The Personal Statement is probably the most crucial element of any university application. It is the closest an Admissions Officer will get to asking ‘who are you really?’, ‘what can you bring to the course?’ and ‘why should I choose you over anyone else?’. That last question is a really important one. You want to prove to whoever reads your Personal Statement why you are most deserving of a place on the course you’ve applied for! But I realise that’s no easy task. Trying to write a statement to get yourself noticed for all the right reasons can be a tall order when you are already juggling numerous deadlines and assessments. To simplify things for you, I’ve put together this handy guide which reveals the secrets to writing a brilliant Personal Statement. Read on for my tips on what to include, structure and selling yourself on paper!
But first things first…
A Few Facts on what the Personal Statement actually is…
- As most universities do not interview applicants, this is your only opportunity to share with Admissions Officers why you wish to study your chosen course
- You have a limit of 4,000 characters and 47 lines
- Your Personal Statement is uploaded as part of your UCAS application – UCAS is the platform used when applying to study at UK universities
- You can only write one Personal Statement to cover all of your applications through UCAS (you have up to five course choices), so don’t mention a university or a specific course by name
Spend Time Planning
It’s likely that you won’t have ever written anything quite like a Personal Statement before. For this reason, I suggest spending time to plan out your ideas and thoughts, before you put together a first draft. I found mind-mapping my ideas onto an A3 sheet of paper really helpful, as this allowed me to make links between various areas of my academics and extra-curricular activities. If you’re really struggling to make a plan, check out this useful document from UCAS, designed to help you gather your thoughts on what to include.
Now, time for my advice when it comes to structuring your Personal Statement…
Introduction – state your purpose
Here you need to make it very clear what it is you want to study, and (briefly) why you want to study it. Originality is key. However, avoid being cliché. Just remember, what you do want to do is grab the Admissions Officer’s attention.
Often, the opening sentence is the hardest one to write. Do read this excellent article for a guide to writing killer openings with your Personal Statement! As well as offering advice on how to begin, it also includes helpful tips on what to avoid.
Main Section – how have you come to the decision to choose your course? What has prepared you to take it on?
Here I suggest you think about two things…
1. School Work
- How has your studying so far led you towards your course choice?
- Are any of your IB subjects particularly relevant to your course?
- Don’t be afraid to be specific – talk about which topics/modules (ideally relevant ones) that you found especially interesting, and why.
- Give evidence of how you have gained the key skills to succeed on your course.
2. Outside of School
How have you gone out of your way to learn about your subject of choice beyond just school? Examples of this might include:
- Reading books/articles not on your school reading lists
- Watching documentaries/listening to podcasts
- Attending talks/events/lectures on your subject
- Seeking relevant work experience
- Visiting museums/exhibitions
- Talking to experts in the field/current students
Use this next section to show that you are an interesting individual who is capable of successfully pursuing several interests at once. This demonstrates the ability to manage your time well and is a skill which all successful university students have! Discuss your most impressive pastimes: clubs, positions of responsibility, awards, charitable efforts…CAS activities are perfect for this!
Briefly restate why you want to study your course, and why you are a strong applicant. Be concise, and ensure this section makes an impact – it will be the final thing the Admissions Officer reads, so leave a lasting impression!
In terms of how much to write for each section, here’s my suggestion:
- Introduction – 15%
- Main Section – 60%
- Extra Curriculars – 15%
- Conclusion – 10%
Given the unique nature of the Personal Statement, it’s a good idea to produce a few drafts. Play around with different examples and the structure of your statement. And do remember that every statement is different – if you read an older student’s Personal Statement, don’t feel that yours has to be similar, or follow the same format. Definitely get someone to read through your statement before you submit your application. It’s always useful to have another set of eyes check for spelling/grammar mistakes you might have missed. Or if your school/college has a University/UCAS Advisor, ask them for feedback on your draft. Alternatively, you can get advice on your Personal Statement from one of our elite tutors. As someone who will have recently been through the university application process, your tutor will be able to offer relevant support! For more information, click HERE.
Overall, the key is not just to tell the admissions officer why you are keen and capable of studying this course, but to show them. Use evidence to back up what you are saying at every opportunity. Ground what you are saying in real world examples of your ability and enthusiasm. Show them that you mean business! Let your interests and achievements speak from themselves, and you will be putting your best foot forward. You can do it!