University Personal Statements

Straight from the horse's mouth - Thoughts of an Undergraduate Admissions Officer from a Russel Group University!

What do you look for in a personal statement?

  • Keep the content simple and clear but appropriately formal and academic
  • Use plain English. Precision in expressing ideas is best achieved by using accurate and ordinary words.
  • Use short sentences (15-20 words)
  • Check grammar and spelling
  • Avoid quotations, or use them sparingly and for a specific purpose. Remember, it is your personal statement. If you use quotations think about why, and do not let them speak for themselves. Make sure you have demonstrated explicitly why you are quoting. Integrate them into your argument.
  • Include information about your non-academic interests and accomplishments, skills and achievements.
  • Use the statement to explain anything unusual about your application. For example, if you are a mature applicant, indicate (a) what skills and qualities you have acquired since being in full-time education; (b) why you are seeking to return to education. If you are re-sitting A levels, make this clear.
  • Take care when using humour. Humour is subjective and is probably best avoided.
  • This is your personal statement. It is therefore important that you do not copy or include other people's words without appropriate acknowledgement. To do so may have an adverse affect on the outcome of your application. And remember that UCAS will be screening your application and reporting its findings to the universities to which you have applied.

What should I include in my personal statement?

Make sure you write a reasoned and coherent statement that explains why you want to study a particular subject. Use the statement to show you can build an argument and back up your statements with evidence. Asserting a 'passion' for a subject, particularly if you have never studied it, is an extravagant and intriguing claim. It might be better to consider if it is a passion. But if it is, you need to justify your claim in a way that the reader can assess it.  You should and try and cover the following:

  • Your knowledge of the subject area
  • What does the programme entail
  • Why does it interest you?
  • What interests you the most?
  • Where could studying the programme lead?

Once you have outlined your reasons for being interested in the programme you are applying to, you need to demonstrate why you would be a good student. In this section you are trying to convey your inclination and ability to study on the programme. You need to be able to show the admissions tutor that you have the right background in terms of academic ability and the right interest or inclination that is that you know what the programme you want to study involves. Don’t be modest about your achievements but always support your statements

When writing this section you’ll need to think about and quote evidence from:

  • Your academic studies
  • Any voluntary work
  • Your hobbies and interests
  • Things you have learned from books, newspapers, TV programmes and so on
  • Any relevant work experience
  • Particular project work in your studies

Is relevant work experience essential? This will depend on the course that you are applying for. For example, medicine degree usually requires work experience but it’s not normally a pre-requisite for law. Selectors are most interested in learning about your commitment and enthusiasm to the study a particular subject. This can be demonstrated in any number of different ways, which may include work placements or through engagement with topical issues that have recently been in the news.

Finally, you should write about what makes you an interesting and unique person; all those extra things you have done or experienced which will bring something extra to the community of the University you want to join. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, you need to reflect on the skills and lessons you have learned and write about that. You may want to cover:

  • What do you enjoy doing outside of school
  • Your hobbies, leisure activities
  • Sports you participate in
  • Other sorts of extra-curricular activities
  • Special achievements


The following has been taken from Guilsborough School, the full page can be accessed here.

What is it for?

Supports academic & vocational achievement

Explains what applicant wants to do and why

e.g. Course choice, proposed career

Provides extra evidence to help HE selectorsPersonal Statement


What goes into it?

Evidence of Personal Characteristics

Committed and motivated

Self-reliant and well-organised

Independent learner

Interested in and aptitude for subject

Good team workerPersonal Statement

Evidence of non-qualification achievement

Interests, hobbies & sports

Additional curriculum learning e.g. trips, fieldwork, citizenship

HE summer schools

Work experience, workshadowing & employment skills

SponsorshipPersonal Statement


How should it be written?

Reflective -shows learning from past

Structured - paragraphs & headings (optional)

Clear, concise, precise

Good English

Don’t repeat qualifications achievement, unless something specific e.g. project

In applicants own wordsPersonal Statement

Creative, but not too clever

May be only opportunity to sell yourself

Important to be truthful - must be able to back up with evidence e.g. at interview

Keep copy to take to interviewPersonal Statement



Can give grade information for modules if desirable

Should show relationship to Progress File - i.e. reflect on learning path, academic path and choices made

For deferred entries - should give reasons

Special circumstances e.g. health issues - should be backed up in tutor reference