How to write the killer opening for your Personal Statement

By Haaroon Younis
The hardest part of writing the personal statement is the introduction, in particular the opening sentence. Probably because you have been told so many times that, that admissions staff do not read beyond the first few lines of your statement if they find it boring. You need to grab their attention.

No need to get frustrated now because you don’t know how to begin your personal statement. To assist you to write your killer opening I have put together advice that will make sure not only your opening sentence but entire statement stand out!

 

  1. You don’t have to start from the beginning

You don’t have to start writing your personal statement from the beginning and don’t pressure yourself to come up with the perfect opening sentence. I’d recommend writing the opening sentence last. After you’ve written most of your personal statement you will be able to add the token opening sentence which will allow you to properly introduce yourself. It’s okay if you’re stuck and can’t think of an opening sentence, take a break and focus on the other sections of your personal statement and come back to the opening.

 

  1. Use the ‘necklace approach’

The ‘necklace approach’ is a technique that links your opening and closing paragraphs which makes your personal statement cohesive and reinforces what you are saying. By using this approach you are using your closing paragraph to summarise everything you have said.

For example, if your opening sentence is about what currently motivates you to study your chosen subject, your closing paragraph or sentence could link back to the introduction by stating why you would like to study the subject at University and what your motivations and plans are for the future.

 

  1. Five clichés to avoid as your opening sentence

Every year there are the standard and most obvious opening sentences that students use. It’s best to try and avoid using these opening sentences because they are so overused that the admissions tutors reading the personal statement will get bored. You should try and make your opening sentence as unique and specific as possible so no other applicant will have the same beginning.

Last year the top 5 most overused openings were:

  1. ‘From a young age….’ used 1779 times
  2. ‘For as long as I can remember…..’ used 1451 times
  3. ‘I am applying for this course because….’ Used 1370 times
  4. ‘Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…..’ used 310 times
  5. ‘Reflecting on my educational experiences….’ Used 257 times

 

  1. No quotes

Another overused beginning is using quotes. Using a quote as the beginning sentence is generally considered a big no by admissions tutors. This is because if you are going to include a quote you need to explain it and talk about the source where you obtained it from. It’s great that you’ve done wider reading around the subject but this should not be in your introduction but in a later paragraph.

In your introduction you should be explaining your passion for the course. Most of the time when students do include a quote they do not explain it and the admissions staff want to know what you think not what the author of the quote thinks. We want to see your personality and passion and you can’t really achieve that by using a quote.

 

  1. Other tips

Below is a list of other tips you might find handy.

  • Start with a short sentence that captures the reason why you are interested in studying the subject you are applying for. Your interest in the course is the biggest thing.
  • Get to the point quickly and don’t waffle. Be specific right from the beginning. ‘Why are you excited about studying this subject?’
  • Write what comes naturally. Don’t waste time trying to come up with a catchy opening. Chances are it will sound gimmicky and not reflect your personality or show your motivation for the subject.
  • The opening is your opportunity to introduce yourself, explain your motivation for wanting to study the subject and briefly demonstrate your understanding of the subject.
  • Don’t just state that you’re interested in the subject explain why you are interested in the subject.

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