How to write a personal statement
Knowing where to start and what to include when writing your personal statement can be overwhelming, particularly if it’s something that you haven’t done before. That’s why we want to help make it as easy as possible for you.
There are certain steps to follow in order to make sure you are ticking all the boxes when you write your personal statement. We have broken break it down into manageable sections so you can feel more confident before hitting ‘send’ on your UCAS application.
The first thing to figure out is what the purpose of a personal statement is…
Your personal statement is your chance to show universities what you’re all about! You may be under the impression that getting into university is just about getting good grades, but that is only one element of why a university might make you an offer. Universities want people who have something about them, so they are also looking at your personality, what your interests are, what motivates you and your personal statement is your opportunity to tell them all about this.
Before you start writing…
The most important thing to do before you write your personal statement is to plan. Make sure that you carefully think about the different sections you want to include, the type of message you are trying to get across and the most important points you want to include. Once you have the framework, its just a case of following your plan and ensuring that you use your own personal tone and writing to style to show your personality.
Take a look at the examples below showing you how to complete the different sections of a personal statement. It’s important to note that these are just examples, here to inspire your own personal statement and should not be copied. Universities take plagiarism extremely seriously and there are advanced systems that can detect any form of copy and paste (even if you just change a few words). You don’t need to copy anyway, you’ve got this!
Your introduction should be a collection of short sentences and the aim is to catch the reader’s attention. Don’t waste time with lots of detailed long sentences where there is a chance your point could get lost.
- Tell the reader why you are excited about the course.
- Tell the reader what your motivations are.
The introduction is all about showcasing your enthusiasm so make sure that you explain why you are saying something. Don’t just say “I find politics really fascinating”. Tell them why you find it fascinating, what specifically is interests you about it.
Here is an example of how to start a personal statement:
"I have always been interested in helping people and sharing my knowledge to try and solve other people’s problems. Growing up as the eldest within a large family with lots of responsibilities, I have learnt to be kind, caring and to be a great listener. I understand that there are many issues affecting young people and I want to develop this knowledge by studying Childhood Studies at university.
I have always wanted to work for a children’s charity to help give children from lower economic backgrounds the motivation to develop their skills to want to continue doing well at school. I believe that this degree with provide me with the experience and knowledge to do this and make a difference within the community."
This section is a key part of your personal statement. It is your opportunity to show the university why you have a passion for the subject you are applying for. Think about the following:
- Why do you like your chosen subject?
- Why are you suitable for this course?
- How do your previous or current studies relate to your chosen course?
- What activities do you do that are related to your chosen subject? For example, if you are applying for a sports course and you are part of a sports team, how does what you have learnt from the team give you additional skills for this course.
- Research the modules and course information and pick out sections that you can specifically talk about.
- Show evidence that you understand the key factors of the course you are applying for.
Here is an example of writing about your subject in a personal statement:
"Storytelling is such an important part of everyday life. One element within English literature which I find the most fascinating is symbolism. I read a lot in my spare time and find it is a great way to relax and unwind.
I love analysing the texts and working out how the green light in The Great Gatsby represents his dream and hope or how the blood in Shakespeare’s Macbeth represents Duncan’s murder and the guilt Macbeth feels about this. I am looking forward to developing this analytical skill further and learning about a variety of texts from different genres, outside of my initial circle of literature. I also write and perform my own poetry at open mic nights and have been particularly inspired by Sylvia Plath.
Not only is literature a key part of my personal life but I also have experience studying and writing texts from my time studying English Literature for my A levels. This combination of passion, personal and academic experience is a great foundation to the study of English Literature at university."
When you mention any social activity or interest, try and think about how they showcase an element of your personality or how they reflect a skill relevant to the course. This section will tell a university about your character and the type of person you are.
You can also discuss any work experience relevant to the course or any volunteering projects you have participated in. Where possible refer each point back to what you have learnt and how it could be relevant to the course.
"Outside of my studies, I am a very confident rugby player. Rugby has always been a love of mine and is a sport that I have really worked to hard to perfect. I not only compete on a regular basis, but I also now teach children on a Saturday at the local club.
Playing rugby has taught me many skills including teamwork, mental and physical strength, commitment as well as the ability to motivate people. Working with children has also taught me a new skill set including patience, the ability to communicate with a wide range of audiences as well as problem solving. I know that these skills will be useful and can be developed on further whilst studying Sports Coaching at university and in my future career."
This is your chance to leave a lasting impression. Write something that will stand out, that the university will remember you by. This would usually be in the form of wrapping together all points made so far and adding a final unique spin. You may use this opportunity to reflect on your past and how that has led you to the decision to study at this university or specific course.
You could also talk about your future aspirations, how you think this course will help you achieve these or maybe you want to reflect on your chosen industry at the moment and think about how your ideas would help develop or change this for the better. Whatever you choose to end with, ensure that you keep it concise and powerful.
"The fashion world is always adapting but one thing that isn’t changing is the way that fashion impacts on our planet. Global warming is real and it is happening. The fashion industry plays a major role in this with big companies promoting quick fashion trends and excessive use of plastic packaging. Although more and more people are becoming aware of these issues, there are still not enough options for people to buy into sustainable fashion.
By studying Fashion at university and gaining a full understanding of the industry, I want to be able to make a change. One of the main issues with sustainable clothing is the limitations it provides and so my future goals is to create a popular clothing company which provides up to date designs and current trends, that is easily accessible but is sustainable and good for our planet."
Before you submit your application…
- Once you have finished, leave it for a day before proofing and editing so that you are approaching it with a fresh pair of eyes.
- Spell check and grammar check - it may sound simple, but it’s extremely important and showcases a professional approach.
- Make sure that you have highlighted your strengths throughout.
- Ensure that everything you have said has a reason for mentioning it. Anything that seems “random” or “empty rambling” should be removed.
- Ensure that you have referred to the correct course that you are applying for.
- Make sure your personality shines through.
- Ask other people like a friend, parent or teacher to read it, to give advice and another perspective.
Finally, make sure that you are happy with it! This is your application and your chance to showcase yourself to the best of your ability. Give it your best shot!
Your Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts Checklist
- Be positive. Enthusiasm for your course goes a long way and could help you land you a place on it.
- Ask friends and family for feedback. Don’t be worried if they point out a few flaws. It’s all part of the process and will help ensure your statement is as good as it can be.
- Proof it before you send it (your friends, family, or a teacher could also help with this too) – grammatical and spelling mistakes could ruin a great effort. Avoid repetition and be careful of using American spellings and text speak.
- Know your strengths and use them to stand out. You want to reflect on what you have learnt so far (both in education and in your personal life) and explain why it will help you on the course. Personal interests, hobbies and life experiences are always a plus and make your statement original.
- Tailor it to the course you are applying to. Research the skills required for the course and show you have them and know how to apply these.
- Explain what you will gain from the course and what the course will gain from you.
- Stick to the character and line limit – you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines. To help with this, be clear and concise – big words and long sentences do not usually work. Instead, ensure that you have a clear, easy-to-read structure.
- Talk about the career path you would like to take and why you think the course will help you achieve it.
- Avoid generic statements and clichés, such as “I’ve always wanted to…” or “For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a…”
- Keep a copy for future reference. Some courses have interviews and you may be asked to talk more about something you have mentioned.
- All personal statements are checked for similarity – don’t copy or share yours as plagiarism could affect the outcome of your application. Be original.
- Rely on a spellchecker – it is not as reliable as proofing your statement yourself.
- Try to include all your qualities. Instead focus on the ones you are most proud of.
- Procrastinate or leave it to the last minute – your statement could end up missing valuable information and you want to leave enough time for proofing.
- Talk about hobbies that are too general or irrelevant to your course – they will not make you stand out.
- Just list your achievements – focus on the skills you’ve learned from any achievements and why they will help you on the course.
- Treat it as a list of skills and interests – without context and reasoning they will lose their value.
- Exaggerate or make things up – it is much easier to get caught out than you might think.
- Repeat yourself. You’ve only got 4,000 characters, so don’t waste any saying something you’ve already covered.
- Be shy. This is your opportunity to showcase why you