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How to write a personal statement? It's difficult to know where to begin. Get hints and tips on structure, content and what not to write from a university expert.

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  • An insider's view
  • What admissions tutors look for

Structuring and preparing your personal statement

What to write in a personal statement, examples to avoid, an insider’s view .

Personal statements may seem formulaic, but they can be critical to the decision-making process, and admissions tutors do read them.

If you’re applying for a high-demand course, your personal statement could be the deciding factor on whether or not you get an interview.

The Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at the University of Gloucestershire , James Seymour, shares some top tips on how to write a personal statement.

What makes a good personal statement?

This is your chance to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment and show us what value you can add to a university. In the vast majority of cases, universities are finding ways to make you an offer, not reject you – the personal statement is your chance to make this decision easier for them!

First, you need to explain why you want a place on a course. Take a look at James’ tips on what you should include:

  • Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future
  • Give examples of any related academic or work experience
  • Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you’re interested in
  • Demonstrate who you are by listing any positions you’ve held, memberships of teams or societies, and interests and hobbies
  • Show consistency in your five UCAS choices. It may be difficult for an admissions tutor to take you seriously if your other choices, and references to them, are totally different. If your choices are different, you should explain this in your statement. The UCAS form is blind. Admissions tutors don’t know the other universities you’ve applied to, or your priorities, but you should still be consistent
  • Keep it clear and concise – UCAS admissions are increasingly paperless – so most admissions tutors/officers will read your statement onscreen
Explain what you can bring to a course and try not to just list experiences, but describe how they have given you skills that will help you at university.

Don’t just say: I am a member of the college chess club. I also play the clarinet in the orchestra.

When you could say: I have developed my problem-solving skills through playing chess for the college; this requires concentration and analytical thought. I am used to working as part of a team as I play clarinet in the college orchestra and cooperate with others to achieve a finished production.

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What will admissions tutors look for in your personal statement?

To decide if you’re the right fit, universities and colleges are interested in how you express your academic record and potential. This should be backed up by your reference.

Those working in admissions look for evidence of:

  • Motivation and commitment
  • Leadership, teamwork and communication
  • Research into your chosen subject
  • Any relevant key skills

Admissions tutors aren't seeking Nobel laureates. They’re looking for enthusiasm for the course being applied for, and self-reflection into why you’d be suitable to study it. What value could you add to the course? Where would you like to go once you graduate?

Ben, the Admissions Manager for Law at the University of Birmingham , shared with us what he expects applicants to tell him in their personal statement:

The personal statement is not only an excellent opportunity to showcase applicants individual skills, knowledge, and achievements, but it also provides us with an insight into the type of student they aspire to be and how they could fit into the academic community. Ben Atkins, Law Admissions Manager at University of Birmingham

Real-life example: the good

Good personal statement

Real-life example: the not-so-good

Not so good personal statement

  • How to make your personal statement stand out

You could have excellent experiences, but if they’re arranged in a poorly-written statement then the impact will be reduced. So, it’s important to plan your statement well.

A well-written personal statement with a clearly planned and refined structure will not only make the information stand out, but it’ll demonstrate you have an aptitude for structuring written pieces of work – a crucial skill needed for many university courses.

You can use it for other things too, such as gap year applications, jobs, internships, apprenticeships and keep it on file for future applications.

There's no one ‘correct’ way to structure your personal statement. But it’s a good idea to include the following:

  • A clear introduction, explaining why you want to study the course
  • Around 75% can focus on your academic achievements, to prove how you’re qualified to study it
  • Around 25% can be about any extracurricular activity, to show what else makes you suitable
  • A clear conclusion
  • How to start a personal statement

Your personal statement is your chance to really show why you deserve a place on your chosen course. 

Remember to keep these in mind:

  • Be clear and concise – the more concentrated the points and facts, the more powerful
  • Use positive words such as achieved, developed, learned, discovered, enthusiasm, commitment, energy, fascination…
  • Avoid contrived or grandiose language. Instead use short, simple sentences in plain English
  • Insert a personal touch if possible, but be careful with humour and chatty approaches
  • Use evidence of your learning and growth (wherever possible) to support claims and statements
  • Plan the statement as you would an essay or letter of application for a job/scholarship
  • Consider dividing the statement into five or six paragraphs, with headings if appropriate
  • Spelling and grammar DO matter – draft and redraft as many times as you must and ask others to proofread and provide feedback
  • For 2022 – 23 applications, refer to the challenges you've faced during the pandemic in a positive way


  • Over-exaggerate
  • Come across as pretentious
  • Try to include your life history
  • Start with: "I’ve always wanted to be a..."
  • Use gimmicks or quotations, unless they're very relevant and you deal with them in a way that shows your qualities
  • Be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement – plagiarism software is now very sophisticated and if you're caught out you won’t get a place
  • Make excuses about not being able to undertake activities/gain experience – focus on what you were able to do positively, e.g. as a result of coronavirus

For further details, read our detailed guide on  what to include in a personal statement  and the best things to avoid.

Note that if you decide to reapply for university the following year, it's a good idea to consider making some changes to your personal statement. Mention why you took a year off and talk about what skills you've learnt. If you're applying for a completely different subject, you'll need to make more changes.

James gives us real-life examples of things to avoid:

I enjoy the theatre and used to go a couple of times a year. (Drama)
I am a keen reader and am committed to the study of human behaviour through TV soaps!
I have led a full life over the last 18 years and it is a tradition I intend to continue.
I describe myself in the following two words: 'TO ODIN!' the ancient Viking war cry. (Law)
My favourite hobby is bee-keeping and I want to be an engineer.
My interest in Medicine stems from my enjoyment of Casualty and other related TV series.
I have always had a passion to study Medicine, failing that, Pharmacy. (A student putting Pharmacy as her fifth choice after four medical school choices – Pharmacy can be just as popular and high status as Medicine.)

Some final advice

Above all, remember that a personal statement is your opportunity to convince a university why it should offer you a place. So, make it compelling and there’s a much higher chance they will.

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Top tips for writing an original personal statement

A student advisor offers some top tips for ensuring your personal statement and your university application stands out and avoids the common mistakes.

Hannah Morrish's avatar

Hannah Morrish

Student celebrating

A personal statement is an essay about yourself that is usually included in a university application. Writing a personal statement can seem like a daunting task, but the main thing to remember is that you should aim to show why you want to study at your chosen university, what experiences you have in the subject you have chosen and any extracurricular activities you’ve taken part in. 

Many students worry about writing their personal statement because it is the first time they will have to write something about themselves with the aim of conveying their personality and drive to a stranger. 

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay that is part of the application process when applying to university in the UK. The personal statement is your opportunity to showcase why you would be a good fit for your university, why you have chosen your university and why you want to study your chosen course. 

It is an opportunity to showcase what makes you unique, what skills and experience you have and why you would be an asset to the university. 

Personal statement reforms

Personal statements will soon be scrapped in Ucas applications , and replaced by a series of questions that applicants will have to fill out. These will be introduced in 2024 for the 2025 academic year start. 

How to write a good personal statement

The main thing to remember when writing a personal statement is that it should be unique to you. It might feel strange to write down all of your achievements and ambitions, but this is your opportunity to show your university of choice why they should accept you. 

Talk about your reasons for choosing your university, why you want to study the course you have chosen, any related work experience or hobbies you might have, and what your future goals are in relation to your course. 

It’s best not to leave writing your personal statement until the last minute – a great personal statement is one that is well written and well structured and this can take some time to put together. 

There are some more detailed tips on how to put your personal statement together below. 

Here are some more detailed tips on how to write a postgraduate personal statement here . 

Create two lists

Write down one list detailing what you know about the course you would like to study and why you know it is the correct degree choice for you, including any career aspirations you might have or if you have plans to continue into postgraduate study. The second list should focus on why you are the ideal student for that course and university, including things such as extracurricular activities and related work placements you have done. 

Thoroughly research your subject choice

Admission tutors will read your personal statement to help them evaluate whether you are right for the course. By attending open days, reviewing the course and module content and having researched the university’s values you will have far more confidence in sharing why you want to dedicate the next three years to your chosen course.

Promote the knowledge you already have and why you would fit in 

Make it clear you have thoroughly researched the course and explain why you have made the decision to study it at university. Highlight the relevant skills and subject knowledge you already have and outline any relevant work experience that you have too, which will help to round out your personal statement. 

Show how capable you are

Your personal statement needs to convince universities that you have the study skills to motivate yourself and work hard. Give relevant examples of how you have developed your independent learning skills and what motivates you.

Be original

You know why you got excited about the degree when you read the course information or when you attended a Q&A with one of the lecturers during an open day. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to share your enthusiasm.

Outline any life experience you’ve had that relates to your course, any transferable skills, voluntary work, work experience and goals and aspirations to support your application. 

Don’t use unsupported clichés

It’s a good idea to try to stay away from clichés as a rule, but if you do think that one will work in your favour make sure it’s supported. If it is the truth that you have wanted to study something from a young age then you may want to include this kind of statement.

What is more important is that you explain how this has inspired you to study supporting subjects and dedicate time to hobbies or interests that relate directly to what you would like to study at university and how this will help you.

Some phrases and words to try to avoid include:

1. Mentioning your work experience at your “father’s company” 2. Using the phrase “quenched my thirst for…” 3. Any metaphors using fire, such as “sparked my interest” or “burning desire” 4. Starting the statement with “ever since I was a child” or “from a young age” 5. Using any of the following words:

  • passion/passionate
  • furthermore
  • ground-breaking
  • thought-provoking

Ask for feedback

Don’t be shy about asking people to proofread for you. When you have been working on something for a while it can be hard to spot any mistakes or tweaks you should make. Ask friends, family or a teacher to proofread it and give their honest opinion.

They should feed back on whether your personal statement is well structured, do a spell check for any spelling or grammar mistakes and check whether it portrays your academic achievements and academic interests. 

How long should a personal statement be?

Your personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters long, which is around two sides of A4 paper. 

How to start a personal statement

The introduction of the personal statement is the most important part as this is what will draw the attention of the admission tutor reading it. 

Consider your main reasons for choosing your course and lead with that. There are some more tips below on how to structure your personal statement. 

And if possible try to avoid these common opening lines for your Ucas personal statement. 

How to structure a personal statement

Admissions tutors will read a lot of personal statements, so you'll want to grab their attention from the beginning. A rough structure would include an introduction of yourself, your reasons for choosing your subject, the subjects you are studying now and how they relate to your chosen degree, any experiences you’ve had that relate to your chosen subject, interests and hobbies that relate to your chosen subject, your career goals after you leave university and why you would make a good addition to the university. 

If you are writing a personal statement for a postgraduate degree , there are many more tips here. 

Can I use ChatGPT to write a personal statement?

While ChatGPT or any other kind of generative AI technology can be a useful tool to write your personal statement, it is important that they are used with the right guidance. 

Ucas does not necessarily ban the use of ChatGPT for writing a personal statement, however applications are run through anti-plagiarism software so if it does detect that whole paragraphs are plagiarised, Ucas will notify any universities that you have applied to and any offers might be revoked. 

Some universities and colleges may also consider the use of ChatGPT as cheating so it might be better to avoid using these programs in case your universities take a stricter approach. 

The main thing to remember is that admissions tutors will want to see your character and personality so using a program like this would remove any kind of personality from your personal statement. 

More information on using AI for your personal statement can be found here . 

This article was updated by THE Student Editor Seeta Bhardwa in July 2023. This article was originally published in December 2015. 

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York University

10 Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement

1. read the instructions carefully.

This is especially important when you are applying to multiple programs. Pay particular attention to length limits and content/questions you are supposed to address.

When you attend a Post Grad Application Support appointment, it can be very helpful to bring these instructions with your drafts (in hardcopy!)

2. Focus on yourself

Avoid getting into long explanations of the courses you took, or places you volunteered. The selection committee will be more interested in how these experiences influenced your perspective, your intellectual development and motivated you to pursue further education. YOU are the main focus of the personal statement.

3. Demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm

Post graduate education can be very challenging and stressful. The committee will be looking for evidence that you are truly motivated and excited about what you want to study since such students make more positive peers and are more likely to successfully complete the program.

4. Start early

Although personal statements aren’t usually very long, you will need to write multiple drafts to get your statement to the level you want it to be.

This is a different kind of writing than you are used to, and it can take much longer than you expect to figure out what you are trying to say, and how to say it in the most effective way. Beginning 2-3 months before your deadline is a good rule of thumb.

5. Explain any discrepancies in your application in your personal statement

Be sure to address any grades on your transcripts that do not reflect your academic ability, especially if they occurred in the last two years of your degree, and are in courses related to the programs to which you are applying.

Your explanation should be concise, and focused on assuring the committee that whatever the problem was, it is in the past and will not impact your ability to do well in the future. You can discuss strategies for doing this in a Post Grad Application Support session.

6. Review good sentence and paragraph structure

A personal statement requires you to put a lot of information in very few words, so the structure of your sentences and paragraphs is key. The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource to review these elements of good writing before you get started.

7. Use the active voice

This means put “I” in the subject position of your sentences and avoiding terms like ‘allowed’ and ‘gave'; with you as the receiver rather than the initiator of the action.

For example, instead of “This course gave me a new understanding of...” use “Through this course, I gained a new understanding of...”.

8. Give explicit reasons for selecting the program for which you are applying

The selection committee will select qualified candidates who can give rational, persuasive reasons why that program is a good fit for them.

Compelling reasons for selecting a program could include the fact that there are several professors who are experts in your particular area of interest in a particular program, or that the structure of the program will enable you to focus on a particular topic.

Maybe the location is near an important resource, or there are courses specifically focused in your area of interest. Make sure you clearly articulate why these aspects of the program appeal to you.

9. Indicate what your goals are once you’ve graduated from the program

Committees like to get a sense of how you see their program supporting your goals to make sure you have realistic expectations and to ensure you are not making erroneous assumptions as to the purpose of the program

10. Revise, revise, revise!

Check for problems with the structure and flow of your statement. Look for awkward phrases, jarring transitions, ambiguous statements and, of course, grammar and spelling errors. Get feedback from as many people as possible. The Personal Statement Peer Review is an excellent resource to help you do this.


Click here to go back to: Thinking about grad school or further education?

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11 tips for writing a stellar personal statement

tips for writing university personal statement

The planning stage is a crucial first step.

The application process for an advanced degree program is often multifaceted . You will likely have to sit for a standardized examination such as the Graduate Entrance Exam or Graduate Management Admission Test , as well as seek out recommendations from trusted professors and colleagues and present examples of your undergraduate work. One of the most important components of this process, however, is writing your personal statement. Typically no more than two pages, personal statements are, according to Carnegie Mellon University , your opportunity to demonstrate to an admissions committee why you feel that for the program in question.

Given that the expected length of the personal statement is typically short, it can be a challenge writing everything that you wish to say. After all, this is your time to make a case for your candidacy, and the impulse to write more will likely be strong. Writing an engaging and concise personal statement need not be such a challenge, however. By following the simple tips below, you can write a stellar personal statement that really sets you apart from the crowd:

1. Plan As with any good essay or paper, planning is a key first step. Make sure you develop a detailed framework of everything you want to discuss, and what you want the statement to achieve. 

2. Outline your academic or professional ambitions The focus of your personal statement should be your academic ambitions and the reasons why you wish to enter graduate school. It’s not enough to simply give a vague answer such as “this program will help open career doors upon graduation.” While this may well be your motivation, the admissions committee is looking for candidates who are passionate about their subject of study and have a clear idea of how the advanced degree program will help them both deepen their knowledge and progress, either academically or professionally. State in no uncertain terms how and why the advanced degree course will help you move forward.

3. Use plenty of examples According to USA Today, providing concrete examples is a more effective strategy than talking in abstract generalizations. For example, list academics or scholars who inspire you, mention essays that received high praise, outline details of past research projects, and so on. Put another way, the more examples you offer to strengthen your case, the more likely an admissions officer will be impressed. 

4. Make your qualifications clear The personal statement is no time to be coy. It’s important that you speak to your accomplishments and stress why you believe you are a deserving candidate. This involves discussing past research projects in depth and the critical reception the work received. As Carnegie Mellon University pointed out, the admissions committee is typically composed of academics in your field, all of whom need to see that you are capable of the work that lies ahead. Of course, keep an eye on your tone: It is possible to list your many achievements without coming across as arrogant. 

“The personal statement is no time to be coy.”

5. Offer praise in moderation As USA Today detailed, it is important to explain what attracted you to the university and program of study in question. However, it is important not to praise the establishment and faculty too much. Such a strategy will make it appear as though you are trying to ingratiate yourself with the faculty, which many find distasteful. Moderation is key: Outline some of the strengths of the school and the program and then relate those positive aspects back to how it will help you in your academic and/or professional pursuits.

6. Arrive at your main point early Admissions officers will be tasked with reading hundreds of personal statements. As you can imagine, such an assignment can be tiring, and the committee will likely grow increasingly less patient with every paper. That’s why it’s imperative to arrive at your main point early on , the University of California Berkeley argued. Grab the attention of the reader within the first paragraph, and then expand your argument from there. As the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign advised, ensure that your opening paragraph is the strongest and most engaging. 

7. Use positive language Try to eschew mentioning anything negative about your academic past unless it is absolutely unavoidable, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stated. The goal of the statement is to leave a positive impression in the mind of the reader. If you decide to discuss a personal challenge, for example, be sure to find a way to reflect how the experience lead to positive change. In essence, although negative discussion is unavoidable in some circumstances, be sure to make the overall theme of the paper an uplifting and positive one. 

8. Write multiple drafts Remember that the personal statement is also your opportunity to showcase your writing skills. Indeed, most higher education programs require at least a moderate ability in extended writing. That’s why it’s so important to complete at least several drafts of your paper. Have a professor or writing professional review the statement for errors and argument structure, to ensure that the whole piece comes together and flows well. If you are applying to a sciences degree, for example, and your experience with essay writing is minimal, strongly consider enlisting the help of a writing professional. Your alma mater will no doubt have a writing center on campus that you can use. 

9. Keep an eye on language Ensure that the language you utilize is professional. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stressed avoiding colloquial terms such as “like,” as well as cliches and stock phrases – think “I’m a go-getter” or “since a child I’ve always wanted to be.” Also eschew any language that is overly emotive, such as “love,” “incredibly,” “extremely” and so on. 

10. Avoid anything too risky Although we live in the digital age and video job applications and résumés are becoming increasingly common, when it comes to your graduate school application, the conservative approach is the safest option. Keep the formatting conventional and tone professional. For example, as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign advised, don’t include humor or other tactics that could prove distracting from your central message.

11. Follow instructions This may seem like an obvious step, but it’s surprising how many people will dive into a task without reviewing the instructions. Each institution will likely have a slightly different idea of what they want from the personal statement. Some may want longer pieces, while others may prefer more condensed essays. Many schools will likely provide questions and prompts for you to answer and follow. It’s crucial, therefore, to review the instructions in detail before you even begin the writing process. After all, a surefire way to receive a rejection notice is to disobey the requirements of the task. 

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Tips for writing a UCAS personal statement

A personal statement is a short, reflective piece of writing that you submit as part of your UCAS application to universities. We use it during the admissions process to decide if you're suitable for the course you're applying for - and so we can understand why you want to study your chosen subject.

Alternatively, you can see our advice for writing a Masters personal statement .

Your personal statement

A good personal statement can mean the difference between receiving an offer and being unsuccessful, so it's important you take the time to consider what you want to include in it.

Your personal statement is where you highlight you have what it takes to study on one of our undergraduate courses.

The personal statement is one of the most important parts of your UCAS application and gives you the chance to tell us how you stand out from other candidates.

For some of our courses you may be invited for interview, but for the majority the personal statement is the only opportunity that you will have to sell yourself.

Plan your personal statement

You can only submit one personal statement for the five courses and universities you apply for, so it is a good idea to plan out what you want to say before writing your personal statement.

There is no one-size fits all method when you are writing your personal statement, so try to be original and engaging.

We are looking for evidence of your interest in, enthusiasm for, and understanding of your chosen course. 

Think about:

  • why you are interested in the subject
  • your ambitions and how taking the course will help you achieve them
  • why you are interested in progressing on to higher education. 

It is also important to tell us about: 

  • your reasons for choosing the course (this is the most important part of the statement)
  • your skills (and their relevance to your chosen subject)
  • wider reading you've undertaken 
  • work experience (especially where this is relevant to the subject)
  • any achievements or prizes you have won during your study or work 
  • your wider interests and hobbies (providing they are relevant)
  • any career plans you might have.

You may want to apply for a variety of different courses - if this is the case, write about common themes relevant to all courses.

If you are a mature student you can use your personal statement to talk about your wider experience and the skills and knowledge you have gained; as well as why you are now thinking about returning to education. 

Be sure to include any personal circumstances that may have affected your education. For example, a physical or mental health condition, caring for a family member or changing schools due to being from an Armed Forces family. You can also let us know about any financial hardships you may have experienced during your studies.

Structure your personal statement:

Use a clear structure in your personal statement and make sure each paragraph logically follows on from the one before. You are limited to 4,000 characters (and 47 lines).

Start and end your personal statement by highlighting your positivity and passion for the course and your future career options (if you have any at this stage). 

When writing your personal statement, you should: 

  • be honest and write in your own words - the best statements are always the most genuine
  • use clear language and avoid extravagant claims
  • be analytical rather than just descriptive - don't just tell us what you've read or what you've done, we want to see what you gained from this, or how it changed your perception of your chosen subject
  • explain your motivations in choosing the degree you’re applying for and demonstrate your existing passion for the subject (whether that’s from studies you’ve already undertaken in school or college or wider reading you’ve pursued)
  • where you are applying to courses linked to a particular profession (such as Teaching or Social Work), also reflect on your understanding of that vocation. For example, this may be reflections on what you gained from relevant work experience or it could be other research you’ve undertaken which has given you an insight into that profession
  • draw on your other experiences - for example, are you a member of a society, have you won any awards, scholarships or prizes?
  • provide evidence of your transferable skills, including research, critical thinking, communication, organisation, planning and time-management
  • highlight any career aspirations you might have and show how the course will help you achieve them
  • use accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling 
  • proofread your statement and ask a friend or relative to read it.

Make sure you allow enough time to plan and structure your personal statement, ensuring you include everything you want to say. You may need to redraft your statement a number of times. 

If you are invited to interview, go back to your statement so that you can familiarise yourself with the information you have given us.

For more advice, see the UCAS tips for writing a personal statement  

Use our UCAS personal statement checklist to make sure you haven't missed anything.

You might also be interested in:

  • how to apply for undergraduate courses
  • student support
  • your offer and confirming your place
  • transferring from other universities .

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Tips and tricks for writing your personal statement

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A personal statement is a great way to show the admissions team who you are, beyond your grades. With so much competition for university places, it’s your opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants and showcase your ambition, skills and passion for your chosen degree course. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to go about writing a personal statement. It should be personal, engaging, and most importantly, written by you. Take a look at our top tips below.

Work(sheet) it out

The Future Students team, who are our resident experts in delivering presentations on how to write a personal statement, have prepared a brilliant Personal Statement Worksheet for you. This worksheet has lots of tips and exercises to help you create a personal statement that showcases your skills and achievements. Once you’ve finished reading this blog, we’d recommend you take a look at the worksheet.

Here’s a really good way to structure it

Personal statement structure

Why University?

You definitely want to show off your knowledge, skills and past experiences that make you a great candidate for your subject or career. However, you want to demonstrate that you are not a finished product. You’re keen to learn more, push yourself further and develop your skills. Make sure you communicate how your experience at university can help you to achieve your career dreams or engage in an academic community you are passionate about.

Getting the right information in there

If you’re unsure what to write, use the websites for the universities you’re applying to and look at what modules or topics you’re going to be studying. On our website you will be able to find a drop-down menu of modules with descriptions on the course pages. Talking about one or two of the modules you find can really help to show your understanding of the course.

Don’t edit yourself as you write. Own the fact that you are not producing the best thing ever for your first draft, just write. The power of the personal statement is in the next stage of editing and polishing. You’re likely to do that a lot before you’re happy with it, so remember to draft your personal statement in Word rather than straight into the UCAS application system as it times out and you’ll lose your work.

Read it out loud

It’s a great idea to do this. You will spot spelling and grammar mistakes, be able to trim those lengthy sentences that have no clear purpose, and you are more likely to notice if you have repeated the same word too often. It’s also always handy to get a family member to proofread your final version before you submit. If you are invited for an interview, make sure to re-read your personal statement beforehand to refresh your memory of your main points.

You can do it!

Have confidence in yourself. This applies to both the substance of what you are writing and the very act of writing your personal statement. Remember the bigger picture; you are doing this to achieve the next remarkable step in your life.

Nitty gritty FAQs

What is the word limit? Just to keep it interesting, there’s not a word limit but rather a character and lines limit. You only have 4,000 characters and 47 lines to play with. If you’re trying to get those characters down think of each sentence individually and ask if it’s telling us something about you and what you know about the course or career. If it is, that’s great, but if it isn’t then consider leaving it out.

What font should I use? Don’t waste your time on selecting a font. UCAS will turn it into a generic serif font when you paste it into your application anyway.

I’m a mature/international/part-time student. What do I do? Exactly the same as above. Fundamentally, you’re a student first. Talk about what makes you unique, whether that’s skills you gained from the workforce, or the perspective you have coming from a different country and culture.

Is it really a problem if I copy a personal statement or use a service to write one for me? Yes, this is a problem. UCAS checks every personal statement and a plagiarised one will be flagged. Believe in yourself - you can write this thing and you do have plenty to write about.

Have some questions?

Feel free to get in touch with us on Live Chat, we’re always happy to hear from you. You can ask for contact details for the Future Students team if you want advice on writing your personal statement.

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10 Tips For Writing A Personal Statement

As you may already know, successfully applying to university is all about standing out from the crowd.

The aim of the game is to get those offers, and to get offers you need to make your UCAS application memorable.

But with admissions tutors endlessly divulging advice, almost everyone is becoming an expert at writing the 'perfect personal statement'.

A quick browse through our personal statement writing guide will reveal those tried and tested steps for constructing a perfectly acceptable personal statement.

In fact, if those steps were followed 5 years ago, then your personal statement would be one that stands out in the endless pile that tutors sieve through.

However, these days, that brilliant personal statement isn’t looking so shiny.

As the standard of personal statements improve, a better form of statement needs to be developed to get those sought after places – it’s all about staying ahead of the game .

Your personal statement is there to distinguish you from the rest - it’s your time to shine! Follow our tips, and your statement will make sure you do just that.

1. “Personal” doesn’t always mean “You”

We find this is the mistake so many people make: when they see the words "Personal statement", they think "hmmm…personal…I’ll talk about me".

Unfortunately, they are not interested in you.

They don’t work at the university to be admissions tutors, they work there because they love their subject. So if you want to appeal to them, stop talking about you and start speaking their language - talk about their subject .

Now this can sound a bit radical, and we agree. But you need to make your personal statement unique, and so we're suggesting a new way to make your personal statement stand out.

If you can think of a better way to make your statement unusual, then go ahead.

However, be careful. People have made the mistake of trying fancy things with layout and presentation – don’t go that way! It makes your statement look unique yes, but interesting? No.

Admissions officers will not take kindly to people who write their personal statement in spirals or other strange patterns (we have seen examples of this being done, and it’s not pretty).

Paragraphs are all you need, and a series of well constructed ones will flow together, giving your statement structure.

So don't underestimate the power of the paragraph - use it well!

2. Start as you mean to go on

Don't waste time talking about how you're "devoted to study, motivated, organised".

If you're applying to a top university, the admissions tutors will expect that as a given. So how do you start your personal statement? Well, let’s look at an example.

For a Physics degree, you don’t start with a paragraph talking about how much you love Physics, and that you read loads of books on it etc., because once again, that's talking about you.

What you need to do is pick something very specific in your subject, but something advanced - not covered in your syllabus - that you will be studying on the degree course.

You could pick a topic called Quantum electrodynamics (QED) - you don't need to know what it is, but we can assure you that you don’t cover it at Sixth Form.

It needs to be a reasonably wide area of your subject, not something too specific.

By starting your personal statement talking about a complex area within your chosen subject, you instantly show that: 1. You like your subject 2. You read around your subject 3. You want to learn more about your subject and university is where you want to do it.

What’s more, an admissions officer will be interested in what you have to say.

They, no doubt, will have their own opinion regarding your chosen area, and will be interested to see whether or not they agree with what you think.

However, you can’t just jump into an advanced area of your subject without something to back your opinions up – you need a reference point.

So, with our example, you could choose a well-known book on QED and include one or two quotes.

Devote about a third (or up to a half) of your whole personal statement talking about this one chosen area, which should be 1 or 2 paragraphs.

But it is important to show that you've thought about what you've read about in your reference point - this is perfectly done by leaving a few open questions.

Getting the admissions officer to think how they would answer your question is a big help. If you get them thinking, you get them remembering.

Whatever you do, don't sound menacing or challenging - you don’t want to get the tutor all worked up and angry at your controversial views.

Just make it sound like you are hugely interested in your subject, but can not understand it without their expert help, and you would like to spend the next 3 years discussing these matters and others like it with similar minded individuals.

3. Include a great opening sentence

Starting with something funny, interesting, unusual or surprising will give a good first impression, but make sure you don't overthink it.

The perfect opening sentence will come to you eventually, even if you have already worked hours and hours on your personal statement. So try to give it time, and let the right words come to you.

If you need some inspiration, take a look at our personal statement examples to see how previous UCAS applicants chose to open theirs.

4. Showcase your strengths

You are trying to sell yourself to the university in a very small amount of space. A perfect product proposer is all about how great that thing is, and it’s the same with your personal statement.

You should write about your experiences, your knowledge and your future plans.

Don't write, “I wanted to learn Latin but gave up after a few weeks” or “I am not very good at Chemistry, but I hate it anyway.”

5. Think about your future

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 to show a spark of individuality or imagination.

Just saying that you want to be an accountant won't make your application stand out from the crowd.

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, briefly, how you plan to spend it.

6. Round off with a memorable conclusion

Now you're either a third or halfway through and if all’s well you've got the officer sitting there, interested - they can connect with you because you are asking the questions that they probably asked at your age - you are talking their language.

It's then time to show yourself off: at this stage it's time to drop in a few book titles that you've read, maybe touch on other areas of your course that interest you.

Here you can actually briefly mention how you want to continue your learning, and university is the ideal environment to get your queries answered and to feed your desire to understand their subject.

You can now have a paragraph (a short one, mind you) to sell the rest of yourself. Talk about your interests other than your subject - try and think of the unique and unusual.

For example, if you did Fencing every week for 6 months, you could say "I enjoy experiencing the arts, and have even tried my hand at the martial art of Fencing".

So not only have you told them you have done Fencing, you have shown you enjoy other arts such as Music, Art and Drama.

Then you're left with 2 or 3 lines, and all there is left to do is think of something memorable (but not arrogant), that sums up why you should be given a place.

As mentioned in the point above, you could use it to talk about your plans for the future and your career.

7. Don't lie

Do not write that you are fluent in Spanish if you can only say “Hello” in Spanish.

Do not write that you are good at problem-solving if your only example is a trick of carrying five bottles in one hand.

There is no need to create a false image, and indeed the truth will always come out sooner or later. So only say you are good at something if you really are!

8. Complete a first draft

With all the above advice in mind, put together a rough first draft. Our personal statement template will help you with this, which you can save and come back to later.

Remember - it doesn't need to be perfect yet. You'll have plenty of time to redraft it later.

The important thing is just to have something written down to start with. You can then read through it and see what you've missed.

Don't worry about word count at this stage. While you only have 4,000 characters to work with, it's better that you've got too much material at this stage, than not enough.

After all, it's much easier to remove content than add more to bulk it out.

Our personal statement length checker will help you cut your statement down so you're within the character limit.

9. Proofread your statement

Show your statement to your parents, teachers, friends, and anyone else you think might be able to help.

The more people you show it to, the more feedback you will get, and the better the final version will be.

Of course, some advice will be better than others, but it is easier to ask many people first, and differentiate later.

Incorporate each piece of feedback into your statement (if you think it improves it), before doing a final read through and polish. Remember - don't just rely on spellchecker to do this job for you!

10. Give it your own voice

While it's helpful to look at some personal statement examples for inspiration, make sure your personal statement sounds like you (and not somebody else!).

Your statement should be original and unique, as this is the only way you can hope to stand out from all the other applicants.

Further information

For more tips and advice, please see:

  • Personal Statement FAQs
  • Personal Statement Editing Services
  • The 15th January UCAS Deadline: 4 Ways To Avoid Missing It
  • Writing Tips From A Teacher
  • What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline

Best of luck with your personal statement!


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