10 things to put in your personal statement
No two personal statements should be the same (the clue is in the personal!). But there ARE certain additions that will grab the attention of the admissions tutor reading it...
Remember that what you write could be used to decide between you and another candidate for the final spot on that dream course.
Firstly, what is a personal statement?
While many candidates may apply with the same grades as you, they aren’t you as a person, with your passions, experiences and thoughts. You need to stand out as a real person to an admissions tutor, as opposed to one of the many applicant numbers that will pass before their eyes!
So what should go in a personal statement?
1. Explain your reasons for wanting to study the course
What motivates you to take this course further at a university level? Mention how your interest developed, what you have done to pursue it or how you’ve drawn inspiration from your current studies. Or, just demonstrate your enthusiasm for it. If you want to get something specific out of it, provided it's reasonable, say so.
- Must-read: Subject-specific personal statement advice
2. Explain how you're right for the course
Provide evidence that you fit the bill to show that not only do you meet the selection criteria; but also that you’ve researched the course (or profession) and understand what studying the subject at university level will involve. Also show that you're prepared for this.
3. Say what you’ve done outside the classroom
If possible, outline how you’ve pursued your interest in your chosen subject beyond your current syllabus.
For example, talk about any further reading you’ve done around the subject and give your critical views or reflective opinions about it (don't just write a list). This could be from books, quality newspapers, websites, periodicals or scientific journals or from films, documentaries, blogs, radio programmes, podcasts, attending public lectures and so on.
Try to avoid mentioning the wider reading that everyone else is doing.
- Must-read: Make your personal statement stand out
4. Why it’s relevant to your course...
Reflect on your experiences, explaining what you’ve learned from them or how they’ve helped develop your interest in the subject – it could be work experience, volunteering, a university taster session or outreach programme, summer schools, museum, gallery or theatre visits, archaeological digs, visits to the local courts, travel, competitions or a maths challenge.
5. … And relevant to your chosen career
Reflecting on relevant experience or observations will be essential for some professional courses where, in effect, you’re applying for the career as well as the course:
Alternatively, what shouldn’t go in your personal statement?
6. Can you demonstrate transferable skills?
Yes, you can – and admissions tutors will want to hear about them!
It could be your ability to work independently, teamwork, good time management, problem-solving, leadership, listening or organisational skills.
7. Expand on the most relevant ones
But don’t simply list off the skills you think you have – think about which ones relate most readily to the course you’re applying to. Then demonstrate how you’ve developed, used and continued to strengthen these.
Again, admissions tutors want to hear about specific examples, like:
projects and assignments (what role did you play, what went well?)
positions of responsibility (what did you achieve, how has it improved your self-confidence?)
sport, music or drama (what did you learn from your role, how did you work as a team?)
Young Enterprise, Duke of Edinburgh's Award (what was the biggest challenge, how did you overcome it?)
volunteering or a part-time job (what have you observed, what extra responsibilities have you taken on, what skills have you demonstrated yourself?).
8. Show that you’re a critical thinker
University is all about being able to think independently and analytically so being able to demonstrate that you’re working like this already is a big plus point.
Briefly explaining how one of your A-level subjects, a BTEC assignment or placement, or additional studies such as the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) has made you think more critically could be a way of doing this.
9. What’s the long-term plan?
Mention what your longer term goals are if you can do it in an interesting way and you’ve got a specific path in mind. If you do, then try and show a spark of individuality or imagination.
If you’re not sure yet, just talk about what you’re looking forward to at uni and what you want to gain from your course or from university life.
If you’re applying for deferred entry, do mention your gap year plans if you’ve made a firm decision to take a year out. Most courses are happy for you to take a gap year – but they will want to know how you plan to spend it.
10. Keep it positive
It can be difficult to get started with your personal statement, but don’t panic. Start with your strengths, focus on your enthusiasm for the course and talk positively about yourself.
Did that help?
Here are 10 more personal statement must-haves to help your chances with an admissions tutor.