For many people the thought of having to write a personal statement when you are completing your UCAS form is the most difficult, and perhaps the most daunting, even alarming part of the process.  Perhaps you don’t know what to write, how to write it, what to include in it (and what not to include!), how to phrase it, and what other people will think of your finished effort. Yet many of these fears are unfounded. What the admissions tutor who reads your form wants to know is fairly straightforward, and a clear format can be laid down for what to include in your personal statement and what order to put it in. There is no “secret” to writing a good personal statement, you only have to describe yourself and your abilities honestly, clearly and without pretentiousness. You could even see it as an enjoyable opportunity to write about yourself, though you need always to be wary of straying into irrelevance. The length of the personal statement means that you don’t have a great deal of space to expand your ideas, and it is essential that you cover the essentials, but it is not beyond any would-be student’s abilities to produce an effective, informative and clear account of why the university should offer him or her a place.

The format goes something like this:

– You need to say first why you want to study the subject you are applying for. What inspired you?  Do you have a family connection with the subject?  Did your ambition simply grow out of an interesting school course?

– Then you need to show that you really know something about the subject you have chosen. You will do this by making a few detailed references to aspects of the subject that have caught your imagination. This is the part of the Personal Statement which is usually least well done by many candidates, but it is also the part which will really show the tutor that you are seriously interested in the subject. Mention any reading you have done in connection with the course.

– Then describe any work experience or courses you have undertaken. Relevance to the subject is the key point here. Mentioning working in KFC will be of little value in your Personal Statement. Applicants for subjects such as Medicine, Dentistry and Law must take particular note of this, of course, as must mature applicants. If you have more than one language it should be mentioned here.

– Now go on to describe any significant events, promotions or achievements in your school career. Don’t spend to much time on this unless it is peculiarly relevant to your subject.

– Finally describe yourself and your qualities and give an idea of how you will use the degree in your future career.

Above all your Personal Statement must show a real interest in the subject you want to study, which is why point 2 is so important, and you must convince the admissions tutor that you are truly motivated. You are up against a lot of competition, and the candidate who stands out is the one who shows that he or she is really interested in the subject and will respond positively to an advanced course.

An approach sometimes advised is to try to write about yourself in a continuous way, constructing a sort of story of your involvement in the subject and leading on to how you want your future to develop.  This is quite a difficult process, partly because many applicants age 17 or 18 don’t yet know what their ultimate aims are, but if it appeals to you as a format you might give it a try.

Advice will be offered on the sections of the suggested format in later pages, and also on style, language, how to start and how to end.  Hopefully you will find that understanding these things will give you the confidence to write a clear and informative Personal Statement.

I needed help in putting together all my complex thoughts on politics and the way political thought has developed. My writer gave me a statement that sounded really professional and gave an impression of me which earned me an offer from a top university.
— H Tennant, Politics and International Relations, UCL
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