Making a good first impression when applying for a place at university is critical. That
is why it is so important to take time to prepare and write your personal statement.
★ Research the university system of the country to which you are applying
Each country has its own system. Use their websites for guidance. For example in the UK, the system is organised by UCAS.
★ Research your subject
When researching specific courses, look at the course content. See what they have in common (eg modules, key skills required, modes of assessment) and highlight these in your statement. Make connections to what you have been studying and/or what interests you particularly. Universities like to see that you have done your research.
★ What do I write in my personal statement?
Introduction Why you want to study this course or subject at university. Try to communicate your passion for the subject. Remember, if you are applying to the UK, your personal statement is seen by all your UCAS choices; so don’t make references to a specific institution.
Academics Specifically subjects you’ve studied that are relevant to the course/subject you’re applying to, including specific topics or work. This section should make up the majority of your personal statement – around 75% according to some careers experts – but this might vary depending on where/what you’re applying to (eg Oxbridge) and what else you have to talk about. For instance, a law or medicine applicant may want to invest more time talking about relevant experience they've accumulated.
Interest in your subject beyond the classroom. This could be through books or journals you’ve read, events you’ve been to, podcasts you’ve listened to etc. Don’t just make a long list though; pick one or two key examples and focus on these.
Relevant work experience (paid or unpaid) Pick out one or two key experiences or placements, talking about what you did and what you took away from these. Read the course description for all the courses you’re applying to, and pick out the skills or qualities that pop up frequently (then show how you’ve demonstrated these).
Hobbies and interests This section should be brief, sticking to the most relevant ones only. These could be extracurricular activities that demonstrate key transferable skills that aren’t necessarily tied to your subject. For instance, being captain of a sports team shows you can work with others, communicate clearly, lead and motivate others, etc. – all of these are impressive to an admissions tutor, regardless of subject.
Conclusion This should reiterate the key points you’ve already made, giving your statement a satisfying sense of closure. If you have an idea of your future ambitions (eg postgraduate study, career paths), explain how studying this course will help you fulfil these. Alternatively, you may talk about your broader goals for university, or areas you’re looking forward to studying.
★ Check and check again
Keep the above in mind as you plot out, draft and redraft your statement. Ask someone to help you proof-read your statement and give you critical feedback, preferably an experienced teacher. However, you must use your own words. The universities will do a plagiarism check. Also, make sure that you have checked all the requirements of the personal statement such as word count (for UCAS you cannot exceed 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text, including blank lines).
★ Invest time, and more time!
This is probably one of the most important written tasks in your career. It will set you apart from the other students with similar grades and may form the basis of an interview. It is about you, written by you. So invest the time it deserves.
★ Get experienced help and advice
We can help you at every stage of the process: from university and course
selection, to planning and proofreading your statement.
Author: Julie Yarnall