So you may have just finished your A-levels (or equivalent) and feel like it's the perfect time for you to apply for university. A shared fear that many students have is submitting a personal statement to their university of choice. But it needn’t be the scary and stressful thing you think it is, especially if you plan, prepare and give yourself enough time to complete it to a high standard.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to write a personal statement for a university, including do’s and don’ts, things to include, and tips on how to make yours stand out.
What is a Personal Statement for University and Why Do You Have to Write One?
A personal statement is an important part of the university application process, and every student has to write one. It’s a way of showing universities why you’re a suitable applicant for their course and provides background on your experience and aspirations for the future.
A lot of people dread writing their university personal statements because they find it hard to write about themselves. But with self-confidence and a little pre-planning, writing your personal statement needn’t be daunting; it can be a positive way to highlight your passion and set out your goals for the future.
A good personal statement for the university should:
- Highlight your career aspirations
- Demonstrate your academic achievements
- List extracurricular activities, interests and passions
- Make clear any other relevant experience which may support your application
There’s no right or wrong way to write a personal statement for a university. However, there are a few do’s and don’ts to be mindful of, as well as tactics you can use to help your statement stand out from the crowd.
How to Write a Personal Statement in Three Steps
Step One: Planning and Preparation
Staring at a blank page and waiting for the words to come is no way to start writing a personal statement. Instead, you should take some time to plan the structure and content, making sure you have everything in place to make the writing part as breezy as possible.
Here are a few pointers to help you plan your university personal statement.
Things to include
While there are no guidelines on what a personal statement should include, most people touch on five key areas:
- Why you want to study a particular course – this is where you can mention your goals and aspirations for the future. Why are you interested in studying such a course and how do you hope to use the degree after your studies?
- Why you’re a suitable applicant – discuss your experience in and passion for the subject, and why you’re interested in a particular course. Touch on the content of the course too; this demonstrates palpable and genuine interest.
- Your relevant academic experience – for example, you may have recently sat A-levels or other qualifications in a similar subject to the course you’re applying for. Explain what you’ve enjoyed most about your studies so far, and why you want to continue in this field at university.
- Your hobbies and interests – align your extracurricular activities with the course in question. For example, if you’re applying for an English course, reading, writing, blogging or following the arts can all be mentioned to support your application.
- Your achievements and standout experiences – if there’s something you’re particularly proud of, this can elevate your personal statement and help it stand out. An example of this may be achieving a high grade on your A-level coursework or receiving an outstanding achievement award as part of your studies.
Though by no means a concrete list of things to include in your personal statement, hitting these five areas ensures you’ve covered the bases when it comes to a compelling and persuasive university personal statement.
Structure and length
Keeping the five individual areas listed in mind is a great way to frame the structure of your statement. Try to hit each topic in digestible, bitesize paragraphs; this will not only make it easier to read, but simpler to write too.
When you come to write your personal statement, be mindful of the word count. UCAS has a 4,000-character limit, which is roughly 500 words.
That means you can afford to write around 100 words for each of the areas above, ideally splitting each section into two 50-word paragraphs. A good rule of thumb is to make each sentence no more than 25 words, which will keep things engaging and palatable.
And remember, it’s best to write your personal statement in a word processor, before copying and pasting to the UCAS site. That way you can write, draft and amend at your leisure, without fear of losing an unsaved version.
Step Two: Starting and Writing Your Personal Statement
When crunch time comes and you’re ready to write your personal statement, don’t panic. By now you should have a good idea of what you want to include, so it’s just a case of getting it down on paper – without going over the word count.
Here are a couple of tips to help you out when writing your personal statement for university.
How you begin matters most
UCAS themselves will tell you just how crucial the start of your university personal statement is; they even have a guide on it. A strong opening speaks volumes to the recipient, and they’ll start forming an impression of you from the very first line.
That said, you shouldn’t overthink it. Scrambling to write an opening paragraph can stop you in your tracks, so just start writing and see how things go; there’s always the opportunity to make additions and amends later.
In fact, some would argue that it’s easier to write your introduction last. By focusing on the body of your statement first, you’ll gain confidence and know exactly what’s been covered, so you can ensure your introduction is compelling and relevant.
Think about how you can your personal statement unique
University admissions teams read thousands of personal statements every year, so why should they pay attention to yours? This is something to keep in mind as you write your statement; what can you include or highlight that others can’t?
This is where extracurricular interests, achievements or experience can help elevate your application. Whether you’ve recently started writing a novel, take a keen interest in marine biology, or have work experience in a similar field to the subject you hope to study – there are lots of ways you can make your personal statement unique, engaging and persuasive.
Step Three: Editing and Submitting
Phew – 500 words later, and it’s time for a breather. But don’t down tools just yet, as there’s still a way to go to make sure your statement is ship-shaped and ready for submission.
Here are a few tips on proofreading and editing your university personal statement, before uploading it to UCAS.
Be prepared to edit
Editing is essential when writing a personal statement for university. 500 words may sound a lot, but once you’re in the flow it’s easy to overdo it – meaning major cuts and revisions may be needed.
When proofreading and editing your statement, read it as if you’re someone else; does it get across all the points you want to make? It’s also worth passing it to friends and family, who can provide an honest critique and spot any mistakes you may have missed.
Also, depending on your writing prowess, it’s certainly worth running your statement through an online grammar check before submitting it to UCAS. Even the most confident writers make typos every now and again, so a quick check on Grammarly is worth your time for a professional and polished personal statement.
Submitting your personal statement to University
Now for the easy part: submitting your personal statement to your chosen universities. This should be done alongside your full UCAS application, which you’ll need to submit ahead of the deadline for your chosen course.
For the majority of university courses, the UCAS deadline is around mid-January in the year you plan to commence studying. However, it does vary from course to course, so always double-check early on to make sure you can get everything in place by the deadline.
So, there you have it, a complete guide to writing your personal statement for university. For more helpful tips and advice, click here to see more of the Oxbridge blog. If you’re interested in learning about our range of distance learning courses and qualifications, visit the homepage or give our experienced learning advisers a call on 0121 630 3000.