There are no ‘right’ ways to writing your personal statement, but there are many ‘wrong’ ways of doing it.
On this page you will not only find everything you need to know about putting together a professional personal statement, but will also have access to dozens of expertly written ones. These samples are a great way to see how other people put together their personal statements, and to visualise the sort of structure and language they use. Reading through these will allow you to judge which ones you think are good or bad, which in turn will greatly help you in putting together your own winning statement. YOU ARE STRONGLY ADVISED NOT TO COPY THESE EXAMPLES WORD FOR WORD, BUT INSTEAD USE THEM AS USE THEM AS GUIDES AND AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION.
Many students struggle to put together an effective personal statement, primarily because they find it difficult to write about themselves. They may also fall for other common essay writing mistakes such as straying from the core subject and message they should be trying to get across. To help students overcome these potential pitfalls we have developed this resource page as a guide to giving them useful tips, strategies and techniques on writing a professional profile that is of the highest quality and one that will maximise their chances of enrolling at their first choice university. By following our advice, preparing properly and with a bit of practise, putting together your personal statement should become a lot easier.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT
A personal statement is a self marketing statement and a vital part of not only the UCAS application form, but also the overall university admissions process. It is essentially a personally written whole page document of no more than 4000 characters (this includes spaces) or 47 lines of text that gives students a chance to say something about themselves and to make a positive impression on the admissions tutors. Over the years the space that UCAS allocate to the personal statement has grown from just a few lines to a whole page, emphasising how important admissions tutors think it is. Students in turn should give it similar attention.
As they are used in the assessment of your application they can be crucial in helping you to be accepted on to your chosen course. The person reading your application form will want to know in what ways you ‘connect’ with the course, and they will be looking for students who can articulate their aims and have the potential to succeed. For these reasons your statement should be informative, interesting and written to the highest standards possible.
- A personal statement may often be the deciding factor in your application, especially when applying for competitive courses.
- It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the use of English language and grammar at a standard suitable for entry to higher education.
Students should view them as a opportunity to show the university admissions team their suitability for a degree course by demonstrating their communication skills, interest of the subject matter and previous knowledge of the course modules.
You should also remember that as many universities do not interview applicants, a personal statement may be the first and only information about you that the university will get to see about you. They may very well judge your commitment to the course and suitability for enrolment on how well it is written. Another reason for its importance is that it may be the only way of standing out from other applicants, particularly if the course you are applying for is popular and oversubscribed.
PERSONAL STATEMENT EXAMPLES
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STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO WRITING YOUR UCAS PERSONAL STATEMENT
You should start off by listing reasons why you would be a good candidate for the course, then focus on demonstrating how these reasons along with your previous study and experiences have given you a keen interest in the subject for which you are applying. Concentrate on illustrating any relevant skills, qualities, or other positive sides of your character, and be prepared to rewrite your drafts repeatedly until you get your statement absolutely right. Also remember once you have gathered together all of the information your are going to use then you'll need to organise it in such a way that it builds a strong argument for why you should be offered a place on the course. Listed below are a series of stages you can follow which will help you to do exactly this and put together a winning professional personal statement.
Remember that a personal statement will not only be judged by the facts in it but also by the language and style you use in it and also by the way its laid out.
Start of by thinking about your personal traits and the things you have done that can illustrate your good qualities. List everything from your education and academic studies which you feel might be relevant to the course and university.
List all of your reasons for choosing the course.
List everything from your personal and work history which you think is relevant to the course you are applying for. This could be anything from any work duties or responsibilities, voluntary work, hobbies or awards etc.
Now you need to go through all of the lists you have created and choose those points from then that you feel are the strongest.
Make a outline of what you want to say by designing the layout of your personal statement. At the start describe your reasons for choosing to the course, then move onto your strengths and any supporting evidence. Finish off by concluding why you feel you should be accepted onto the course.
Start writing your first draft, then once you have completed it leave it for a few hours or a day, come back to it read it and rewrite it again. Very few people get their personal statement right the first time, keep rewriting it until you are satisfied with the results.
Once you are happy with your final draft then give it to a friend or colleague for proof reading. Also check it for spelling mistakes and diversity of vocabulary to create the right impression.
- Criticise other universities.
- Use slang or abbreviations.
- Repeat information you have included on the rest of the UCAS application form (exam results etc).
- Tell lies or exaggerate.
- Mention your age, culture and ethnic background, or your religious and political inclinations.
- Use repetitive language, for instance repeatedly using phases such as ‘I like...' or 'I have...’ etc.
- Simply write a list of things you do or have achieved.
- Have a string of sentences that start with phases such as 'I do...', etc.
- Use clichés.
- Try to be funny or tell jokes.
- Give political viewpoints.
- Sound arrogant or pretentious.
- Write about trivial matters.
- Make any mistakes in grammar and spelling.
- Write it in the form of a letter, starting with 'Dear Sir / Madam' and ending with 'Thank you for reading my statement, your sincerely'.
Tips when writing your personal statement
- Plan your statement carefully.
- Make a list of points you feel will be of interest to the Admissions Tutor.
- When creating the structure always ask yourself if each stage is relevant.
- When planning your statement make a list of the key topics and points that you want to mention.
- State as clearly as possible your strongest points.
- Make sure that every paragraph relates directly to your application.
The first paragraph
The first paragraph is probably the most important part of your statement. It should be an attention grabbing piece that gets the reader interest in what you are about to say. One of the best ways to grab a audience’s attention is to have a quotation or set of statistics in your first sentence, the main advantage of having a good ‘hook’ is that your reader is more likely to be susceptible to what you write later on.
Examples of 'hook's or attention grabbing first sentences;
- ’Eighty five percent of geography graduates are in employment within six months of completing their degree course’.
Keep it relevant
Constantly ask yourself how relevant your words, sentences and paragraphs are to the course and university you are applying to. One way to do this is to read a universities ‘Entry Profile’ for the course you want to join. A ‘Entry Profile’ (normally listed on a universities website or prospectus) will explain what the university is looking for in a student, what qualifications that should have and also the type of experience they need. Read it thoroughly and make a list of all the key requirements in there and then keep referring to it whilst writing out your personal profile. This is an effective way to ensure that your personal statement remains relevant, on track and does not wander off course.
Try to finish off your statement with something that the reader can take away with them. The conclusion should not be a repeat or summary of what you have written elsewhere in your personal statement, instead it should be different, interesting and memorable so that the reader remembers what you wrote.
Listed below are examples that will help you to visualise a strong conclusion and finish your statement off in a way that concludes everything.
Examples of how to start and write a conclusion;
'After completion of my degree I hope to gain relevant work experience in order to make my dream of becoming an engineer a reality.'
‘Overall, I consider myself to be a hardworking, determined student who is motivated by challenges and can gain personal benefit from new experiences. I strongly feel that a university degree in (..........) will be a great foundation from which to launch a successful career in the future, in whatever field that may be.
‘I sincerely hope that this statement has helped you see me as someone who gives everything my best effort, and who always pushes harder.’
‘ My past has inspired me to try to be the best that I can, and to not settle for anything less’.
‘My main priority now is to...(explain your ambitions)’.
‘Enrolling on a degree course is just the beginning for me, I aspire to achieve much more in the next few years starting with...(list your goals)’.
‘In conclusion I would like to say that I am really looking forward to the personal and academic challenges that studying at your university will bring’.
Have this laid out before you start to put pen to paper. Remember that once you know what you’re going to say, and in what order you’re going to say it, it’s much easier to stay on track when you actually start writing.
Planning a structure is also a very good way of ensuring that you stay within the word limits imposed by UCAS.
Give yourself plenty of time
Creating a effective personal statement can be time consuming, so it’s important that you do not leave it till the last minute. Remember it’ never too early to start thinking about it.
Key points to note when writing your personal statement
- Admissions tutors look for people who are enthusiastic and passionate about the subject they want to study, so try to convey these in your writing.
- It is a opportunity for you to sell yourself to the admission tutors.
- View it as a chance to emphasise your strongest points that you feel will help your application.
- If the course is in an area that you have not studied before then you need to show you already know a fair amount about the subject matter.
- Make every sentence count as you only have limited space and need to convey as much information as you can.
- The statement can form the basis of an interview discussion, so make sure you only include information on there that you can back up.
- Do not use bullet points or lists, continuous prose is much better.
- Focus on the persuasiveness of your language by using keywords and phrases that will optimise the strength of your message.
- Accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar are of paramount importance.
- Keep re-reading and re-writing your personal statement! However many drafts it takes, make it perfect.
- Include interesting and engaging information that will encourage them to read the rest of your application.
WHEN WRITING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT FOCUS ON EXPLAINING
- Why you want to study the subject at degree level.
- Your reasons for choosing their university.
- What attracts you to the subject.
- Why you are suitable for the course.
- What you enjoy most about the subject matter.
- What you feel are your strongest skills.
- Any relevant work or academic experience that you have.
- Any academic achievements.
- What your long term future career aspirations are, and how studying this course can help you to achieve them.
- The strategic value you can add to the course and university.
- Why you'd make a successful student.
- Your potential to succeed.
Why you want to study the subject at degree level
This is an important point to explain to the selectors, particularly if you have never studied the subject before. You need to give logical reasons, and the best way to do this is to start of by clearly explaining what you are looking for from the degree and why. After this move onto finding common ground between the core modules and your academic and career ambitions.
If possible you should try to include ‘evidence’ (in the form of examples or experiences) to back up any claims you make and to prove that you have prior knowledge of the topic.
Examples of possible answers
‘There are particular areas of the subject, such as (..........) and (..........) which have really grabbed my attention and have made me want to study field in more depth’.
‘I feel that I am a good match for the course requirements. With my skills, temperament, previous qualifications, interests and goals all matching the requirements’.
‘Because it is a challenging and diverse course that I feel I can pass’.
‘My previous experience makes me well suited for the course'.
‘Your degree program will allow me to enrol for a PhD later on'.
‘I need this degree to pursue a chosen career in (.......).’
‘I really enjoyed studying this subject at college / A level’.
'This course will allow me to expand my existing knowledge of the subject matter’.
‘In my previous academic studies I found that I was most interested in the (........) field, and so I decided to shift my studies to this particular field and subject’.
‘To me the subject is very interesting and challenging’.
‘In the future I would like to be employed in this field, and this subject is a ideal starting point for me’.
‘It will give me the opportunity to specialise in a particular field’.
‘It will greatly enhance my career prospects’.
'This qualification will provide me with a good basis for future career moves'.
Your reasons for choosing their university
Research the university, its history, and achievements and then mention these in your answer. Possible reasons can be;
- Location (busy city, small town, by the coast)
- Type of university (small, large, well established, new)
- Quality and reputation (teaching standards)
- The facilities (library, resources, sports facilities)
- The cost (affordable, cost of living)
- The unique atmosphere
- Course structure
- Course content
- Teaching methods
- Year abroad opportunities
- Practical training
- Transport links
- Availability of accommodation
- Students Union
- General atmosphere and feel of the campus.
- The support of the staff.
Examples of possible answers
‘I want an all-rounded education where I feel like I’ve been challenged, and where I will experience things that no other university can offer me’.
‘The location was important for me, I want to be in a big city, but also in a university institution that has a campus feel to it’.
‘I like your campus because it does not allow strangers, tourists or random pedestrians to come in and wander around and spoil that university feel’.
‘During a visit to your university I noticed that most students who were not in class were anxious to remain on the campus rather than leave and go to the city centre. This was totally unlike other universities I have visited were everyone was anxious to get off the campus.’
‘The students I met during a visit to your institution all seemed to be engaged in their education.’
‘On a recent visit to your campus I really appreciated the attention and personal interactions that i witnessed between tutors and students’.
‘I want to study at a leading academic institution’.
‘Your university has a reputation for attracting the very best student in this field, and these are people who I want to study with’.
‘Your university is renowned for its high academic standards’.
‘I realised that your university offers something different, that other institutions don’t have’.
‘Everyone there seemed to be really engaged in learning’.
‘I see someone like myself fitting in very easily into the culture and spirit of your university’.
‘When I began research for a university to enrol at ....'.
‘I believe that your university will be able to help me achieve all of my ambitions and much more’.
‘Your universities spirit stands out and dares to be different’.
‘I have made it a point of duty to distinguish myself in my studies and to only enrol at the very best academic institutions’.
Why you are suitable for the course
In answering this point you need to not only demonstrate your prior knowledge of the core modules, but also explain in detail any specific skills and abilities that you have which will help you to succeed. Emphasise specific characteristics and abilities that make you special and will help you to stand out. You should make your career motivation clear and demonstrate commitment to education.
Tip when answering this question
It is worth getting into the habit of reading related trade magazines and newspaper reports as this will make you aware of current events and issues. You can then mention these points in your answers, which in turn will go a long way in showing that you have a interest in the field as a whole.
- Clearly showing how you envision your success at their university.
- Giving details of any hobbies or activities that you do which are linked to the course.
- Any previous academic studies you have undertaken in the subject or related fields.
- Any relevant work experience, placements or voluntary work that you have done. Or any specific duties which you performed and which are related to the course.
- Details of practical, theory or particular subjects you are good at.
- Personal experiences that will make you suitable for university life.
- Highlighting positions of responsibility you have held in the past.
Examples of what to write
‘I firmly believe that i can be an asset to your university because of my drive, resilience and strong career motivation’.
‘I feel I have the critical analysis, experience and communication skills that will help me to be a outstanding undergraduate at your university’.
‘I have set out my long term career and academic goals in detail and priority, and am therefore fully prepared mentally for this course’.
‘I feel can make a positive impact on the course’.
‘I have a keen interest to learn more about this subject’.
STRENGTHS AND SKILLS TO MENTION IN A PERSONAL STATEMENT
Listed below are areas to consider mentioning, along with examples of how to word them;
‘Good decision making skills are at the core of solid learning, and I possess these skills in abundance’.
‘I possess superb time management skills, which are essential to balancing the conflicting demands of university life’.
‘One of my strongest points is the ability to collect and manage large quantities of information’.
Meeting tight deadlines
‘I care about deadlines, am very serious about meeting them and always make them a priority’.
‘At my college I gained a reputation for conducting quality in depth independent research into subjects’.
‘I consider myself to be intellectually adventurous’.
‘I can work as part of a team, as well as on my own initiative’.
Coping with pressure
‘Through my experiences i have developed an ability to cope with pressure when working to tight schedules’.
'I am a highly organised individual'.
WRITING ABOUT YOUR HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
Advice regarding the inclusion of hobbies and interests in a personal statement is often contradictory. However having an interesting list of hobbies and pursuits is an ideal way to show yourself off as a interesting person, which in turn can be a great way to make up for a lack of academic experience and even gaps in your knowledge. It’s also not enough to simply feature a bullet-list of hobbies and interests, you must present them in a way that says something deeper about your character.
- Interesting hobbies can make you stand out and seem unique, which is exactly what you want.
- Hobbies and interests can be a reflection of your personality.
- Universities like student who can bring something different and exciting to their campus.
The golden rule is to always focus on and include those hobbies that are directly linked to the course you want to study, as they can support your overall application. However remember that when writing a personal statement you are limited with the number of words you can use to sell your skills and competencies, therefore if your hobbies are not relevant to the course then do not waste valuable space explaining them.
Although university staff will scan personal statements looking for offbeat hobbies or activities as evidence of a applicants creativity and personality, they are not really interested in trivial pastimes unrelated to the subject. For example if you are applying for an Computer Science degree course, and your main hobby is collecting stamps, then this is plainly not related to the course in any way. However if your favourite pastime is building your own computers and servers, then it’s well worth mentioning.
It is also worth noting that some universities will value your extra-curricular activities higher than others. Those that do want to see what sort of life you lead away from your studies. They believe that a person with a wide range of interests will be able to get along with people from different backgrounds and consequently find it easier to fit into different environments.
- Have you ever won any awards.
- Have you ever been elected to any position.
- Have you ever done something that has surprised people.
- Are you involved in anything where you have to work as part of a team.
- Do you speak any foreign languages.
- Do you play any musical instruments.
The benefits of having unusual hobbies
Certain hobbies such as scuba diving, skiing and horse riding may not seem very unusual to the candidate that actually practices them, but they can be a very good ice breakers and talking points during the interview stage. A well-executed hobbies and interests list can even compensate for a lack in experience or education.
Do not exaggerate
Don't go over the top when describing your hobbies, exaggerating the truth can come back to haunt you in the long run, especially at the interview stage where you may be asked detailed questions about your claims.
Writing about your hobbies can help universities to;
- Understand your values and what motivates you.
- Assess your social skills.
- See that you can work as part of a team.
- Identify your leadership and interpersonal skills.
- Say that your hobbies and interests are a big part of you life, you don’t want the university to think your leisure activities will take priority over your studying.
- List hobbies that are indicative of thrill-seeking and risk-taking behaviour.
- Mention that you do extreme sports i.e. like sky diving, universities want to know that students are going to turn up to classes and not be in some hospital as a result of a accident. Remember they are looking for stability and reliability.
- Ramble on about your pets (they are not classified as a hobby).
Examples of how to write about your hobbies;
‘As captain of the local football team I helped to organise the team, entered them into competitions and eventually lead them to win a regional trophy. ‘
‘Having photography as a hobby gives me the opportunity to research and organize information in a way that showcases my abilities to maximum effect.’
‘I enjoy the chess club because it stimulates my creative problem solving skills and opens my mind to new ways of thinking outside the box.’
PLAGIARISM AND COPYING
It is vital that you make sure your personal statement is your own work and not something you have copied from another source. You should note that many universities have specialist software that can easily detect copied work. Anyone who is caught doing this will have their application immediately rejected.
There are certain ‘rules’ which must be adhered to when writing your own personal statement. One of the main ones being that you should not copy the work of others. For students being familiar with these rules is important as unintentional mistakes can lead to possible charges of plagiarism, and the rejection of their application.
Students should avoid plagiarism not only because there are rules against it and there is a real risk of getting found out, but also because it is the right thing to do.
What is plagiarism
Plagiarism can be classified as the close imitation of language, thoughts, writing or expressions. In terms of writing a personal statement this can come to mean copying another authors work and then presenting it as your own (without crediting the original source or having the original writers permission).
Examples of plagiarism include copying the personal statements of fellow students, buying examples from the internet, or creating a whole article by cutting and pasting blocks of texts from the Internet. Having said that it is not a clear cut area, with the boundaries between plagiarism and genuine research and writing often blurred. A good example of this ambiguity is the fact that in some countries plagiarism is considered to be a violation of copyright laws, and can lead to prosecution in a court of law, whilst in other countries it is not taken so seriously. In the UK universities take this issue very seriously, and anyone caught plagiarising will almost certainly have any university enrolment application rejected.
Why some people plagiarise
In a educational and academic setting, students are constantly engaged (through discussion and study) with other people’s ideas, thoughts and writings. Whilst most students do not intentionally intend to plagiarise, for a very small minority it can be tempting to use another person’s words and pass them off as their own. What people should remember is that many universities are well versed in using plagiarism detection software which is very effective at catching out ‘offenders’.
- It’s easy to do, there is a huge amount of free information on the Internet that can be quickly copied.
- Many people believe that they will not get caught.
- Some people may not be able or willing to do the writing themselves.
Points to remember about plagiarism
- Plagiarism committed by ‘accident’ or unintentionally can still be considered an offence by university admission teams.
- It does not matter if the original author has consented to their work being copied, a student must still reference or acknowledge it, otherwise it will be considered as plagiarism.
Plagiarism (copying the work of others) is considered to be;
- Academic fraud
- A breach of ethics
- Poor scholarship
- Possible copyright infringement
If you are caught plagiarising it can lead to
- Your university enrolment application being immediately rejected.
- Loss of integrity.
- Loss of credibility.
Universities regularly check for plagiarism
Institutions work hard to raise awareness of plagiarism, take active steps to reduce it, all with the ultimate objective of improving academic integrity.
How to avoid plagiarism
It is often said that the best way to avoid plagiarising is to not read anything written by other people in your subject area. However as this is not really practical, we have listed some tips below on how to avoid accidental plagiarising;
- If you intend to use other people work in your statement then you should use an academic style of writing that incorporates referencing. This means making it clear when you have used (or been influenced by) the ideas, concepts and words of others. Use citations and footnotes to name authors, publications or any work you have quoted.
- It is good practise to read through any required reading material and to then put it all away when you are ready to start writing your own material. Only go back to the original source when you want to check you have the facts rights.
- Always try to use your own words, ideas and phrases to produce something that is new and original.
- Focus on improving the existing opinions of works that you have read.
- Check your paraphrases or summaries against any original text you are using.
- It is good practise to methodically and accurately note the source of anything you consult and gain ideas from. This is a great way to help you avoid accidentally copying someone else’s material.
- Consider using a colour coded system to highlight and differentiate your notes and the original work of authors.
- Evaluate your sources carefully before relying and using them.
The aim of referencing is to give the reader a opportunity to clearly see exactly where the author is being influenced or has copied text. Proper referencing should also give the reader enough accurate information for them to be able to find the original source themselves.
Reasons to be original
- University admission staff (as well as tutors) always prize originality in a students writing.
- Becoming a good researcher and writer takes time, it will not happen overnight. However it will never happen if you get into a habit of copying the work of others.
These are available for all potential students to view and are intended to describe the course in detail and give key information about the formal entry requirements, admissions policy and selection procedures. Profiles can also show students what to expect on a course, information which in turn can help them to make a informed decision as to whether the course is for them and if they are suited for it. A published Entry Profile will list up to date details and guidance about a courses; content, course structure, optional modules, admission tests, interview procedure, academic entry qualifications, fees, bursaries and financial support. It is a useful resource that can help you to avoid making costly mistakes when choosing a degree course and is well worth reading before you make a final decision on where to study.
COMMON REASONS FOR UNSUCCESSFUL PERSONAL STATEMENTS
- It does not show a strong desire to study your chosen course.
- Your application does not demonstrate a strong understanding or knowledge of the subject matter.
- It was incoherent, badly structured and had spelling mistakes.
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Choosing the right place to finish is often the most difficult. So I will now try to offer some guidelines.
- Each paragraph ending must hook onto the next paragraph and should leave the reader satisfied that their is a natural segment and purpose in each sentence. Keep it short and keep it simple. This method is suitable if you decide to have a general topic for each paragraph.
- If you use a natural progression structure or timelines then try to end each paragraph with one sentence to sum up your feelings and emotions. Also try to have a little suspense in each section - to leave the reader to carry onto the next section. So far your UCAS personal statement should bring the events in your life to the current moment. Please see below for an example ending:
"I have the skills and determination to succeed on this course. After six months working as an assistant editor I knew I wanted to train to be a journalist. This course will fulfill my dreams"
- This sentence clearly heralds the end and summaries the students personal statement. You may try a number of different endings to find the one to suit your particular UCAS personal statement.