How to Write a Winning Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a key part of your university application.

What is a personal statement?

It is your chance to shine and show off your strengths. It adds value to your application form and demonstrates what qualifications alone cannot. If you are serious about going to a top university,  you will have many skills and interests which will make you stand out from other applicants. The key here is to present these attributes in a succinct way.

What to include in a personal statement

  • Why you are interested in the course for which you are applying; what motivates you to pursue further studies in your chosen subject; avoid overused words such as ‘passionate.’
  • How you meet the selection criteria; show that you have researched the subject and have joined relevant groups.
  • Your work experience, volunteering, travel, visits to museums and lecturers, concerts attended and any other relevant information which would benefit your understanding of your desired subject
  • What transferable skills do you have? These might include teamwork, time management and organisational skills.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking; you may be able to do this by discussing an A level assignment or a project which was part of your EPQ (extended project qualification).
  • Talk about your long-term goals; for example, where you see yourself in 5 years’ time, whether that be undertaking a PHD or working in your chosen profession. Discuss how tyour long term ambition is tied to your desired subject.

What not to include in a personal statement

  • If you have a long list of hobbies, don’t mention them all. Keep to those which will make you stand out and which will help you to demonstrate your skills.
  • Anything at all negative. If you are not good at languages or maths, don’t dwell on it. It is not worth pointing out that you started to learn the piano and gave up after 6 months because you found it too time-consuming. If you are not good at speaking and presenting to strangers, don’t mention it.

Other guidance

  • You have 4,000 characters in which to sell yourself. One piece of advice is to turn off the word and character counter, rather than keeping a running tally. If you write your statement and include all of the key elements, you may be surprised when you find that it is just the correct length to start with. If it is twice as long as it should be, the task of cutting it down should be straightforward.
  • Take your time. A good statement is not going to be completed in an afternoon. The rest of your application form should be relatively easy to fill in. You will have the dates set out on your calendar as to when your application needs to be completed. Give yourself a time plan and start at least a month in advance of the deadline.
  • Find a good opening. If you spend time composing an eye-catching or even amusing sentence to start off your statement, that may be what makes it stand out from the crowd. An amusing anecdote may just come to you, but don’t agonise over it if nothing materialises.
  • Ask a few people to proofread your statement for you before sending it off. Spell and grammar check in word-processing is not to be relied upon. You need a human proof-reader too. Suggestions for improvement can also be helpful.

Finally, don’t be hesitant about turning to the professionals for some expert advice. The Profs can guide you through the whole process. Expert private tutors with years of experience can help you with your university application and putting together your personal statement. Other packages are available including a full application and mentoring package and preparation for the interview.