Applying to a UK university | How to write a personal statementby Caroline Hardaker
When you apply to do an undergraduate degree at a UK university you will need to apply online through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). And part of that process involves writing a personal statement. But what is a personal statement? And how can you make sure yours stands out?
In our latest blog, we've broken down what a personal statement is. We've also answered questions you might have about writing one for a UK university.
Read on to find out more. If you're still unsure about applying to a UK university, why not read our blog on why you should choose to study in the UK?
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a short essay about your ambitions, skills, and experience, written in your own words. It forms part of your university application.
It is also your chance to show your passion and flair for your subject, why you want to study in the UK, and what makes you the perfect candidate for your dream degree at a UK university.
Do I need to write a different personal statement for each UK university I apply to?
No. Even if you are applying to five universities through UCAS, you only write one personal statement.
What you write must reflect your suitability for all the courses you are applying to.
How long is a personal statement?
Your personal statement can be no more than 47 lines and 4,000 characters long (including spaces).
It should be:
- in clear paragraphs
- the truth
- written by you
- new information – don’t repeat anything already in your application
What should I include in my personal statement?
Admissions staff want to hear about YOU, but there are some universal elements you will need to include:
- Why you are applying to study this subject: think about what interests you about your subject and why you want to spend the next three years studying it. Tie it into your ambitions and future career.
- Why you want to study in the UK: show you have thought about your decision to study abroad and that you are ready to take this step. Explain why a UK university is the right choice for you and fits your career dreams.
- Why you want to enter higher education: include why you are interested in studying at university. Is there particular knowledge you need for your dream job, or are there skills you want to develop as you study?
- What makes you suitable for the course: include relevant experience or achievements gained at school or college. Work experience or placements, internships and volunteering could come in here, too. Give specific examples of your experience, naming companies you have worked with or volunteered for. But don’t worry if you have struggled to gain extra experience during the Covid-19 pandemic – admissions staff recognise it has been a difficult time for students.
- Your English language skills: show you have a certain level of English Language proficiency by including the tests or qualifications you hold.
- Have you taken part in any higher education taster sessions? Don’t forget to mention if you have taken part in a higher education placement, summer school, taster course or something similar. Attending courses like these demonstrates your dedication to preparing for academic life early.
How do I write a personal statement?
Admissions staff need to understand what you are trying to say, so keep sentences short and don’t use overcomplicated language. After that, here’s a few tips to follow:
STEP 1: Do your research
Think back over the past few years and list your reasons for applying on this downloadable UCAS worksheet. You don’t even need to write in full sentences, just get down as many points as possible. If you are struggling for ideas, ask one of your subject teachers for advice.
STEP 2: Structuring your personal statement
It can be easier to break down your personal statement into smaller, manageable chunks.
The opening – should be memorable, strong, and get to the point quickly. Show that you know what you are applying for, and communicate your excitement, enthusiasm, and motivation to succeed.
Don’t use gimmicks or puns. Be honest, and use personal examples to demonstrate your commitment to studying your chosen subject.
The middle – include your suitability for the course and experience. Keep checking your work to make sure you have included a good balance of:
- Academic skills - if you are already studying the subject, include which parts of it have inspired you and why. If you are applying to study a new subject, think about how your current subjects link to your chosen degree and how they nurture your interest.
- Interpersonal skills – such as communication and teamwork. Back up each skill with a practical example of how you have applied it. Think about transferable skills you might have developed during the pandemic, such as independent learning and being pro-active in your approach to studying at home; managing your time; digital skills; and adaptability as you have learned to work, study, and live in new ways.
- Hobbies and interests – this will help demonstrate you are a well-rounded person who actively takes part and isn’t afraid to get involved.
The ending – revisit the key points you want admissions staff to remember the most, and reinforce how they contribute to making you a great candidate for the course.
Include a few words about how the university experience will help you develop as a person and make your ending forward-looking, dynamic, and optimistic – try to show how your chosen course ties in to your future career plans.
STEP 3: Checking your personal statement
Make sure your personal statement is word perfect.
- ask a parent, sibling, or friend to check for spelling mistakes or typos
- read your personal statement out loud, slowly
- print out a copy – sometimes it is easier to spot mistakes on a paper copy than on a screen
- try reading your personal statement backwards to notice each word individually
- change the font to see your personal statement in a new light
- make sure one read-through is just for punctuation, particularly missing full stops, upper and lower case text, and apostrophes
And finally, give yourself plenty of time to plan, write and check your personal statement. You won’t get it right first time and may have to write multiple drafts, but you will get there.
We hope you have found our blog post useful. Personal statements can cause a lot of stress for some prospective students, but try not to overthink it. Just be honest about what you're passionate about, and you can't go far wrong. For more helpful resources on your journey to university, check out our international resources on our blog.
Published By Caroline Hardaker on 29/10/2021 | Last Updated 14/03/2023