I’m organising the documents on my laptop when suddenly a file appears. A hideous, lingering secret of my past that I haven’t revisited since I was 17. My personal statement. A dark blip in my life.
It’s been three years since I wrote the most embarrassingly pompous 4000 characters you could ever imagine. For some reason, when I was told to ‘sell myself’ to Universities, I thought this meant making yourself look like a rambling, precocious weirdo who loves her thesaurus and has no mates except Camus and Plath.
The opening paragraph of my personal statement is undoubtedly the worst bit. It genuinely makes me despise myself. I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest example of of what not to do.
I opened with a quote.
Not just any quote.
A quote by fucking Marcel Proust.
Was I trying to kid entrance examiners that I’d read a 3,200 page philosophical novel, dipping my madeleine into my coffee, contemplating the innermost musings of the workings of the world? At this point I’m pretty sure my level of French was hon hon baguette. Perhaps even worse than the Proust quote, is how I then went on to say that the quote succinctly encapsulated both my yearning to expand my literary boundaries as well as my unfaltering ardour and enthusiasm for the study of literature in both the English and French language.
WHERE DO I BEGIN? Succinctly encaspulated? Literary boundaries? Unfaltering ardour? Please, someone tell me why I painted myself as someone who wanted to break laws of speed and time catapulting myself through literary stratospheres, as if I simply couldn’t live unless I feasted on the morsel of the written word? My face genuinely shrivels up reading that sentence.
I then seem to think it’s a good idea to brag about all the “various locations in France” I’ve been to, as if that somehow warrants me a University place… from “the historic Bayeux Tapestry and Le Mont St Michel in Normandy, to a peaceful gîte in the suburbs of Bordeaux, to immersing myself in the bustling cosmopolis of Paris.” Basically, I go on lots of holidays, let me list how privileged I am! I really like France, exhibited by all the holidays my parents paid for! Jesus Christ.
Further attempts to align myself with France are equally tragic. I go on to say how I “have intensely enjoyed studying the cinematic works of Truffaut, such as Les 400 Coups, where I empathised with the rebellious Antoine” – yep, totally identified with a 14 year old troubled Parisian boy who dabbles in petty crime and runs away from home. Definitely. Not at all clutching at straws here. I also somehow claim that I like to “sift through various translations of Baudelaire’s poetry” – sorry, but who sifts through poetry translations?
When I go on to speak about the English side of things, sadly it doesn’t get much better. I talk about how I “adore immersing myself in the dazzling aestheticism of Oscar Wilde” (vom) and am “intrigued by Humbert Humbert’s nymphomanic desires in Lolita.” WHY ON EARTH DID I WRITE, IN MY PERSONAL STATEMENT, THAT I AM INTRIGUED BY NYMPHOMANIA? Further pointlessly complex words I use in this paragraph are conglomeration and lugubrious. Yeah, me neither.
It can’t get much worse than opening with a quote though. A quote is surely the worst it can get.
Except what’s worst than one pretentious quote? Two pretentious quotes.
The next one is by everyone’s favourite depressive misogynist, Ernest Hemingway: “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” Hold your horses, Matilda Wormwood! Clearly I wanted to paint the picture of me being some kooky, atrsy girl who didn’t need people because books were totally all I needed (a compelling trait to University admissions, I seemed to think). I then go on to describe books as “unwaveringly and indisputably compelling.” Pretty sure if I read that, as an admissions officer, I’d immediately take three steps backwards, thoroughly wash my hands with disinfectant and take a cold shower.
I also seem to be allergic to normal verbs, instead saying that I “partake” in musical theatre, “undertake” work experience and “pore over” Shakespeare (no, really).
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Please, if you are of the age where you are writing your personal statement, please get someone to read it except your parents who think every little thing you write and do is creative genius unparalleled by Shakespeare himself. It’ll save you the embarrassment later.