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In this post we will focus on how to write a personal statement as a mature student. More specifically, we will go through 5 key questions/points you should cover to make your personal statement stand out.
If you are unsure about your study skills, at the end of this post you will also find some recommended study guides for mature students returning to education.
It might sound controversial, but I genuinely think mature students overthink it too much when it comes down to returning to education.
The reason why I am saying this is because I used to do it too. I was overthinking every single aspect of my return to education.
A possible explanation for this overthinking phenomenon is given by the word “mature” itself. I think that as an adult you have a much better understanding of how important higher education is.
Probably, this is because you “touched” the real world with your hands already, and you want to get it right this time. In all honesty, it turned out to be a lot easier than I initially thought!
Personally, I applied for five courses in three different Universities, receiving an offer from all of them. It was actually harder to choose which one to accept!
What is a personal statement
Before we get to how to write a personal statement as a mature student, let’s actually see what is a personal statement.
The easiest way to think about it is “cover letter” style, just as you would write it when applying for a job. You are trying to sell yourself by using your personal statement, it needs to be convincing and clear.
Some courses have really limited intake numbers, so your personal statement can play a massive role in the selection process!
Remember that on the other side there is someone reading it and trying to assess if and why you are a good candidate for that University.
In terms of length, the UCAS guidelines indicate a limit of 4000 characters and 47 lines. I bet it sounds confusing, because it does.
It shocks me that we are in 2022 and they cannot provide a downloadable template that prevents you from writing past the limit!
Anyway, they also recommend writing in a concise and simple manner, as well as being enthusiastic (although not exaggerating).
All good advice here, but what about something more specific on how to write a personal statement as a mature student?
How to write a personal statement as a mature student
There is not a precise structure to follow when writing your personal statement. This is because, ideally, they should all differ from each other to a certain extent: it’s YOUR story, only you really know how to market it best.
However, there are a few points that you should definitely include in your personal statement as a mature student. After introducing yourself, think about answering these 5 questions:
1) Why did you choose this subject(s)?
A very important thing to remember here is NOT to mention the exact course title, nor the University.
This is because, through UCAS, you can use only one personal statement; even though it can cover all your course choices (up to five).
Therefore, you should ideally talk about the subject(s) in general, common themes and why you are interested in those.
Tip: have a look at courses’ descriptions (all universities provide descriptions of their courses on their websites); this will help you identify some keywords and themes!
(e.g. “among the many aspects of studying economics, the understanding of the fundamentals of monetary policy is certainly one that fascinates me”).
It doesn’t matter what you are going to study, you can find a lot of themes and examples to give; use those to justify your choice without mentioning specific courses’ titles.
By doing this you will demonstrate your research and interest in the chosen subject(s). Furthermore, you will show your knowledge through the use of a technical terminology.
2) What qualifications do you have and how these relate to your choice?
It is important to somehow link your past/present academic experience to your future one. When I wrote my personal statement as a mature student, I briefly talked about my studies/interests back in the days.
I have mainly mentioned what I enjoyed most and where I performed best. I would definitely recommended doing something similar
If you think your old grades are irrelevant; or maybe you are afraid they were good enough to be mentioned; or maybe you do not have any; don’t worry!
You could do it the other way round too! You could mention how you regret not putting much effort back then, and now you want to make up for it, or something along those lines.
Remember we all have unique stories…
3) How does your experience relate to your chosen subject(s)?
This is an important part to cover in your personal statement as a mature student. I believe this is the key part.
Here you have to talk about the gap, what you have been doing while been away from education. Have you been working? Travelling? Caring? Parenting? You need to transform this gap in a strength.
Explain how your experience led you to return to education, why now? Tell them why you feel ready for the challenge, why you’ll make a better student than your previous self! What have you learned during this gap?
Another suggestion that I can give you on that part is to use the “magic” words when discussing the skills gained in the gap.
Words such as time management, teamwork, meeting deadlines, work under pressure, multitasking and so on.
Personally, I have structured this part around my years of work experience in hospitality. Everything I learned from the industry itself (the positive), to the feeling of being stuck in a job I did not like (the negative).
This was one of the main driver to my return to education as a mature student.
4) How do your interests relate to your chosen subject(s)?
Similarly to your experience in question 3, in this case you should explain more generally your interest to the selected subject(s).
Think about how you keep up with what surrounds those, anything that relates to them and consolidates your choice(s).
Do you read about that industry/sector? Did you attend webinars or conferences etc?
Another part you could add here is your activities/hobbies. You can mention any sports you do, association you are part of, volunteering or anything that demonstrates other skills and values you have.
Those would enrich your personal statement as a mature student and support your application.
5) Why should you be offered a place?
Here is your chance to stand out by showing your enthusiasm about being a future university student.
You could talk about why you will be a great student, immerging yourself in the academic life, making friends and actively participating and adding value to University debates.
This other article can give you some ideas “How to be a successful mature student at university“, you could mention some themes of university life as a mature student! (e.g. just like suggested in point 1 for courses descriptions!)
Lastly, you should talk about your future, your life after University, talk about your final goal. Show them your ambitions!
Remember that they will always welcome students with high chances of success; since the more are successful after University, the higher is the reputation (and ranking) gained by the institution!
General tips on writing your personal statement as a mature student
Start big! My suggestion is to answer those 5 questions by throwing in a lot of details for each. This should be easy, since it is your personal experience and feelings you are talking about.
Surely you’ll come up with a lot of arguments when you really start thinking about those questions.
Although it might sound repeating in some parts, another suggestion I can give you is to answer everything individually at first.
Trust me, my personal statement drafts were like essays, definitely much over than the word limit.
Once you answered those 5 questions, I would really expect that you will have exceeded the 4000 characters limit (highly likely).
It is at that point that you can start your word cutting process. You will get rid of all those repetitive and less relevant parts.
A very important thing I need to mention here about those 5 points. They don’t need to follow that specific order! Whatever works/sounds best according to your story, only you know that!
Make sure that, after word cutting and joining all the 5 answers, (use linking/conjunction words!!) the text is fluid. I would suggest reading it out loud several times.
Just like a story, try to adjust it in a way that contains an introduction-main part(s)-conclusion, doing it chronologically can really help with that.
Once you are done, you will be left with the best quality personal statement as a mature student.
Best study guides for mature students returning to education
As mentioned in the beginning, below you can find few study guides for mature students returning to education.
You can find all of them on Amazon UK and I left a link for each that will take you there straight away:
- The Return to Study Handbook: Study Skills for Mature, Distance, and Workplace Learners.
- The Mature Student’s Guide to Writing (Palgrave Study Skills); particularly good if you are unsure about your writing skills.
- The Mature Student’s Handbook: 47 (Macmillan Study Skills); this takes a broader approach compared to the one above.
Please be aware that everything discussed above has been solely based on my experience when writing my personal statement as a mature student.
Although I believe it is a solid structure, which got me the offers I wanted, it might not work for everybody.
I would therefore suggest you do your own in-depth research for your personal statement, thinking of this article as something to examine in more details.
Obviously, the UCAS website is a must resource to check: UCAS personal statement. I would also definitely suggest having a look at various Universities’ websites, as they might have specific pages for personal statements.
Thank you for reading my guide on how to write a personal statement as a mature student!
In the previous post we have covered how to prepare for university as a mature student. If you have been out of education for a while, you will find that useful.
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