Personal statements support your university application and help articulate why you deserve a place over the many other applicants.
A well written personal statement can help your application stand out from the crowd. Especially if you’re gunning for one of the more competitive courses like medicine or law.
These courses require stellar academic results all-round which most applicants will have. So, the personal statement will make difference on whether you’re successful or not.
Personal statements are a way of letting university admission offices know who you are beyond your academic capabilities.
Whether that’s a confident and ambitious or empathetic and detail orientated. This is your moment to encapsulate your essence and show yourself off.
It can be daunting figuring out what to mention and if you’re on the right track to writing a winning statement. But we’ve summarised a guide to help you make sure your statement is a cut above the rest.
What to include in personal statements
This is the time to get your personality, skills and passion for the subject across to the admissions office. Don’t spend time outlining your qualifications as this goes in the qualification section.
Instead, utilise the statement to showcase your accomplishments outside of academia. Outline relevant life experience that proves you’d be an asset to the university.
Express yourself and show them your personality. Mention relevant skills suited to the course and provide examples to prove you have them.
Always follow any skill with a real-life example if you can as it shows you aren’t just copying it from the internet. And it helps them get to know you as an applicant.
Especially if you’re an older applicant then you have an abundance of skills to expand upon. Whether that’s your excellent communication skills, time management or critical thinking skills.
Universities appreciate mature students as they are usually more determined and have a better work ethic in class. This not only benefits the work you produce but will set an example for the rest of the class too.
Whatever courses you’re applying for remember you can only write one personal statement. So, avoid naming any universities specifically.
If you have chosen similar subjects then talk about the subject generally and try not to mention course titles.
How to write personal statements
Personal statements are limited to 4000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines of 95 characters per line. It’s worth checking your draft in the UCAS form as Microsoft Word may not match the character count exactly.
Getting started is usually the most challenging part for most people. Try jotting down some notes beforehand to make it easier.
You should be considering:
- What you want to study and why
- What attributes you have that are suited to the course and university
- Any relevant experience
Most people will then structure their personal statement by starting with why they want to do the course and why. Following that you would then discuss any relevant work experience and skills.
As a guide, you should use two-thirds of your statement on your course and how suited you are to it. Leaving a third for any relevant work experience and extra-curricular activities.
When writing your personal statement exclude the use of any formatting styles. That means no bold, italic or underlined words as they will disappear in the preview. Only capital letters and punctuation are allowed.
Multiple spaces will be condensed into single spaces, so it isn’t possible to indent lines. And you have a very limited set of special characters too.
Backslashes will be replaced with forward slashes and square brackets will be replaced with parentheses.
Accented characters such as é, à, è, ù, etc. are not accepted and are removed by the UCAS form.
What are universities looking for?
As much as we’d like to give you an absolute right answer to this, there isn’t one. Each university has their own requirements and academic standards so they are all looking for different things.
Generally, they will be reading your statement to see whether you’re a good fit for the course and the university. As well as gauging whether your interest in the subject extends passed A Level study or not.
However, you don’t need to undertake extra-curricular activities to prove this to them. A genuine interest and aptitude for the course are far more likely to resonate with the reader.
Universities recognise the value of life experience can bring into a classroom. A personal statement is a perfect time to showcase how much you have to offer from your experiences.
Reading relevant books or having work experience in the field is a better way to prove your passion. And will be far more beneficial in the long run.
Keep in mind that most universities nowadays publish information on applying for them. Doing research beforehand and getting a feel for what the university’s about will help give you direction.
Once you’ve written your personal statement
Once you’ve finished writing your personal statement it’s worth getting a second opinion on it. You can ask friends, partners or even forums online for assistance.
A fresh pair of eyes will give you the confidence in knowing if what you’ve written is any good. As well as give feedback in areas that might require some tweaking or suggest something they think is worth including.
If you know someone with experience in the subject they can offer advice on what universities will be looking for.
However, friends and family will know you, as a person, best. So, it’s always worth getting their opinion as well to see if your statement captures who you are.
We advise you not to post your personal statement on an online forum. Anybody can steal your work and pass it off as their own. It’s fine to ask questions and seek advice but we would refrain from posting your statement in full.
Always give yourself enough time to look at your personal statement again once it’s complete.
A couple of weeks down the line you might think of something worth including and need to redraft. Or you might read it and be completely satisfied. Either way, it’s better to give yourself extra time just in case.
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