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How to write a personal statement

Reading Length: Short-mid read: 3-5 mins

What is a personal statement?

In summary, a personal statement is a written document that supports your application to study at a university or college. This is an opportunity to articulate why you’d like to study that particular course, attend that particular uni/college and what skills or experience you have that support your decision.

Writing a personal statement can feel overwhelming! We suggest you break your personal statement into smaller sections, which will hopefully make the experience less intimidating. Your personal statement shouldn’t be more than a page and a half (4000 characters or 47 lines to be exact) and should have a clear structure. 

Remember no one is more ‘you-er’ than you! So, if you express the unique skills and knowledge YOU have, you are on to a winner!

It’s also worth remembering, you are 100% NOT expected to know your “5-year plan” or dream job. As long as you express your passion for the course and can show evidence that you can see things through, you are on to a winner.  

General tips

Make sure to research your course and uni/college. Write down what skills, ambitions, and experience that the university/college look for in a student and specifically in that course. For example, if you’re applying for a business degree, they may look for qualities such as; young enterprise experience, public speaking, English and Math GCSEs, passion for business and economics, etc.

Remember that this will be sent to all your applications, so try and keep it inclusive to all courses/universities you are applying for. For example, avoid including any university or college names. If you are applying for multiple courses, try to keep the course description vague so it encompasses all the subjects you are applying for. For example, if you’re applying for Drama AND Musical Theatre courses, perhaps describe your course as ‘performance’, ‘acting’ or ‘theatre’.

Link any personal goals/hobbies back to the course you’re applying to. For example, “I have recently started making zines with a group of young artists, which I believe will help me explore new mediums in your illustration course”.

Get someone to read over it once you’re done or utilise the “read aloud” feature on most software to help you catch missing words or typos. 

Whatever you do, don’t copy someone else’s personal statement word for word. UCAS may detect this as plagiarism and could jeopardise your application.

So, here’s how we would organise a personal statement:

Paragraph 1 – Brief introduction

Give them a quick summary.

  • What are you currently doing? (A-levels, work experience, GCSES)
  • What do you want to study? (Give a clear description of the course)
  • How would the university/college benefit you? For example, “I would love to attend this university to study Law, as it would allow me to expand my existing knowledge and pursue a career in Criminal Justice”.

Paragraph 2 – What you are currently doing

This is your opportunity to include what you are currently doing/have done in the past and how it has led you to the pathway you are on now.

Things to include: education, work experience, general skills, personal growth.

For example, “During my Drama A-level, I learnt how to confidently speak and perform in public, which I feel is a vital skill I will take with me to University”

This is also an opportunity to express personal circumstances that may have affected your educational performance. This can help the university/college understand reasons why you may have stopped studying and why you would like to continue with a specific course. For example, “Due to changing schools, I had to stop my child development course. This adjustment made me realise my passion for teaching and my drive to become a primary school teacher”.

Paragraph 3  – Why are you applying for your chosen course?

Tell the reader exactly why you’re applying! This is a great opportunity to communicate your passions and ambitions in life and exactly how this course will help you to achieve these goals.

This is also a good opportunity to show them how you understand the course in depth and the syllabus of the course. For example, “Studying Psychology has been my favourite part of college and I would love to attend your university to learn more about clinical psychology, so that I can reach my goal of becoming a mental health worker”.

Paragraph 4 – What you do outside of education

Give the university/college a taste of your life outside of school. This is a great opportunity to write any hobbies that make you a bit more unique and help them visualize how you would enrich their uni/college.

For example, “Outside of school, I love to play rugby with my friends and would love to continue that by joining the university’s Rugby team”.

Paragraph 5 – Conclusion

In a couple sentences, reinforce your commitment and enthusiasm for your course and what uni/college life would entail. 

What helps / what others have said helped

Here’s some helpful links directly from UCAS, who will be receiving your personal statement.

Not sure if uni/college is even for you?

Why not have a look at our ‘Uni or not to Uni...’ post where we discuss that exact debate?

Talking to teachers, family or friends about what you are passionate about is a great way to explore potential courses and jobs out there for you.

However, if you’re struggling to find courses or motivation to apply for university, don’t panic! ‘Going to uni’ isn’t the only option out there! You can visit Not Going To Uni to help find enterprises and opportunities. Also, it’s worth looking at Foundation courses, which are a great way to explore courses without committing to a full 3+ year degree. Examples include the Art Foundation Diploma and Social Science Foundation.

By: Daisy Wakefield

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