The university admission process can be stressful, especially for non-native English speakers. The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the admission process. You need to write a statement about yourself and your life experiences. It seems easy because it is the topic you know the most about: You. However, it is not as easy as you think. It is quite difficult to pick the most relevant elements of your life in order to fit with the universities’ criteria. Below you will find useful tips to write a personal statement.
Before you Start
Before starting to write your statement, you need to be prepared. Although you are applying to many universities and courses, you can only write one personal statement so avoid mentioning any universities by name. Be sure the deadline is not coming up soon; you need time – at least two weeks – to write a good personal statement. Then, check the course descriptions to see what skills and qualities the universities are looking for. At the end of this article, you will find a list of skills and qualities that are valued most by universities.
On a draft sheet, make a list of relevant points you want to include in your statement. It is going to be really helpful when you start to write it. You can also complete a UCAS personal statement worksheet to help you think about the information to include.
Finally, here are few tips you should not forget when you are writing your statement:
- Be enthusiastic and positive when you are writing it. Your statement will reflect what you think of yourself, it must not be negative.
- Try to stand out but be careful using complex language, humour or quotes.
- Tell the truth, it is not necessary to lie about yourself.
- Be neutral. You can only write one personal statement so don’t mention any university or course names.
Now you are ready to draft.
Let’s start with the structure. Your statement needs to be composed of three parts: Opening paragraph – Middle paragraph – End paragraph. You are allowed to write 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text maximum (including spaces and blank lines which are equivalent to about 600 words), that means you cannot write more than 3,400 words. Please remember the admissions tutors will read many personal statements and they will be tired. In order to make their reading easier, use paragraphs or subheadings to make it clearer and easier to read.
The Opening Paragraph – The “Why” Paragraph
This is the most important paragraph; it is your first impression. You need to start with an opening sentence that encourages the admissions tutors to read on. Avoid unimaginative sentences like “From a young age I have been interested in/fascinated by…”, “For as long as I can remember I have…” or “I am applying for this course because…” You have to find an original sentence which makes you stand out.
This paragraph focusses on your enthusiasm. In other words: how excited are you about the courses you are applying for? You can also include your ambitions and why going into higher education is important to you.
This paragraph is the foundation of your statement. It needs to express your desire to study your chosen subject.
The Middle Paragraph
Now that you have shown that you are eager, you have to prove your enthusiasm. If you have chosen similar courses to apply to, you can start by talking about the subject in general. Demonstrate your interest in the study area chosen and how it is going to help you in your future career. Let the readers know your choices are well thought through. Show your understanding of the subject by explaining with your own words what it means and why you think you are suitable for the courses. You can also mention how you could be an asset to the university through your subject.
Next you can write about your skills, knowledge and experiences and what makes you suitable. If you are not sure which information is most appropriate, make a list of all your skills, relevant experience and achievements you have gained from education, work and other activities and ask yourself which ones are relevant. “Is my experience as cat sitter relevant for my science studies?” Probably not! However, my knowledge in science software is definitively relevant. Sometimes is not as clear as you expect but think what each experience brought you and see if it could be an important fact.
If you have had the opportunity to hold a position of responsibility, mention it. Also include any clubs or societies you belong to, as well as work experience, volunteering, summer schools, Duke of Edinburgh award etc. Thanks to this information, admissions tutors are going to determine who you are and if you are a good applicant.
This paragraph is very important to show what you have accomplished in life and how it has made you into the person you are today.
The End Paragraph
This paragraph is “your” paragraph. You have to write about you and what make you unique. You need to make yourself stand out without being arrogant. Talk about the different sides of your personality. Mention your hobbies and activities that show your interest in your chosen subject. Mention any non-accredited training or achievements that show your skills and any qualities you have that set you apart from other applicants.
You need to make your statement as unique as you are. The readers must remember you thanks to this passage. It is your personal touch which helps the admissions tutors to decide if you are more suitable than another applicant. It is similar to the middle paragraph but it is more personal, it is about what you like and who you are.
This paragraph is essential to set your statement apart from other candidates.
Extra Points to Add
If you’re an international student: Say why you want to study in the United Kingdom. What makes the UK stand out over other countries? Describe what you like about the UK. Then, give evidence of how you can successfully complete a higher education course taught in the English language. Usually, you can prove it thanks to your English level or because your previous studies have been assessed in English. You can give examples of using your English communication skills. For example, if you have already had a job where you had to speak English or if you have English-speaker friends with whom you often talk.
If you’re a mature student: Say what you’ve done since leaving school and why you have decided to return to studies at this time. If you have had a variety of relevant jobs and experiences, you can also send a CV (direct to the universities, not to UCAS). Evaluate your experiences and match them to the course requirements. Demonstrate how you will cope with the academic work. Usually, it is difficult to return to school after many years. Therefore, you need to show the admission tutors that you are determined and it is not an obstacle to your desire to study.
What to avoid:
- Don’t talk about something useless – be relevant to the courses you are applying for.
- Don’t be arrogant – try to find balance between arrogance and standing out.
- Don’t exaggerate or make things up – you might be caught out during an interview.
- Don’t use complicated words or jargon.
- Don’t copy from anyone or the internet – software can detect any similarities and could jeopardise your application.
- Don’t rely on a spellchecker as it will not pick up everything. Proofread as many times as possible and ask someone to proofread it for you.
- Don’t make a list – expand your points and give examples.
Do not forget:
- Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. You can read it aloud to hear what it sounds like. It is very important; do not spoil your statement because of small details.
- Get plenty of feedback from advisers and family members. When you write something, it is difficult to look at it objectively and you often do not notice what it is wrong with it.
- Finally, be prepared to redraft it a few times until you are happy with it. You should not send work you are not happy with; the readers will feel that your statement is not completely achieved.
Skills and qualities that are valued the most by universities:
- Good numeracy and literacy
- Enthusiasm – go beyond the norm
- Reflective / critical thinking skills
- Problem solving
- Time management skills
- Research skills
- Motivation and commitment
- Independent study skills
UKG Can Help
If you are struggling to write your personal statement, please contact us. Our qualified and experienced consultants know exactly what university admission tutors are looking for. We can help you to plan, write, edit and proofread your statement and ensure you stand out amongst all the other candidates.