1. Not giving context
The first mistake that many students make is to write their personal statement without context. You must always remember that you are one of thousands of applicants, and you are a foreign student. Among foreign students, there is so much diversity and differences in academic systems, life experience etc.
Be sure to explain what you are talking about first, before diving in head-first. Common terms that Singaporean students take for granted without definition include "NS", "CCAs", "JCs" etc.
2. Excluding academic achievements
A second crucial mistake is that students assume the officers already know their academic achievements since this is a pre-requisite with submission. However, because UK universities (especially Oxbridge) really emphasize academics, it does not hurt to repeat your academic achievements (e.g. GPA, prizes won, competitions entered into). Similarly, you should include your achievements in non-academic areas well, as the underlying skill-sets (perseverance, hard work, drive and talent) are all factors that show the university you are someone special.
Along these lines, you should also demonstrate a well-researched and substantiated passion for the subject matter. E.g. Chemistry, what leading developments have occurred? Which area of research are you interested in? Or for Economics, what books have you read that have impacted your thinking on macro-economic theory? Are there interesting case studies that you have followed in the headlines recently?
3. Show not tell
It is not good enough to simply say “I have a passion for Economics”. You must show and convince the admission officer that you have actually done your research and you live and breathe this subject matter.
The best way to demonstrate your genuine passion for the course is to talk about your related work experience in the field. It is extremely important to have done internships related to your field and talk about your experience in your personal statement. You want to show that you have transferable skill-sets and that you have a great attitude! Don’t just list your work experience, tell them what you have learnt, what impacted you, and how you have grown as an individual. Show them that if they choose you, you will be grateful for the opportunity and use it well.
4. No coherent story
Listing achievements, and internship experiences at various companies does little to persuade. You need to be a convincing story-teller. Build and expand on your central mission statement (Why do you want to study X in UK and what makes you the best candidate?).
Consider these questions:
What are your career goals?
What motives you to do better in life?
Were there any turning points or challenges that you have overcome?
Everything should flow from your mission statement and emphasize WHY the university should choose YOU!
Read more about the DOs of UCAS Personal Statements here. If you want to ensure a winning personal statement tailored to your individual strengths, you may wish to get a professional review. Learn more about the review process here!