Part 1: Perfecting Your Personal Statement

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

A personal statement aims to support your application to study at a university or college. The statement provides you with a chance to articulate, and show the institution, why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experiences you possess which shows your passion for the chosen field. Your personal statement is typically split into three sections (although it does depend on the course you are applying for) and should be no more than 47 lines.

Before you begin rambling on about the course which you’d like to study, and telling the reader all you know about the course, remember to plan out your personal statement. This statement is not a chance for you to show off all the knowledge which you have - because the university already have that knowledge. They’re looking to learn more about you as a person and an individual. Consequently, this statement should reflect why you are suitable to study at their university or college. It’s important to remember that you can only write one personal statement - so avoid specifying any university or college by name.

There’s no definite format to follow - just take your time and be genuine. Some guidelines from the UCAS website suggest that you need to be enthusiastic, concise and natural in style. Often students go overboard with the vocabulary they use, adding too much ‘flour’ to their statement. Avoid doing this. As the university read through 100’s of essays, all they really want to see are your key points - don’t bog them down with complex wording. A good guideline to follow is to ensure that every sentence you write has meaning, or tells the reader something new and useful about you.

As cliche as it may sound, try to stand out. Be careful with the use of humour, quotes or anything too unusual in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you. A good way to stand out, is to always reflect on what you’ve written. So for example, if you’ve said that you have good teamwork skills, as demonstrated in school, specify what you did to show such skills and what you learnt from the experience. To continue the above example, you might say that you led a school drama production, from which you had to interact and engage with many different types of people. It was because of exposure to different types of characters and personalities that you have understood the value of good communication within teamwork and this has made you an overall better team player.

Make sure that whichever skills you mention, reflect the skills and qualities which the university or college value the most. For example, if you’re applying for Dentistry, they are keen for you to have good manual dexterity skills. So, consider where you’ve shown such skills. If you’re applying for an English degree, you need to be able to critically think and evaluate. Perhaps you’ve demonstrated these skills as you improved your cooking skills, or ability to follow recipes. Research your course before writing the statement and this will help you to tailor your personal statement so that it grabs the attention of the university admission tutors.

Earlier, having a three paragraph structure was mentioned. This is particularly useful for courses which require you to demonstrate academic, extra-curricular and super-curricular work. So for example, if you’re applying for Medicine, you’ll want a paragraph explaining why you want to study on such a competitive course. You’ll then want to show off your academic ability, the extra community work which you have done and skills you’ve developed as a result of different ventures. Oftentimes for most courses, it’s beneficial to mention wider reading or podcast-listening which you have done. Again, reflect on what you’ve learnt from wider-reading and how it has further enhanced your desire to study that particular degree.

If you’re still stuck, or unsure of where to begin, consider the following questions:

  • Why are you applying for your chosen course(s)?

  • Why does this subject interest you? Include evidence that you understand what’s required to study the course, e.g. if applying for psychology courses, show that you know how scientific the subject is.

  • Why do you think you’re suitable for the course(s)?

  • Do you have any particular skills and experience that will help you to succeed on the course(s)?

  • Do your current or previous studies relate to the course(s) that you have chosen? If so, how?

  • Have you taken part in any other activities that demonstrate your interest in the course(s)?

Also think about any other achievements you’re proud of, positions of responsibility that you hold or have held both in and out of school, and attributes that make you interesting, special or unique.

Make a list of your hobbies, interests and social activities. Then think about how they demonstrate your personality, skills and abilities. Try to link them to the skills and experience required for your course(s).

Work experience - Include details of jobs, placements, work experience or voluntary work, particularly if it’s relevant to your chosen course(s). Try to link any experience to skills or qualities related to the course.

If you know what you’d like to achieve after completing the course, explain how you want to use the knowledge and experience that you gain. How does the course relate to what you want to do in the future?

A final tip would be to look at personal statement help from particular universities or courses. Some will provide guidelines on what they’re looking for you to include. Overall, have fun with writing your personal statement - don’t see it as too laborious. It’s a chance to show off you, and be proud of all that you have accomplished! - Oh and don't plagiarise. (:


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