A Parent’s Guide to Personal  Statements

As consultants, we often are contacted by parents, anxious about the status of their child’s personal statement. Typically teenagers do not want their parents to know anything about their business  and when asked about how the statement is shaping up, will respond with a low grunt or a well-rehearsed eye-roll.

With that in mind, our team pulled together the best bits of advice for parents out there who are wondering if you can help your teenager navigate this stage in their educational journey.  

The answer is an emphatic YES, YOU CAN

But here’s the thing, you need to deploy well-honed negotiating skills and plenty of patience if you hope to make much progress. 


  1. Listen.
  2. Resist the temptation to utter any sentence which begins with ‘When I was applying……’
  3. Talk to your teenager about the courses they are thinking about. What reasons do they have for choosing one course over another, one university over another ?
  4. Suggest that they jot down/record these ideas. These notes can form a very individual explanation underpinning their choices.
  5. Ask them to explain what they like/have found interesting about the subjects they are currently studying. They may not want to study the subject at university but the academic skills associated with it will certainly be used at third level.
  6. Teenagers sometimes struggle to describe the skills they have developed. This is the fault of their teachers who focus on content. Point them to subject specifications where a clear skills breakdown will be posted.
  7. School and college life has been turned upside down since March 2020 but your teenager has shown adaptability and more personal responsibility in adapting to online learning. This will be hugely important at third-level. What else have they achieved during lockdown ?
  8. Universities are more interested in super-curricular activities than they are in extra-curricular activities. Examples of super-curricular activities are additional independent research, work experience, work shadowing. How did any or all of these help your teenager choose their area of study ? Extra-curricular activities should only be used where they are of recent vintage i.e 6th Form. How have they added to the skillset ?
  9. Use the 80:20 ratio. 80% of the statement should focus on the academic, 20% on other interests, career goals etc.,
  10. A teenager who simply can’t make up their mind ? Use your own network. With some thought, you will be able to identify friends, relatives or work colleagues who will be willing to give some up-to-date insights into job roles which your teenager may be thinking about. 

Here at Pain Free Personal Statements, our focus is on helping your teenager present the best version of themselves.  Maybe we can help you too !

Why not book a FREE REVIEW CALL with one of our advisors today ? At the very least, you will get a different perspective and some useful hints and tips to help both of you on your way !