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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