A personal statement is a 4000 character long essay that accompanies your university application. In the essay you discuss why you want to study your chosen subject, and why you’re the right person for the course. Around 600,000 students apply to university each year and thousands of them will have the same grades and have studied the same subjects as you. Your personal statement is your chance to stand out from the crowd and tell the university why you deserve a place.
Before you begin writing, make sure you know the course you’re applying to inside and out. Read reviews from students and look at course modules and readings to make sure it’s the right course for you. You can find examples of previous students' personal statements online, and these can serve as a great basis for the types of things you should be including in your essay.
Where to start? – Ask yourself:
- Who are you? Think about your background and interests outside of studying, Universities are interested in applicants from all walks of life.
- What can you offer the course? Each person has their own unique perspective, what will you bring new to the course?
- What do you hope to get out of studying? Where do you hope to be post-University and beyond?
Why do you want to study this course? What interests you about the course?
This section should be the majority of your personal statement. In this section talk about the subjects you’ve studied at school/college that are relevant to the course. Discuss the skills you’ve developed from your studies, and what you’ve learnt and how this makes you a suitable student for the course. Talk about topics you’ve studied that you’re interested in learning more about. Universities want enthusiastic students who care about what they’re studying.
In this section discuss the relevant work experience and volunteering you’ve undertaken. Talk about the skills you’ve gained and how they’re relevant to the course e.g. for a business and enterprise degree you could talk about participating in an Apprentice competition helped you develop skills in commercial awareness and leadership. It doesn’t have to just be relevant to the course, if you feel your part-time job showcases your work ethic, mention that. You can add up to five entries in the work experience section of your application. Subject Interest outside of the Classroom: It’s important to demonstrate how your interest in the subject extends outside of the classroom as this shows you’re committed to the subject, e.g. any books you’ve read, museums visited, or lectures attended.
This should be the shortest section. Talk about the activities you’ve done and achievements you have that help you stand out from the crowd. Thousands of applicants will have participated in charity bake-sales, so try and think of something unique to you. Discuss how the clubs and societies you’re involved in relate to your course/future career.
Conclusion: To conclude, sum up why you’d be the perfect student for the course.
- Start by making a draft without the character count on, then going back and editing. It’s a lot easier to condense what you’ve written afterwards than try to condense as you go along.
- Make sure you give examples to back up your points. For example, saying ‘I developed my public speaking skills by participating in a debate on single use plastic in front of 500 people’ sounds a lot better than ‘I am an excellent public speaker’.
- It’s important not to mention a specific university as the statement will be sent to all of the universities you’re applying to.
- Try to avoid showering your personal statement with quotes. Most quotes are overused and are often the pet hate of admissions tutors. They don’t care about what famous authors think, they care about what YOU think.
- When discussing your wider reading try to mention books that aren’t the most popular for your chosen subject, instead mention other books you’re interested in that make you stand out.
- UCAS uses a Similarity Detection System to scan personal statements for plagiarism, if found the universities you’ve applied to will be notified. A personal statement is supposed to be personal and individual to you. Make sure don't post any part of your personal statement online or send your statement to people you don't know very well, trusting them to review it. If someone decides to copy your statement it will be flagged by UCAS for plagiarism, and both of you will be in trouble, it’s extremely difficult to prove that you were the one who wrote the statement. Find out more about avoiding plagery and the most common personal statement opening lines here.
By Clarissa Ducie