Personal Statement Guidance

How to Prepare to Write your PS?

More often than not, when we think of how to write our PS, we scratch our heads, we frantically read the PS of our seniors who we worship like a God and get angry at for saying that their PS “wasn’t actually that good”. This may be all too familiar to many of you and believe it or not, it is not ideal. 

How do you save yourself from that plague of stress when the deadline for your first draft looms over your head and all you have on your draft is “A degree at a world class university would help me realize my dreams”? How to make your life a little bit easier?

This article aims to help you gain a massively needed headstart in writing your PS and how to make the PS writing process not something horrible and daunting; but rather something that’s fun and enriching. 

  1. Read WAY WAY IN ADVANCE
    (When should you start: No start date. Just read anything and everything)

    This one goes without saying, a critical element to writing a good PS is to demonstrate passion and interest in the course chosen and there may be few better ways to do it than through reading.

    How to include this in your PS: Highlight concepts/thoughts you found on a book/academic paper that you thought was interesting and analyse by giving your thoughts on it.

    Eg: “This nuance from X written by Y was an eye-opener as it challenged all other ideas but I failed to see a connection between…..”

  2. TAKE BOOK NOTES
    (When should you start: Whenever you read any non-fiction books, you don’t need to note details on who ended up in Iron Throne even though it should have been the Night King)

    A lot of people read but never take notes which results in them forgetting information they have gained throughout the book which is a huge regret. Of course, you will remember the key message and argument but playfully hidden in all the pages are necessary facts that may be important and/or fun to know. Therefore, it is key to take book notes and always note down any piece of fact/argument that you think is important or extremely cool and will help you in the future.

  3. Create a PS CHEAT SHEET
    (When should you start: Ideally, as soon as you start A Levels but more reasonably sometime around March of the year you’re applying to uni)

    Something useful to have is a cheat sheet (not exactly the best name but I don’t really know what it should be called). Writing a PS requires you to write about something that evokes your interest. And there may be A LOT of things that piques your interest. Therefore, you should create a sheet filled with random things from your course that interests you and then find ways to explore them to figure out if they are good enough to make it to your PS.

    I know this seems abstract but here’s what it should look like:

    – Random Newspaper headlines that showcases a new branch in your course
    – Random new Theory that you stumbled upon and may wanna analyze
    – A cool application of knowledge from your course that you wish to analyse

    Basically, you don’t know what your PS is gonna be about early on. This Cheat Sheet should be a list of all possible things to talk about. As you continue exploring, you should add and remove things from this cheat sheet according to your own discretion.

  4. DO AN INTERNSHIP/JOB PLACEMENT
    (When should you start: Anytime you’re free enough to do any placement/internship. Ideally the summer before you write your PS so you have a rough idea of what you wanna do)

    Source: JobStreet.com

    If indulging in books and seminars and random documentaries really isn’t your thing, then this is a perfect substitute (maybe even better). An internship and job placement helps you prepare to write your PS in a number of ways.

    Firstly, in the most obvious way, it literally gives you a few sentences (maybe even a paragraph) to write about, where you get to write about what you did, what you learned and so on.
    Secondly, it helps apply knowledge that you have gained into the real world so you have more things to explore and write about. You can easily mention how you were fascinated by “the application of concepts you learned in books and classes” and it made you more interested in the horizons of the course.
    Thirdly, you might come across a lot of things during your internship which you can then use as the base of your PS and analyse. Eg: if you interned at a law firm and witnessed discussions of a case, maybe you can talk about that as your “academic” part of your PS. Similarly if you interned in a bank and so on.
    Fourthly, it might even help you decide if the course is right for you or not. If what you do in an internship is extremely boring, if the job your supervisor is doing really doesn’t fascinate you, maybe that job and subsequently the course that lands you that job isn’t really your cup of tea. In which case, it’s perhaps time to consider other things.
    Lastly, it is a productive thing to do and sometimes they pay you so why not?
  1. ENTER A COMPETITION
    (When should you start: At any point in time!)

    There are plenty of competitions and opportunities out there that you can and should participate in. If you’re a more academic person, there are essay writing competitions or the fabled MPPC which helps you gain insight on policy making. If you’re a more hands-on person, there exists Hackathons, coding competitions and designing competitions and many more.

    Competitions are good because again, it helps you discover stuff that you can potentially write about/include in your PS. On top of that, it shows how proactive you are in pursuing stuff which is always a good sign.

    What if you liked what you did in a competition? Then good, you get to say that whatever you did in the competition only made you love the course even more and more determined in pursuing it.

    What if you didn’t like what you did in a competition? You can always turn it around by saying that that part of the course doesn’t interest you as much as another part does or you can simply start analysing it and say “I personally think a more important thing we should focus on is…..” which makes you an analytical badass.

    A simple example would be if you say you didn’t like a Policy competition cos you think they focused only on discussion of the policy. You can turn it around in your PS and say “While I agree that is important, it only made me realize that there’s a lack of discussion of the implementation of policies and I believe studying Course X will allow me and people to better grasp the complexities and nuances of policy making”

    Point is: Like it or not, there’s a lot to gain from entering a competition. Plus, bragging rights yknow!

  2.  Do an ONLINE COURSE
    (When should you start: Any time!)

    Ok we get it, doing more “Studying” may not really be on top of your list of things to do. But similar to reading and seeking out job placements, online courses are extremely helpful in either developing your passion or provide things to write about.

    The good thing about online courses is that they are very diverse and can be niche. For example you can take a course called “The economics of diet” or something like that. Wacky and interesting blend of disciplines which can give you a broad perspective and understanding on something which will be of great help when you finally get to writing your PS. This would also be a fun way to go beyond the syllabus covered in your Pre-U course. Besides, it’s very admirable and commendable to take online courses which definitely will earn you some points in the eyes of the admissions officers reading your PS.

    You can look up courses from Coursera and other platforms providing free courses. 

On the whole, what I’m trying to say is, writing your PS should be like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You collect the pieces that are needed and then assemble it in the correct order when you need to submit it.  (by correct I mean, whichever order you feel is most strategic).

These 6 things would allow you to have those pieces ready by the time you’re expected to assemble it.

Without it, you’d have to cram your brain and come up with stuff to write about and before you know it, it is already 12am and your tutor is emailing you asking for your first draft. 

Anything is unclear? Think we left out anything key? Let us know at contactus@collegelah.com !!!

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