What to Include in a Personal Statement
The most successful personal statements will answer the following questions that admission tutors are asking from prospective candidates: who you are, what you are aiming for, why you want to study that degree course or at that university, and what you can offer.
How to list the points to discuss in your personal statement
Students can write a list bullet-pointing their answers to the questions above so that they have constructed a concise plan. You can either choose to write these notes down on paper, with other information relating to your UCAS application or as a document on your computer.
The format of the list is entirely up to you. If you prefer to set out the personal statement and create paragraph headings to help your writing flow from each subject, then that is okay too, you can see this on a number of Personal Statement examples, online. You can either use bullet points or a list, or the headings to aid you through your personal statement writing process. A well-thought out plan will only help you, therefore don’t avoid spending some time setting one up.
How do I know what universities are looking for in a personal statement?
If individuals find that they lack inspiration when it comes to the answers that universities are looking for, they can read the prospectus. A university prospectus can be picked up from the university on site, through an open day, be delivered by request to the university or found on their website. There are plenty of things that universities are not looking for in a personal statement, so be aware of those too!
What type of student does a university want on their degree course?
By searching through the prospectus, you will find that the university will list values and give an indication to what type of students they want at their subject degree course. The majority of institutions will want a student with certain attributes, such as; a strong work ethic, a high level of academic ability, enthusiasm and the ability to work independently as well as under pressure. Although each university or higher education college may list the characteristics differently, or mention similar or completely different traits, they all want an ideal student.
Do all universities look for the same things within a personal statement?
Not all universities will look for the same answers from your personal statement, as each university differs and each degree course attracts a range of individuals. There may be a university that seeks creative and innovative students over setting a high entry requirement, or to counteract this; another university may seek candidates who work well independently and can handle an intense exam season (For which you’ll be needing a few exam revision tips). Students should read up on what universities want from their students, pair this with their degree course choices and from there can work out what to write about in their personal statement.
Getting inspiration for your personal statement from the university prospectus
Another area of the prospectus which students should read closely is the subject guide and information itself. Some individuals may never look at the prospectus’ from their university choices after deciding which institutions are their favourite. It is handy to look back at the degree course information, entry requirements and module list that is featured in the prospectus. Each of these sections will let students know important information, for example;
- What grades they need to receive to gain entry – which can also imply the level of work and theoretical study featured on the course, the type of modules they will study throughout the course, and whether they are theoretical or practical based. Universities will look for attributes that display a student can handle the different type of modules. Such as writing about your experiences creating a short film in A Level Media Studies will prove helpful in a Film Production practical module, over a theoretical module of The History of Iranian Cinema, which will help you a lot with a film studies degree. Therefore students can pick and choose what experiences they can include, and what modules to discuss during their personal statement. Course information will inform candidates about the general type of students universities want. There will also be useful keywords displayed in this area that students can use throughout their statement too.
Talk about your previous assessments in your personal statement
It may not seem an obvious discussion point but talking about any prior exam or coursework experiences can help your application. Only mention assessments if they are relevant to the degree course you want to study. If you are interested in studying a Psychology degree at university, you could then talk about the research project you conducted at A Level or your own study you created and researched.
What tense should I write my personal statement in?
Students can write their personal statement in any tense or person. The important factor is to ensure it is consistent throughout. If you start writing in the first person and in the present tense (I am looking forward to going to university) don’t change it to third person and the past tense (Proven to be able to work towards a deadline). As these two statements differ too greatly and look messy.
Our best advice is to write the statement in the first person, as this is the most used and it will flow a lot better as well as sounding genuine. Having your personal statement in the first person will also make it easier to write, as you can write from your own account and in your own words. The third person can seem a bit too formal or disjointed and will have a less personal tone.
What should you include in your personal statement?
Candidates can find below several things that they should aim to discuss or mention in their personal statement.
Why are you applying to university?
Students should include the reasons behind their decision to applying to university. It can either be because of how you love a certain subject, have a certain career aspiration in mind or that you really want to extend your knowledge within a certain subject.
What makes you a suitable candidate?
Individuals can also talk about why they are a good candidate for the course. You want admission tutors to choose you for their limited spaces, and to do this, you need to win them over.
List any relevant skills
List the relevant skills you have that you need or are relevant to the degree course. Such as whether you are comfortable with a specific computer programme, or that you have achieved Grade 6 in Piano. Both of these set of skills will either be a strict entry requirement or a relevant skill that will aid your application.
Previous work experience
Discuss any prior work experience, again that is either requested by the university – such as healthcare work experience for a nursing degree – or that will help you sell yourself to the admission tutors. If you worked part-time, during the summer or spent a week in a nursery and you are applying to a childcare degree course, then you should talk about your experience. Even if your work experience is a placement through the college or sixth form, or only lasted a few days. It is still relevant, and you can talk about it.
List your achievements
Universities do love hearing about your achievements, especially when they are related to the subject. Achievements can come in any shape and size, from academia to a personal achievement that you feel proud of. Some examples may include, overcoming a fear, complications from a health issue, a difficult job or project which you received a high grade or you were celebrated for something you did or created.
Write about your hobbies
Again, if they are relevant. It is pointless to talk about how you are a film fanatic when studying an English Literature degree course. With this scenario you would instead discuss your love for books, or that maybe you worked part-time in the local library or bookstore during your studies.