Why is your Personal Statement Important?

The importance of your personal statement lies in the fact that it is the only chance you have to present yourself to the university admissions tutor for the subject you want to study.  The UCAS form includes a space for the school reference, but universities know that it is the business of your school referee to describe you in as positive a manner as possible.  Your school is certainly not going to say anything bad about you, and so the school reference is often seen as not very informative. It might be regarded as a guarantee that you are who you say you are, but it will not be the deciding factor in whether or not you are offered a place on a university course.

Your academic record – exam results and the like – appears elsewhere on the form and does not need to be mentioned in your personal statement, unless you have something particular to say about it (such as that you were ill during the approach to the exams and believe that your results do not represent your true ability).  Here it must be mentioned that it is your exam grades which will win you a place, no matter how good your personal statement is, and that you should make your applications with close regard to the demands of universities.  If a course asks for 3 A grades and you have achieved or are predicted 3 Cs, then there is little point in putting in your application to this university.  University application continues to be very competitive, and a degree of realism about which courses you should apply to is essential as you plan your future.

In connection with this thought, you must understand that the admissions tutor will have a vast pile of UCAS forms on his or her desk.  The first thing to be done is to weed out all the unrealistic candidates, i.e. those who have 3Cs and are applying for a 3As course. It is very unlikely that these candidates’ forms will be looked at closely, nor will their personal statements even be read.  The personal statement comes into effect after this initial eliminating procedure, and it is here that a good statement will prove its worth.  Something which shows that you are really worth considering – that you know something about your subject, are seriously interested in it, and that you are the sort of person who has the qualities to succeed on the course – will seize the admissions tutor’s attention and gain his or her respect.  Few universities ask candidates to attend interviews these days, so the personal statement is the one chance you have to show your qualities, the one personal and individual gesture in your power.  With some subjects where interviews are still important, such as Medicine, Dentistry, Law, and of course all Oxbridge courses, the personal statement becomes an important document for the admissions tutor to base your interview on. You can expect to be questioned closely about what you say you have done and what your interests are, which means that it is unwise to stretch the truth or exaggerate your claims to distinction.

It is a good idea therefore to ask someone to read through your personal statement before you submit it.  Your parents, a friend, or a teacher will spot errors and inaccuracies.  Probably everyone does this in some way.  Certainly the views of a third party are invaluable in avoiding the worst mistakes, irrelevancies or misjudgements.

I was really keen to study my subject at Manchester, one of the best universities to do a science degree. The statement I received from the company was really professional and I believe my application was successful because of it. I am very grateful.
— H Johnson, Biochemistry, Manchester
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