How to write a great personal statement

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6 min read

3 Golden Rules for writing a great personal statement for your UCAS application.

A personal statement is a significant part of a university application, and is a great opportunity to showcase who you are - but for many people, writing about themselves is the hardest thing to do.

We know it’s not easy, so we’ve put together some hints, tips, and hacks to help you craft a great personal statement…

For some great advice...

We love Vee's video below; Vee reads all of her past personal statements as examples for viewers, who has had 5/5 success rate with her personal statements, applying to a range of universities for undergraduate and postgraduates universities, including the University of East Anglia, University of Exeter, and Harvard University.

The Three Golden Rules

If you do nothing else - when creating your personal statement, it will really pay off if you follow these three golden rules:

Golden Rule #1 - Write it yourself.

Admissions tutors can spot a fake, copied, or commissioned personal statement a mile off. It’s really not worth it, you can do this.

Golden Rule #2 - Do a grammar and spelling check.

It’s so important to show that you’ve made an effort to check your work - try out Grammarly if you struggle with spelling and grammar.

Golden Rule #3 - Get someone else’s opinion.

Feedback from people who know you well - and people who know the education system well will really help you refine your statement, and sell yourself well.

The Four Key Steps to Create the Perfect Personal Statement

Step #1 - Throw everything at the wall and work back from there

Before you even think about trying to write a structured piece, do your research and really read through the course requirements so you know what sorts of things the tutors are likely to be looking for. 

Then get some ideas down, any ideas. At this stage anything goes - there are no wrong answers and everything counts.

So - get a piece of paper or open up a doc on your computer and start to bullet point, draw, or doodle ideas under these headings:

Why do I want to study the subject?

  • What factors have inspired you to apply for this course? 
  • Try to include influences outside of your academic study, as it will show that you have a wider interest in your chosen degree.
  • Maybe you read a book - saw a documentary - went to an event - or met someone who inspired you? Get it all down…
  • E.g. “Travel to Europe and being so close to mountains has sparked my interest in a geography degree, making me want to eventually specialise into geology.”

 What hobbies and interests do I have?

  • These don’t have to only include areas like sports or music. Anything from walking your dog, reading books to video gaming can help the reader figure out what kind of a person you are. 

Any academic achievements or memorable moments at school?

  • Include anything here that feels relevant to the degree you want to take, or proves that you are worthy of continuing on to higher-level academic study. 
  • E.g. “In year 8 I was awarded the citizenship prize due to my help with the school raising money for charity. My confidence and public speaking have improved with my involvement in performing arts, being a part of the chorus of musicals such as ‘Annie’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’.”

What are my career aspirations?

  • You can leave this section blank if you haven’t started planning this far ahead or aren’t sure in which career direction to go in.
  • But if you have a vague idea of careers that interest you, then jot them down. Putting them in your personal statement doesn’t mean this limits you to these, it just gives the reader an idea of the rough direction you want to go in, and shows you have ambition.

Work experience?

  • Again, this is not an essential part of your personal statement, but it can be great to include if you have any. Try to make the work experience you have applicable to why you want to study your degree and why you would make a good student. You could also relate it to your career aspirations if you have them.
  • E.g “Working in catering in a hotel for the past year has made me interested in entering into the managerial side of the industry, sparking my interest to apply for a business management degree.”

If you’re struggling: Ask a close friend or family member to help - they’ll often remind you of achievements and qualities you’ve forgotten about or are too shy to share.

Step #2 - Focus in on the really good bits

Once you have noted down as many bullet points as you can, the next step is to identify the ones that will be most relevant for your statement. Try using a traffic light system by circling or ticking things you definitely want to include in green, possibles in orange, and things you don’t think are worth including in red. Now you’ve got something to work with...

Step #3 - Write in small sections

Next, take each point and expand each one into a sentence or two. Try to keep the reader in mind. They are looking for reasons to offer you a place on the course, so think about what will show them that you will be a good student.

Don’t try to make these perfect at this stage. You’ll do that later.

Step #4 - The Big Edit

Now you have the pieces to your puzzle you can start to arrange them into an order that flows as a whole piece. Move your paragraphs around into an order that seems logical, and only then start to edit the whole thing so that it flows from paragraph to paragraph. Pay attention to the language you use, and try to get it as good as you can. Then do a spelling and grammar check before asking someone you trust to look at it and give you comments.

It can help to ask more than one person for their feedback. A trusted friend or family member, and perhaps a teacher (your teacher may do this anyway) or someone you know who has studied the same course, or been to a university you’re interested in.

Use their feedback to do another edit, then stop. Leave for a few days and come back to it. It can make such a difference to read it again after a break - you’ll spot things you hadn’t noticed before and you can keep going through this process as many times as you like (as long as you’ve given yourself enough time before the deadline)!

Final tips before you submit:

Try not to use overly flowery language. Remember that the person reading your personal statement is a human being. 

  • If you’re excited to start studying at university, say this! Demonstrating your enthusiasm for your degree subject and university can make your personal statement even better.
  • Make sure any areas edited by family or friends sound like you and not them. There’s nothing worse than the person reading your personal statement immediately knowing it’s been written by your mum!
  • Run your final draft of your statement by a teacher or your tutor to get an outsider’s opinion and ask for any change suggestions.
  • Do a final spelling and grammar check

Once you’ve received approval from a teacher and reached your character limit (usually 4,000), you’re ready to go! 

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