How to write your personal statement

by Anita Naik

If you are planning to go to university in 2021, you should already be thinking about your personal statement. The deadline for applications for Oxbridge and Medical, Veterinary Medicine/Science and Dentistry applications (including non-UK/EU applicants) is the 15th October. The deadline for receipt at UCAS of all other applications is the 15th January 2021.

What is a personal statement?

Ask any student, and the most challenging part of applying to university has to be the personal statement. This document supports your application to study at a university, and is your chance to say why you want to do a particular course, and why you are worth an offer. For many students, it's hard to know what to say, and what kind of information is relevant. For instance, should you sing your praises, or will this be in bad taste? And what if you don't have any exciting extracurricular activities or achievements worth mentioning. Finally, how do you work out what's relevant information and what isn't?

Academic qualities

An important aspect to remember is that your personal statement will be read by university admissions tutors who are most likely surrounded by stacks and stacks of other personal statements so when an admissions tutor looks at your statement, he or she will be asking:

1) Do we want this person on our course?

2) Is this person going to add something to the course and the university?

Admissions tutors will not want to search for these answers in a lengthy rambling statement with zero structure. So make your statement is concise and clear.

The good news is all universities want to hear about your academic ability, what subjects you love and how you have found studying a particular subject, especially if it links to the degree you want to study.

So always read the course description before you write your statement and make a note of the qualities, skills, and experience the course asks for and tailor your statement to this. You want to explain to tutors why this subject appeals, what interests you, and why this course is the one you want to do.

Personal qualities

With personal qualities, the important thing is to provide examples and also draw on your life experiences. You don't have to have travelled far and wide, or been a part of something extraordinary. Think about how your own experiences have changed your life, and what you've learned from specific circumstances. Perhaps you have experienced something that impacts on your degree choice or ambition that will be fuelled by this university's course. If so, tell the admissions tutor so he or she can build a picture of you.

What not to do

1. Avoid exaggerating or saying you will do something you have no intention of doing as you are likely to be caught out.

2. Be sure your grammar and spelling are correct. Proofread it before you send it in.

3. Don't be negative about your academic experiences so far.

What to do

1. Ask people you trust to read your statement over.

2. Mention extracurricular activities in the right way. These are there to show you are a well-rounded person, with transferable skills.

3. Don't fall into the trap of writing what you think admissions tutors want to hear. They simply want you to tell them why you want to do this course and how you became interested in the subject.