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How important is the personal statement to your uni application?

Only a minority of university courses hold interviews, so more often than not the decision to offer you a place will be based purely on your Ucas application. Meaning your personal statement could be a deal breaker...

A senior history tutor at Oxford Brookes University, Simon Baalham, summed it up when he said: 'I can’t emphasise highly enough how important personal statements are.'

Before you get started, make sure you take a look at the top things admissions tutors want to see in your personal statement - and the personal statement don'ts to steer well clear of. 

How your personal statement is used

It’s best to assume that admissions tutors will look at your application holistically. For some unis, this will be their policy across all courses and means your qualifications, personal statement, academic reference and estimated grades will all be factored into the decision. If it’s a course that requires an entry test, then your test scores would come into the equation too.

Your personal statement is your big opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm, potential and suitability. The more competitive the course is, the more likely your personal statement could be the deciding factor, especially when it comes down to two candidates with very similar academic achievements.

Some courses that lead to professional qualifications go one step further and will score your personal statement against their selection criteria, with that score helping to determine whether you get an offer, interview or rejection. For example, if you apply for courses like medicine, nursing or physiotherapy, you may find that some of your chosen unis will shortlist in this way.

It could come to your rescue on results day

On the other hand it’s also fair to say that, for some courses at some universities, there will be sufficient places for all applicants who can achieve the grades required. In these cases, your statement will still be an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the admissions tutor and demonstrate your suitability, but it may not be quite so critical and might even receive little more than a cursory glance.

But even then, your statement may suddenly take on greater significance if you don’t quite get the grades you need on results day. If this happens to you, a strong personal statement can often swing an admissions tutor’s decision in your favour.

Three more reasons personal statements matter

1. It can show you’ve done your homework

There’s a growing trend for unis to be more transparent about what they are looking for in applicants. Again it varies from uni to uni and from course to course, but you will sometimes find that the university website will provide specific information on the skills, qualities, knowledge or experiences they are looking for – and sometimes even spell out what they want to see in your statement.

Reflecting all this in your personal statement will demonstrate to the admissions tutor that you’re the right fit – and that you’ve taken the time to do your research.

2. It gets your voice heard

For courses that don’t interview, the personal statement may be your only chance to speak directly to the admissions tutor and demonstrate your ability and interest in the subject.

For this reason it’s important you prepare a statement that’s enthusiastic, relevant, honest and that sounds like you.

3. What you write could shape your interview

For courses that do interview, your personal statement will help them to form some of their questions.

A well-planned, well-researched statement that’s written with enthusiasm, conviction and honesty will not only help you get the interview, but will also give you the opportunity to at least partially set the agenda for it.

Ready to get started? Check out our expert's top tips on how to start writing your personal statement


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