by Amber Rolfe
Applying for university can be a stressful time…
Not only do you have to decide on a subject you want to spend three years of your life doing, you also have to be one of the chosen few to make it onto your number one choice of course and university.
To make sure you’re selling yourself effectively, here’s everything you need to know about writing your personal statement for university, and a personal statement example to help you get started:
What is a personal statement for university?
A personal statement for university is a key part of the UCAS application process.
It involves writing about your skills, experience, and ambitions – in order to persuade your chosen university that you’re a suitable applicant for their course.
Essentially, it shows how your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and other relevant experience has made you interested in taking the course.
How long should a personal statement for university be?
Although it’s similar to a personal statement for your CV, personal statements for university are slightly longer and more detailed.
According to UCAS, a personal statement should be no more than 4000 characters.
How should I structure my personal statement for university?
Unlike a CV, it’s important to structure your personal statement in clear paragraphs (usually around three or four) – rather than one block of text.
Although you won’t need to follow a set structure, here’s a rough guideline of how you could order your personal statement for university:
- Reasons for wanting to study
- Why you’re suitable
- How your current study is relevant
- Your related hobbies and interests
- Your skills and achievements
When do I need to submit my personal statement for university?
Your personal statement should be submitted along with the rest of your application by the deadline given by UCAS.
This will vary depending on your course and university choice, but most are expected to be sent off by the 15th January on the year you’re looking to start – with some art and design courses extending a later deadline (24th March).
However, courses at Oxford or Cambridge (along with courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary or science) will require students to submit their applications earlier – by the 15th of October (the year before your course starts).
Any applications submitted after the 30th of June will go into clearing.
UCAS clearing: How does it work?
How to write a personal statement for university
Writing a good personal statement is vital if you want to be accepted into your chosen course.
And although there aren’t any set rules on how to write one, there are a few things you should always cover. Not only will this ensure you’re selling yourself effectively, it’ll also demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm about the course you’re applying for.
Here’s a guideline of what you should include:
- Reasons for wanting to study. First things first, you need to explain why you’re interested in the course. This involves being specific, whilst demonstrating enthusiasm. Talk about what you like about the subject, how your interest developed, and how it would help you towards achieving your long-term career goals.
- Why you’re suitable. Not only do you have to want to do the course, you also have to fit the criteria. This means that explaining why your skills and experience are relevant is vital. To really impress, always ensure you’ve done your research and are aware of what the course involves. That way, you can be more specific about how you match up.
- How your current study is relevant. Even if the subjects you’ve studied in the past aren’t exactly the same as your chosen university course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t taught you the skills needed to progress into a different field. Make the most of these in your personal statement.
- Your related hobbies and interests. Hobbies are a great way to show that you’re a well-rounded person. Possible examples could be anything from clubs and societies, to summer schools, online courses, or even just museum/gallery/theatre visits. Any wider reading and/or research around your chosen subject could also be mentioned here.
- Your skills and achievements. Admissions tutors aren’t only interested in you telling them your most impressive (and relevant) skills and achievements, they also want to how you got them. This means that providing examples is essential – whether it’s referring to how you developed your communication skills in group projects, or how you worked in a team.
- Your work experience. Whether its full or part-time work, temporary placements, or internships – work experience teaches you a range of practical skills. Discuss the roles that are most relevant to your course and explain how studying at university would help you get the career you want.
How can I make my personal statement stand out?
With university places in high competition, your personal statement gives you the perfect opportunity to key to stand out.
So how can you do it right? Here are a few tips:
Make it relevant – remember: there’s a character limit. Don’t waste space on details that have no relevance to your chosen course and career path.
Show how you’re unique – through your own examples, independent research, and personality.
Present a good balance of academic and extra-curricular credentials – but don’t feel like you have to include hobbies if you don’t have any.
Make it engaging (whilst avoiding clichés) – lines like ‘I was born to be a dancer’ are definitely not unique, and generic clichés like this might risk mildly irritating the admissions tutor.
Think outside the box – let’s face it, no one wants to read through thousands of English students talk about how Shakespeare opened their eyes to poetry. Avoid the obvious, and think laterally.
Personal statement for university example
I’m applying to do a degree in English language because the modules involved will help me to expand on what I’ve learnt in school and college, and eventually start a career in writing. As an active blogger with an interest in entering a career in the media, I was particularly attracted to the module, language in the media – as well as language, society and power.
I’ve always been interested in reading, writing, and analysing language. Whether it’s listening to different dialects and colloquialisms, understanding the ways adverts use words to sell a product, or even just reading a book – language has many uses.
As a hardworking student with an ability to meet deadlines and produce work to a high standard, I think I would be able to put my skills to good use in this course. As I have a proficiency in language and a keen interest in learning more, this course would be a perfect fit.
Having studied English Language at A level and GCSE, I have built a strong knowledge base around it. As demonstrated in my most recent assignments covering language development and language change over time, I’ve gained an active interest in understanding words and meaning on a new level.
I’m an active fashion blogger and have my own website, where I post articles weekly – whether it’s reviewing new products or just talking about my life. I also helped out in writing a monthly newsletter at school, where I used my writing skills to keep students up-to-date with news and events.
My ability to work well in a team has been demonstrated in a number of group projects. Not only did I develop my communication and skills, I also learnt how to negotiate and juggle tasks. I’m also particularly proud of my creative writing ability, which has been shown and expanded on throughout a number of essays and assignments (as well as my own blog). I’m also extremely organised, with a high attention to detail.
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Your UCAS Personal Statement is easily the most crucial part of your university application, it allows you to show off a bit and show why you stand out from other candidates! A UCAS Personal Statement gives you 4,000 characters to tell everyone what you’re like, what you can do, and how passionate you are about the course that you’re applying for. Mentioning your A-Levels and GCSE results (or predicted results) is helpful, but the university want to know about you! What makes you tick? Why have you got an interest in the subject you’re applying for? What about the subject interests you and why?
These are all the questions that you’ll need to answer in your UCAS Personal Statement.
What is a Personal Statement?
A Personal Statement is an essay that you write about yourself that explains why you’d be a good student for a university and why you’re interested in your course. But more than that, this is a chance for you to display your passion for the subject. Your UCAS Personal Statement will fit the bill of “One size fits all”. This basically means that your Personal Statement should not be specific to one university. Your Personal Statement needs to show your passion for the course you’re looking to study rather than the university itself, don’t make the mistake of tailoring your UCAS Personal Statement to a university, rather than a course.
How long should I spend on my Personal Statement?
A Personal Statement should not be rushed! Plenty of students believe that you can write a Personal Statement the night before the deadline and just upload it to UCAS from there! Do not rush your Personal Statement. The more you rush it, the more the quality will suffer as a result.
A Personal Statement is a document that shows how passionate you are, so why not look up some quotes and see if you can incorporate these into your statement or see if you can make a connection between a certain hobby you have and how it can help you in your studies?
How do I write a Personal Statement?
Writing anything comes under the label of “Different strokes for different folks”. Whatever works for you is best. It is not uncommon for a student to go through several different drafts of a Personal Statement before coming to a final decision on which one to use. Your Personal Statement will most likely go through several different iterations before you settle on the finished product.
When does my Personal Statement need to be completed?
Personal Statements all need to be handed into UCAS around January 15th. Some institutions may have their own separate, internal deadlines to allow faculty members to evaluate your Personal Statement and see if there is anything that needs improvement as well, so check beforehand.
Is there anyone who can help me with my Personal Statement?
Yes, there are! You can speak to careers advisors, look up advice online, check out previous UCAS Personal Statement examples or Personal Statement templates or even use a Personal Statement Editor, to help you with your Personal Statement. Taking your Personal Statement to a tutor or teacher to have them check the work is a good idea too. Tutors and teachers will have seen many different Personal Statements over their time and they will all know the pitfalls and clichés that come with writing student Personal Statements.
Most universities will list Personal Statement guides on their websites as well, just to give you an idea of what they’re looking for.
Should I embellish anything on my Personal Statement?
Absolutely not! As with everything in life, the truth will always come out in the end, and lying on your Personal Statement is no different. Saying that you can speak five different languages when you can’t, is going to land you in a whole heap of trouble.
Universities have a way of finding things out about students and discover if they’re lying or not. This may be through simple background checks (routine phone calls to your previous schools or colleges) or simply asking you to prove yourself at interview stage if you are invited to one, and then the house of cards will come clattering down. It’s best, to be honest, and truthful, there will no doubt be enough for you to boast about without having to lie!
Where do I send off my Personal Statement?
Your Personal Statement will need to be sent off to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). You will need to log onto your UCAS Portal and upload your Personal Statement onto the internal system. This will submit your Personal Statement to your university choices and your university application will have begun.
What should I do when I’ve sent my Personal Statement off to UCAS?
Stop. All you need to do is just stop. The more you think about your Personal Statement after you’ve sent it off, the more you’ll start to drive yourself mad! We recommend that once your Personal Statement has been sent off, you just relax and focus on everything else you’ve got going on. Constantly checking your UCAS Personal Statement means that you will end up never being happy with it, be confident in yourself and your abilities and it will all be fine!