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How to write a personal statement: your top questions answered

If starting your personal statement currently feels like the hardest thing in the world, you’re not alone. Should you make the opening line really exciting? Should it be about you or the course? Are you worried you might be saying the same thing as everyone else? Don’t panic, we’ve got you covered! We have boiled down your top seven questions with examples from real students.

1. When should I start my personal statement?

The UCAS deadline is 15 January so it’s good to get started before Christmas so you can enjoy the holidays. Our student Ella Squires advises to start early! “I had exams in January so it was important for me to complete my statement and send it off as early as possible!

2. How long should a personal statement be?

The personal statement should be one to two pages long. You have a maximum of 47 lines or 4,000 characters to work with so use short, concise sentences and delete any unnecessary words. This is all the space UCAS give you on their online application system to show off that you’re a great student – so don’t worry if it takes you’re a good few redrafts until you’re happy with it.

3. How do I start my opening line?

The most effective opening sentences are simple, to the point and personal to you. Think about what made you pick the subject and what you enjoy the most about it. Remember showing your interest and enthusiasm in the course is the biggest thing. Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. But be careful, avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like ‘when I was young…’ They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

Top 10 opening *clichéd* lines 2016:

"From a young age I have (always) been…" and most of these continued "interested in" or "fascinated by". 1,779 applicant.

"For as long as I can remember I have..." 1,451 applicant

"I am applying for this course because..." 1,370 applicants

UCAS,2016
Here’s some better lead sentences from our students:

“I am applying for a place to study social work because I have always wanted to be able to make a difference to people's lives. With social work I believe I can do this in a caring and supportive way.”

“When deciding what I should study at university, I came to, what was for me, a natural conclusion: History. I find myself constantly astounded and inspired by history and I have never found another subject as exhilarating and interesting. My personal interests lie mainly in Early Modern and Modern History.”

4.What should I include in my personal statement apart from my studies?

  • Hobbies: Make a list of your hobbies, interests and social activities. Then think about how they demonstrate your personality, skills and abilities. Try to link them to the skills and experience required for your course(s). Make sure you include interests you have at school like extra-curricular activities. You’ll be surprised how relevant it all is.
  • Experience: Get some experience in the field you want to go into, if you haven’t got direct experience than relate how your studies have increased your passion for the course. Make sure everything you write about is relevant to the course.
  • Example from one of our students: 

"I have the skills and determination to succeed on this course. After six months working as an intern in my summer holidays, I knew I wanted to train to be a journalist. This course will fulfill my dreams".

  • Strengths: Concentrate on your strengths and what you’re good at. Do you run a successful blog and want to show off your skills for a marketing degree? Whatever it is, make sure you show off your achievements.
  • ABC method: A good idea is to use the ‘ABC’ method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, what skills and qualities have come from it and how does it relate to the course?

5. How do I structure my personal statement?

Write a plan. Planning is a great way to get your thoughts and ideas in order and make sure you don’t miss any crucial information. Answering these questions will help you: Why do you want to study the course? What have you done that makes you suitable for the course? What else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university? Make sure you structure your personal statement with an 80/20 percentage split: 80 per cent academic experience and 20 per cent social experience.

6 .How do I stay motivated when writing my personal statement?

Write a plan. Planning is a great way to get your thoughts and ideas in order and make sure you don’t miss any crucial information. Answering these questions will help you: Why do you want to study the course? What have you done that makes you suitable for the course? What else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university?Make sure you structure your personal statement with an 80/20 percentage split: 80 per cent academic experience and 20 per cent social experience.

7. How do I end my personal statement?

In your conclusion, just round-up all the evidence you have given in your statement so far to show your knowledge, skills and experiences. Specify not only why you want to study the subject you’re applying for but also why it will help you succeed in the future. Make sure you don’t waffle and keep it simple.

Example from one of our students: 

"Studying at university has been my ambition for many years. I find immense enjoyment in reading and researching History and believe that, in the future, I am confident that I will be very successful in inspiring and encouraging others to study the subject".

Get a free personal statement checklist

Personal statement checklist

Free personal statement checklist

Writing your personal statement for the UCAS deadline on 15 January? Download your free checklist to help nail your application.

Download your checklist

Personal statement checklist

Free personal statement checklist

Writing your personal statement for the UCAS deadline on 15 January? Download your free checklist to help nail your application.

Download your checklist

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