To try and bag your number one choice of course and university you will need to write a killer personal statement. You need to take this seriously and give it your best shot if you want to sound convincing. A passionate and enthusiastic statement will put you well above your competition.
Why write a personal statement?
Writing a personal statement is a part of the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application process. How well you write this statement, and how you can prove your suitability for the course and the university, will decide your success of enrolment.
What should a personal statement include?
Each applicant can choose what they want to write about and there isn’t a mandatory set of requirements, however we would recommend covering the following topics (in no particular order):
- Why you want to take the course
- Why you chose the University
- Your ambitions for the future and how they align with the course
- Extracurricular activities that align with the course
- Your skills
- Your educational achievements to date
- Your suitability to the course and University
- Any relevant work experience
There may be other topics you’d like to cover, but as a minimum the above would provide a great foundation for a well written personal statement.
You can find a lot of personal statement examples at www.personal-statement-examples.com.
How long should your personal statement be?
Personal statements are not just limited for university applications and they are also used on CVs. However, unlike the CV which would typically be just a few sentences (between 100-200 words), for a university application you are expected to write much more.
According to UCAS you should write no more than 4,000 characters. This roughly equates to around 500 words. This is a generous amount and will allow you to cover as many relevant topics as possible.
How should I structure a university personal statement?
One of the main mistakes to avoid is writing a huge block of texts with no paragraphs. With 500 words you should be able to have around 4-5 paragraphs which will make it much easier to read. It also looks a lot more professional on the page.
In regards to the structure and the points you should cover in your statement, here is a short breakdown:
Your reasons for wanting to study
This opening statement is the most important for two reasons. First of all, it will be the first thing UCAS reads, so it has to make a positive impact. Secondly, how passionate you appear will have a large say in the decision. The more passionate and enthusiastic you are about the course, the more likely you are to be considered.
Discuss what you like about the subject, how you came to be interested in it, and how it aligns with your career goals. Those three things are very important to cover and should help satisfy the reader.
Why you’re suitable for the course and university
Your suitability has to match that of your enthusiasm, so don’t hold back on your relatable skills, experience and current grades. Research the course before you write your personal statement. Understanding the requirements will help you to focus on the most relevant points.
Relate your current studies and progression to the course
Most students will have covered the same or similar subjects already at A-level or college. So make comparisons and show how your progression is focused towards the course. However, if you haven’t studied the perfect subjects so far, then you need to be a lot smarter. Pick out certain aspects of your past or current studies that are relatable.
Any relevant hobbies or interests
You would be in a great position if your hobbies and interests align with the course. Take a computer science course as an example. Most people who study this subject would also have this as a hobby. So go into some detail here and make it clear that you live and breathe the subject.
Other hobbies can still have a positive impact on your personal statement. If you are a member or chair of a club, society or committee; then this would be a great way of showing your communication, organisation and potential leadership skills. Sports related hobbies also demonstrate desirable qualities, like hard working and determination, passion, competitiveness, leadership, and communication.
Don’t underestimate how important your hobbies can be for your personal statement. You should add personality to your application through your extracurricular activities and make your statement more interesting and unique.
Your skills, achievements and work experience
Focus on your best skills and achievements and avoid listing everything. Again, if you can make them relevant this will help your statement. Use projects, presentations and coursework to list things like communication, organisation, problem solving and research skills. Go into a little detail about how you achieved the skill or result so as to make a more credible personal statement.
Your work experience may be limited at this stage, but you can focus on part time work, voluntary work, internships, work experience placements, and so on. Pick out the best skills and relatable work experience and demonstrate how it relates to the course and your career.
Still stuck? Try the UCAS personal statement tool.