Last year, there were 656,000 pupils applying to UCAS with the aim of going to university or a higher education college.  All very exciting stuff, you’d think…

Trouble is, it can be an utter nightmare to get it right and done on time.  Sometimes, little things can be missed – other times one makes a little slip and goes something a bit daft.  Perhaps the highest of stakes revolves around the personal statement – that awful self-complementing piece of work that goes about making yourself sound the right option for your chosen university.  


Given all that pressure and effort, it’s only natural that sometimes you might feel like a little corner-cutting, exaggeration or wishful dreaming could go a long way.  However, they are noticeable and, at times, amusing.

Here are some of the more amusing blunders I’ve spotted on personal statements:

  1. The textbook opening-line cliche – You’re off to a bad start if the statement reads “I have always wanted to…” It’s so unoriginal and it’s seen so many times that I’m surprised the university applications people don’t sigh and giggle at it.  Firstly, there are so many people who start off with one idea or dream and then they change to another that it more than likely isn’t necessarily the case.  If you genuinely have always wanted to be an economist then fair enough, but seriously… find a more creative way of saying so!

  2. The suspicious story – This has both humorous and serious implications for you as a student.  One of things that catches some students out is the classic story of how they experienced a particular topic for the first time and have wanted to do something with it ever since…
    One year a chemistry student explained how they had always wanted to study chemistry after, as a small child, their trousers caught fire, burning with a bright flame.  Sounds a humorous story and slightly heartwarming (pardon the pun) – that is, until you learn that 90 chemistry students were all in the same position that year; they all wanted to do chemistry after a bit of trouser-burning.
    If you’re going for an anecdote, firstly ensure that it really happened.  Secondly, take two minutes to think about how likely and believable it is and if lots of other people out there are likely to make this one up.  You could find you get into a spot of trouble over it (or worse, get called out for plagiarism.)

  3. The Mathlete – This never fails to make me chuckle every time I hear about it.  There are always a handful of cases every year where a geeky maths prospect has written about their crowning achievements on the sports field, only to get caught out when it comes to interview time.
    You may have played a bit of rugby in PE, but don’t claim to have played ‘front row of the scrum’ if you didn’t – the thin and wiry frame will give you away should you get invited to the interview.

  4. The egomaniac – Oh goodness me, this is easy to spot.  When your tutor says you ought to sell yourself in there, there’s really no need to make out you’re the greatest thing to happen in the whole of humanity ever.  A little modesty and candidness goes a long way – admissions tutors will appreciate a modest attitude to your achievements.
    My achievements are vast” is only the case in your own eyes – the admissions people don’t know you!

  5. A comedian or a student? – If in doubt, assume the admissions tutors at your chosen university has no sense of humour and is as dour as the page you’re writing on.  A bit of quirkiness and humour is sometimes appropriate, but only in the right place and at the right time.  Don’t assume they’ll understand that opening one-liner you’ve got ready for them…

Have you seen anything humorous or downright awful in personal statements?  Comment at the bottom and we’ll share the best (and worst!)

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.