How to write a personal statement for university

How to write a personal statement for university

This article was written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 2nd November 2020

If you are applying to a UK university you will need to include a “personal statement” along with your application, here we explain what one is and how to write a good one.

What is a personal statement?

The best way to describe what a personal statement is and the impact it has on your chances of getting accepted onto your preferred course is that it is your one and only opportunity to tell the admissions tutor why you should be accepted onto the course.

Imagine they have a limited number of places on the course and this is their way of selecting the most committed students. The strength of your personal statement can even affect whether you get a conditional or unconditional offer.

If you can, you should narrow your area of interest because it will be easier for you to write a compelling personal statement. However, if you cannot, you should acknowledge your reasons in your application.

Your personal statement is read by the admissions tutors at the universities you apply to, who will read hundreds of applications, so your statement must stand out.

Furthermore, Oxford or Cambridge university have their own requirements and you will need to write an additional personal statement if you intend to apply to either of these universities.

When do I submit my personal statement?

Your personal statement will be submitted alongside your UCAS application in which you outline your academic achievements. The deadline for most universities is January in the year that you want to start university, but the application deadlines are different for Oxford and Cambridge, and you will need to apply a year in advance. 

How long should the personal statement be?

Whilst there is no set rule on how long your personal statement should be it is best practice to keep it to one side of A4 paper, or roughly within 500 words. Bear in mind admission tutors read hundreds of student applications so make sure your application is well-written and concise.

Tips on how to write a personal statement

Below are some tips on how to write a compelling personal statement and be sure to read our article on what you should avoid in your personal statement.

1. Make it personal

Reading examples of other personal statements can be helpful but remember the admissions tutor wants to get a sense of why you want to study your chosen subject and what makes you tick.

Be honest, be clear and sound passionate. If you haven’t decided what your career path is going to be, that is OK. Don’t feel pressure to make things up it will serve you better to explain why the course interests you.

Remember, be authentic and don’t use long fancy words or sound like you’re using a formula to write your personal statement.

2. Talk about your academic achievements

You should highlight what you have studied and your academic successes that reinforce why you are the perfect candidate for the course you have applied for. This is an important part of the personal statement for all universities and arguably more important when applying to Cambridge and Oxford.

3. Highlight your extracurricular activities

Demonstrating your passion for the discipline you want to study by highlighting any extracurricular activities that support your love of the topic or your commitment to a certain career path is a good way to help your application stand out from the crowd. For example, if you want to study journalism then mentioning you write for your college newspaper would impress the admissions tutor.

4. Show you have drive

There is a difference in saying you want to become a doctor, for example, and showing you have found opportunities to learn more about what it would be like to be a doctor, say by volunteering at a hospital. Highlight work-experience, voluntary work and other ways that show you are committed to the discipline you want to study.

5. Be memorable

Include something in your personal statement that isn’t necessarily linked to proving you are right for the course you want to study but that makes you memorable, even intriguing.

Remember the person reading your application will have read hundreds and if you can mention something that makes you stand out from the crowd it will help you grab their attention, so if you are a stand-up comedian or raise money for charity in your spare time, mention it!

6. Make your personal statement an enjoyable read

A well-written statement that is free of spelling and grammatical errors, that is concise and clearly communicates your passion for the discipline you want to study and shows the admissions tutor what kind of person you are will help you make the right impression.  Give yourself the time to revise the draft several times and to show it to your family, friends, and teachers.

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