How to Write a Personal Statement

If you’re just starting to think about writing your personal statement, then you probably have a lot of questions. We’re here to answer your top questions so you can stop wondering and start writing!

Students writing in notepads and typing on laptops in library

1. When should you start a personal statement?

Each year, the UCAS deadline falls at the end of January.  So it’s a good idea to get started before Christmas so you can enjoy some time off and celebrate with your family without thinking about your personal statement.

Your school or college may even ask you to get your personal statement done early so they can check it and get it out of the way before January exams/mock exams begin.

Our student Ella 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!”

You can still apply through UCAS after the deadline, but some courses may be full.

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 a good few redrafts until you’re happy with it.

When you paste your personal statement into the UCAS application, be sure to check it hasn’t cut any words off the end!

3. How do you start the opening line in a personal statement?

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 most important 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!

Most common cliché opening lines:
  • "From a young age I have (always) been…" and most of these continued "interested in" or "fascinated by". 1,779 applicants
  • "For as long as I can remember I have..." 1,451 applicants
  • "I am applying for this course because..." 1,370 applicants

(UCAS, 2016)

Here are 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 you include in a personal statement apart from your 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.
  • 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.

5. How do you structure a personal statement?

Make sure you structure your personal statement with an 80/20 percentage split: 80 per cent academic experience, work experience and extra-curriculars that relate to your chosen course, and 20 per cent related to your hobbies or other extra-curriculars.

A good way to structure your paragraphs is to use the ‘ABC’ method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, and what skills and qualities have come from it? and how does it relate to the course? Use this in each for each thing you talk about and before you know it, you’ll have a well-structured personal statement.

6. How do you end a personal statement?

In your conclusion, 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".

What should you do next?

Download your free personal statement guide

Get even more advice on starting, writing and checking your personal statement. Plus, be inspired by real personal statement examples from our students!

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