personal statement journey? Crafting your personal statement is a crucial part of your application, but let's face it, getting started can be tough.  Generally, it’s good practice to start the process several months before the deadline, giving you ample time for planning and writing. Therefore, we highly recommend beginning your essay early considering the various aspects involved. To assist you with this component, here’s a suggested timeline to guide your progress!

US and UK Personal Statement requirements
USUK
Deadline2025 Entry: Varies based on the individual school. Early Decision deadline typically on Nov 1 2024. Regular Decision deadline typically on Jan 1 2025.2025 Entry: 15 Oct 2024, 18:00 (UK time) for any course at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry. 29 January 2025, 18:00 (UK time) for the majority of courses.
Application PlatformCommon Application or individual university portals UCAS
Length650 words4,000 characters
FormatPromptedOpen-ended
StyleMore creative and introspective, focused on how you’ve overcome a particular life experience and what you’ve learnt from it.More specific and straightforward, focused on the reasons behind applying for the specific courses, and how you’ve prepared.
Supplemental EssaysTypically required by competitive universities.Not typically required.

Navigate down the table for additional information.

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Suggested timeline

Early exploration (four to six months before the deadline)

Preparation is crucial especially when it comes to your personal statement! You want to build a solid foundation before drafting so start preparing at least four to six months before the due date. Start by conducting a thorough self-assessment to help you identify your personal characteristics and experiences that could contribute to a compelling narrative.

In your reflection, it’s essential to consider both the factual information and the more emotional, human aspect that defines you as a person. Keep in mind that the balance between personal and factual information in your essay may vary depending on whether you’re applying to a US or UK university, so tailor your approach accordingly.

Take your time to deeply reflect on your personal and academic journey so far. Consider what values are important to you, what you’re passionate about, and what keeps you motivated! Such questions will give your personal statement a more authentic feel.

Similarly, think about your achievements and contributions that you’ve made. Which ones are highly relevant to your aspirations and how can you enhance them further? This gives you the opportunity to highlight your most impactful experiences while identifying areas for improvement. Showing how you’ve demonstrated your interests, knowledge, and skills is particularly important for UK personal statements.

Research programme requirements

It’s also important to research the specific programmes and universities you’re interested in to learn about their various requirements and expectations. Explore their website and take a look at their history, values, and mission statement. Some universities favour a strong academic profile while some value more entrepreneurial or creative students. Use this information to your advantage and think about your experiences that align with the university’s values.

Certain course descriptions may even provide insight into what the university is seeking. Take Oxford’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics program for example, which explicitly outlines their admission criteria. Remember, these universities are also looking for students with the best fit.

Planning and drafting (four months before)

Now that you've completed your self-reflection, it's time to create a roadmap for your personal statement. Starting with a plan can ease the writing process and ensure that your essay remains focused and cohesive. Begin by jotting down your key points and considering the overarching theme of your essay. These points will serve as the foundation for your personal statement, providing a rough outline to guide your writing.

Next, organise your key points into sections to create a coherent structure for your essay. This ensures a smooth flow between paragraphs and that it maintains focus throughout. The Three Step Experience format is particularly useful for crafting a US personal statement. Alternatively for a UK essay, consider structuring it into four key sections: your motivation for applying, the relevance of your studies, your specific interests, and why you are well-suited for the programme.

Now it's time to dive into your first draft, ideally starting two to three months before the deadline! Don't worry too much about word count at this stage — your focus should be on capturing all your key points. Remember, you can always refine it later on. Here are some helpful pointers to guide you:

  • Authenticity: Be genuine and honest about your experiences and aspirations.
  • Use examples: Bring your points to life with specific examples and anecdotes.
  • Conciseness: Keep your writing concise and focused on the most relevant aspects.
  • Stay positive: Maintain a positive tone and highlight what you've learned and achieved.

Seeking feedback (one to two months before)

At this stage, you should have at least the first draft ready. Share it with your friends, family, and teachers, and ask for their feedback. This stage is important as they can help identify errors, unnecessary information, or any missed opportunities. In fact, their diverse perspectives can provide valuable insights! Following are some quick ways to gather feedback on your personal statement:

  • Peer review: Share your draft with classmates or friends for constructive criticism.
  • Teacher or counsellor review: Ask teachers or counsellors familiar with your achievements for feedback.
  • Family review: Seek insights from family members who know you well.
  • Seek professional advice: Consider reaching out to admissions experts, like those at Crimson Education, for expert guidance and feedback tailored to your goals and aspirations. Our experts have assisted students who have gained admission to Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, and many other top universities.

Editing, proofreading and polishing (one month before)

As you enter the final stretch of your personal statement journey, it's time to focus on editing, proofreading, and polishing your document to perfection. Allocate at least a month for this critical task to ensure that your personal statement is polished to perfection before submission.

Begin by carefully reviewing your personal statement and comparing it with your initial outline and earlier drafts. Ensure that you've covered all the key points and addressed the programme requirements (if necessary) effectively. Look for any gaps or inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

One effective editing technique is to read your personal statement aloud. This allows you to evaluate its overall cohesiveness and flow. Pay attention to how the sentences and paragraphs connect with each other. If any sections sound awkward or disjointed, consider making edits to improve clarity and readability.

Online proofreading tools, such as Grammarly, can be incredibly helpful during the editing process. These tools check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, helping you to identify and correct any mistakes. While these tools are useful, remember to use them as a supplement to your own editing efforts rather than relying solely on them.

Finally, give your personal statement a final polish to ensure that it is error-free and polished to perfection. Pay attention to details such as grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Double-check for any typos or formatting issues that may have been overlooked.

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Learn How to Craft a Compelling Personal Statement

Crafting a personal statement for your university application can feel overwhelming, but Crimson Education is here to make the process smoother for you. We provide comprehensive university admissions support, including assistance with your personal statement, to help you create compelling narratives that distinguish you from other applicants.