Personal statements

  • Your personal statement is an important part of the application process. It is how you show a university that you are right for their course. Writing a good one can take a lot of work, but don’t worry. This isn’t a test, but an opportunity to show yourself off in the best possible light. You need to show them what would make you a good student. Be clear, be honest, and be enthusiastic about your course.

    Your course

    The university is interested in you as a student. Show them that you are interested in your subject and will work hard at it during your studies. Look in detail at what studying this subject will involve and try to apply your existing knowledge or experience.

    • Why are you interested?
    • What sparked your interest?
    • What specific topics do you enjoy?
    • What have you done to learn about these topics?
    • What have you read about your subject?
    • What projects have you done to do with your subject?
    • If the subject is one you study at school - how have you gone beyond school requirements to learn more about it?
    • If you have an idea of a career path you’d like to follow - how does the course fit into it?

    What if I’m applying for a combined course?

    Make sure you include why you’re interested in both subjects and talk about them both equally.

    Work experience

    Relevant work experience can look great in your personal statement. Make sure you’re specific about what you have learnt and how it relates to your course. If it isn’t directly relevant, include the transferable skills you’ve gained.

    Don't Do
    “I spent two weeks working at a department store. I enjoyed speaking to customers and helping them with their enquiries”
    “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.”

    The example here relates the work experience to the course. Even the most basic work experience looks good if you write about it well. It will also show the admissions team your critical and reflective thinking skills, and that you can write creatively.

    Extracurricular activities and volunteering

    Include activities that support your course choice. For example, going to galleries and museums for art or history courses. If you’re writing about your clubs and teams, be specific about the skills you’ve learnt from them. This could include teamwork, perseverance and time management.

    Include any personal achievements and what they demonstrate. For example, taking part in a fundraising event could show your commitment and organisational skills. If you have any positions of responsibility like being a club leader or student mentor, describe those.

    What if I want to take a gap year?

    You’ll need to include it in your personal statement. Describe how you plan to use it constructively. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning new skills, volunteering and experiencing new cultures (if you choose to travel) all look great on personal statements.

    Things to remember

    • Don’t leave it to the last minute - you’ll need to write several drafts
    • You only write one personal statement and this is used for all your course choices
    • Don’t mention things specific to only one of the courses you’re applying for
    • Focus on themes present in all your choices
    • Your course is the most important thing to write about
    • Write positively in a style you feel comfortable with
    • Use clear sentence structures
    • Be analytical (not descriptive) about yourself and the subject
    • Don’t try to be funny or controversial - not everyone will share your sense of humour!
    • Be honest - if you go to interview you will probably be asked about things you’ve written
    • Write it in word processing software first, then copy and paste it into UCAS
    • Proofread as many times as possible, don’t just rely on a spell checker
    • Leave a few days between writing and proofreading (you’ll be more likely to spot mistakes)
    • Ask your parents/guardians, teachers and friends to help make final checks You are limited to 4000 characters - including spaces!

    Useful links