Personal Statement Examples logo

Method

Start Your Personal Statement

This is a set of helpful points which have been assembled from personal experience and a variety of professional sources. Feel free to follow anything that you might find useful and disregard what doesn't apply to you.

First of all, take a look at UCAS's site and familiarise yourself with the contents of the application form. Once you have explored the website, you will be ready to start writing your personal statement.

If you happen to find it difficult to begin, note down a list of facts that you would like the assessor to know about you and how these would help you be a better student on your course.

E.g.

  • Want to study Geology. Have built up a personal mineral collection.
  • Considering a career in Engineering. Started the Engineering club at school and organised talks.
  • Volunteering with kids. Was a leader and had to be organised.
  • Work experience at Law firm. Gained invaluable experience and learned the structure of a working environment.
  • Play in a band. Time-management and organising practice sessions.

At this point you should attempt to put together a rough first draft of your personal statement. Try to write using our Guidelines to help you. If you are still experiencing problems or "writer's block", you could just start writing, even if your first sentence may not sound very impressive. For instance, start this way: My name is George and I was born in London.

Obviously, this is not a great way to start your personal statement but at least it will mean that you won't be stuck on the first line, and you can get on to the more content-rich sections that we have suggested you include in the Guidelines.

We recommend that you draft your entire personal statement and then return to the beginning to modify and perfect it.

Your beginning should immediately capture the attention of the reader and be different from any other personal statement. The admissions officer has hundreds of personal statements to read through and he or she will pay less attention to those that sound weak, boring or repetitive.

Take a moment to look at our Personal Statement Examples as they will give you some good clues in terms of structure and ideas. Don't forget to check out our Top Tips page before writing your first draft!

Guidelines

This is a set of helpful points which have been assembled from personal experience and a variety of professional sources. Feel free to follow anything that you might find useful and disregard what doesn't apply to you.

First Paragraph:

How was your interest in the course you are applying for stimulated and what truly motivates you to study this subject for three or four years at university?

Think about whether it was a book that you read, a life-experience that you had, or some other event that made you realise what you wanted to read at university. You could also mention that the course ties in with your future career path or ambitions.

By reading our Start page you will learn that it is vital that you capture the reader's attention right from the first sentence.

A strong start is often what makes a good personal statement stand out.

Second Paragraph:

Inform the reader about your existing knowledge of the subject you will be reading at university. If your course is highly specific, don't hesitate to explore areas which are related to and tie in with the course or one of the modules you will be studying. Remember to research your course fully to make sure that you express an interest in a module that is actually taught.

You should be able to return to the source of your information and refer to where it originated from: at school, in newspapers, from listening to the radio or watching TV programmes…

However, it is always better to demonstrate the depth of your interest by going into the specifics around a certain subject from a particular source rather than expressing a more general interest.

For instance: I enjoyed learning about and exploring the potential consequences of the Scottish independence referendum in a news article from the "Independent". This heightened my enthusiasm for national politics.

Third Paragraph:

Give details about your independent reading around the subject you will be studying, or how you have enquired further into a specific topic at school. Try to extend your reading list to university-level books and attempt to analyse what you have read as an undergraduate would. This will make you a much more knowledgeable and eligible candidate.

Explicitly mention an average of two texts (and their authors) which you have read and state what you have learned from them. Express how these have made you a better candidate for the university course you are applying for. How have you benefited from this wider reading and how does it distinguish you from others?

Again be as specific as possible about a topic or a passage in the book as this will impress the reader a lot more than giving a more general impression of knowledge. If you are writing in your personal statement about a book that you are planning on reading, set a reminder on your phone so you don't forget to do so in case you are called in for an interview. Otherwise indicate that you only read a chapter or passage of that book in your personal statement.

Fourth Paragraph:

This paragraph should be dedicated to mentioning anything that you believe is representative of your life outside of school and your studies. E.g.: hobbies, extra-curricular activities, school trips, activities, work experience, internships…

However, anything that you mention should be related back to your course and how this makes you a better candidate through the transferable skills that you have gained. E.g.: Time-management skills, organisational skills, communication skills, leadership skills, critical thinking…

This is your chance to express yourself as an individual and show that you are not a machine! You have outside interests and can manage your time well so be sure to represent yourself as a well-rounded individual.

If you have had some work experience or internships, mention them as well. You may want to make a separate paragraph but make sure you specify what you have learned from each of them.

Fifth Paragraph:

After reading this last paragraph, the assessor will be left with a final impression of you. Therefore, make it count. This paragraph is the one where you should say why (subtly) the university and course is made for you and what you will bring to them. It may help you to look at the university course websites in order to fit this final paragraph to the actual course you are interested in. Again take a look at our Personal Statement Examples for ideas if you are really stuck, but do not try to lift sentences or phrases, since the assessors use anti-plagiarism software and will detect any "cut and paste" behaviour. And remember, the important thing is to be original and different!

Don't forget to look at Top Tips, they will help your personal statement look and read better!

Top Tips

This is a set of helpful points which have been assembled from personal experience and a variety of professional sources. Feel free to follow anything that you might find useful and disregard what doesn't apply to you.

When writing your personal statement keep these Tips in the back of your mind so that you can write the most comprehensible and reader-friendly personal statement.

Use our Guidelines to structure your personal statement.

Read through all of these points as they will give you a good idea of what to remember while you're writing. They will also provide a better structure and wording to your work.

Spelling and wording:

  • Try not to make any spelling or grammatical mistakes. This will cause the reader's interest to waver immediately as he will think that you were not serious enough about your personal statement to check through it. Use a spell check programme and ask someone you trust to thoroughly proof-read your statement.
  • Make sure that your punctuation and paragraphing is perfect. This will help your structure and make the personal statement easier to read for the assessor.
  • Numbers under 10 should be written out fully in letters.
  • Never contract your words: use "I have not" rather than "I haven't". This is more professional and reads better.
  • Do not make your sentences too long. A long sentence can be confusing to the reader or make them lose interest.
  • Keep your paragraphs short.

Content:

  • Anything that you have done and any skill that you have obtained through work experience or activities that can be directly related back to your course and what you will be studying.
  • Do not repeat yourself. Repeating yourself is one of the most common errors in a personal statement. Unless you are doing so for emphasis, avoid mentioning the same things twice. For instance, two different activities both giving you invaluable team-working skills could either be placed in the same sentence or you could try finding a different skill to associate with one of these activities.
  • Everything that you say should have an aim/an objective/a goal and explain why you are perfectly suited for the course. The aim is to make yourself look like the ideal candidate, so display yourself in a positive light. Remember to relate everything back to your course and how your activity will make you be a better student for the course.
  • Never assume the assessor knows something or can infer something that you have not clearly stated (e.g. I did x,y,z activities so I have good time management skills which will allow me to be a very organised and self-disciplined student at university). The second part of this example is vital.
  • Research your course. Simple enough, but if you veer off subject and say you are interested in something that is not included in the course, the university will be unsure about your interest in their course.
  • Anything not directly related to your course should be kept within a single paragraph. If you can't link something to your course, then you should keep it as succinct as possible.

Proof Reading and Correcting:

  • Proof read your personal statement by a few different people you trust and respect in order to reduce the chance of making a mistake. Mistakes immediately cause skepticism in the reader's eye.
  • Ask your reviewers to imagine that they do not know you, and are forming an impression based solely on the personal statement. This will test the impact of your document.
  • Only seek the advice of an average of three people. This will mean your personal statement is kept confidential. Some people believe it can be beneficial to get it read by as many people as possible in order to reduce mistakes and gather ideas. However, be wary of receiving too much input as this can destroy the original flow of your personal statement and make the document sound like a group project!
  • Make sure you do not exceed the line and character limits that have been set by UCAS. Otherwise, parts of your final paragraph may be erased automatically, which would be a shame. (these are 47 and 4000 respectively)

Finally:

  • Don't be cheesy! Originality is what everyone should be aiming for.

Please note UCAS will detect any form of plagiarism. PSE and its contributors do not take any responsibility for the way in which personal statements are used.

Contact us