The personal statement is an important part of the application process, and writing a good one can take a lot of work. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page, however. This isn’t a test, but rather an opportunity for you to present yourself in the best possible light.
Remember that the university or universities to which you are applying have quite a lot of information about you that they can use to make their admissions decisions, including examination results, a reference letter and in some cases, your performance at an interview. The Personal Statement, however, allows you to fine-tune the application, to argue to the university that you are someone that they would want to teach. Think carefully, therefore, about all the qualities that you have that would make you a good student. Be clear, be honest, and be enthusiastic for your chosen course.
WRITE ABOUT YOUR CHOSEN COURSE, YOUR MOTIVATIONS, YOUR INSPIRATION
Here are just some suggestions on what to include:
Show that you’ve done your research and that this really is the course for you. Look in detail at what studying this particular subject will involve and try to fit that to your existing knowledge or experience. Ask yourself a few questions such as: Why are you interested? What sparked your interest? What specific topics do you enjoy?
Remember that the university is interested primarily in you as a student. That means showing that you know about your subject, and that you will work hard at it when you arrive. There is certainly space to talk about your extracurricular activities, but make sure that you do so in a way that makes the case that you will be a good student. You should place more emphasis on the parts of the course that interest you and on what you have done to learn about them. In particular, write about anything that you have read or projects that you have done that have taken you beyond the essential requirements of your courses.
If you are applying for a combined course, make sure you talk about why you’re interested in both subjects. Give a roughly equal weighting to each of them. If you have an idea of the career path you would like to follow, explain how the course fits into those plans.
Reflect upon any work experience related to your course. Be specific about what you have learnt and how it relates to your course. If you have unrelated work experience, refer to transferable skills gained. Consider these two examples:
“I spent two weeks working at a department store. I enjoyed speaking to customers and helping them with their enquiries”
This is merely a description of what the person did. It doesn’t talk about any skills learned or how it might relate to their course.
“I spent two weeks managing customer enquiries at a department store. I learned how to interact with customers and handle complaints. The experience highlighted the importance of positive communication between a business and its customers, and taught me how to manage difficult enquiries effectively. I would like to develop this skill further by studying a degree in public relations.”
This is much better as it relates the job directly to the decision to apply for the course in question. Even the most basic work experience can look great on your personal statement if you write about it in the right way. It will also show the admissions team that you can think critically and reflectively and write creatively.
Extracurricular activities and voluntary work
You should include activities that support your course choice. Describe visits that you have made; for example, visits to art galleries for art or history courses, or to hospitals for nursing. When talking about gap years make sure that you talk about how you plan to use it constructively: pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning new skills, experiencing new cultures, giving your time to volunteer all look great on personal statements. Don’t just say that you’re off to Australia to party along the East Coast! vinspired and do-it.org can connect you to volunteering opportunities in the UK.
Include any personal achievements and what they demonstrate. For example, participation in a fund-raising event may have involved skills such as: teamwork, research and organisational skills, commitment and perseverance. Describe any positions of responsibility you’ve held such as student mentor or team leader.
- tart thinking about your personal statement weeks in advance – you’ll need to write several drafts. Don’t leave it to the last minute.
- You only get to write one personal statement in your application for ALL your course choices. You need, therefore, to think carefully about how specific your statement is. Don’t mention specific module titles if these only apply to one of your courses. Instead, focus on themes which are present across all your choices.
- Spend the great majority of the statement writing about your interest in the course, and how you are prepared to do it. These are much more important that your extracurricular activities.
- Write in a positive style that you feel comfortable with, using clear sentence structures. Be analytical about yourself and the subject, rather than descriptive.
- Don’t try to be funny or controversial. Others may not share your sense of humour.
- Be honest! You may be asked questions on your personal statement at university interviews.
- Write your personal statement in word processing software first, then copy and paste into the UCAS Apply system.
- Don’t rely on a spell checker – proofread as many times as possible. It can be helpful to leave a few days between drafts, as it’s often easier to pick up spelling and grammar mistakes after distancing yourself. Ask your teachers, parents and friends to make final checks.
- Remember: You are limited to 4000 characters, including spaces!
Some Helpful Links
- Avoid these horribly overused opening statements
- Worksheet: Getting started with your personal statement
- Example personal statements from Studential (These are useful for inspiration and to act as models, but absolutely DO NOT copy them. You WILL get caught by UCAS’ plagiarism system).
- Which University video: How to be a standout university applicant.
- Which University: Perfecting your personal statement: your final checklist