Applying for university can be stressful. One of the most important aspects is your personal statement – it’s what universities use to see who you are. It’s a place for you to show why you want to study a course, which skills you have that make you suitable for the course and university, and any relevant experience you have.
Dos & don’ts
- Do use the Action, Benefit & Course (ABC) method as it helps you say what you’ve done, your relevant skills and how it relates to your chosen course
- Do keep it succinct – you have a maximum of 4,000 characters and 47 lines
- Do be enthusiastic – universities like students who want to study that course
- Don’t leave writing to the last minute
- Don’t be tempted to have someone else write it – it will be much better done yourself
- Don’t over-exaggerate – you can get caught out.
There’s no clear-cut way of writing or structuring a personal statement, and it can vary greatly depending on the university you’re applying to. Often universities have qualities or experience they are looking for in prospective students, and they tend to have more information on how to apply on their websites. This is the best place to start your research as this allows you to tailor your statement to particular universities. As a starting point, this three-section approach will help you focus your writing and give you guidance in your writing.
1.Why do you want to study the course?
The first section shows the admissions staff why you want to study the course and what made you choose to develop your knowledge in this field. It’s great to include what’s motivated you to choose this course. For example, if you’re looking to study nursing, explain why you want to go into this profession. Explain how it may be a vocational calling or why nursing is the right career for you.
If you’re applying for another type of degree, such as physics, explain why you want to further your knowledge in that area. Highlight what you’ve learned to date and what you look forward to learning about, and how this will impact your future career.
It may feel like repetition, but it’s imperative to say why you want to study your chosen subject and to make it personal. Don’t be generic!
2.What makes you suitable for the course?
This section will be the largest in your personal statement and you’ll need to highlight any experience or activities you’ve done that make you a suitable student for the course.
Here is the perfect time to put any relevant work experience that you have. Highlight the skills and benefits you got from this experience and how it relates to the degree. This is the section where the ABC method is crucial. It will help you explain your skills and experiences clearly and concisely.
For example, if you’re applying for a creative writing course, mention your blog, writing awards or poems you’ve written. Alternatively, if applying for a law degree, mention your work experience placement at a local solicitor’s office.
The key here is to highlight skills and experiences you have, why they make you suitable for the course and why they will help you succeed in your chosen degree.
3. What else have you done?
The last section should be approximately a quarter (1,000 characters) of your personal statement and should outline other things you’ve done. Here is a section for you to highlight experiences, events or awards that aren’t necessarily related to your chosen degree but show why you’re a well-rounded candidate.
Although you’re mentioning things that aren’t directly related to your chosen course, it’s important to emphasise skills or attributes you’ve gained or developed. For example, if you mention that you were the captain of your schools netball team, talk about how you developed your communication, teamwork and organisational skills. Then, say how these skills will help you succeed at university.
This section is about showing who you are as a person through activities, awards, hobbies and experiences. Yet, still mentioning skills that are applicable to applying for university.
It’s important to remember that although stressful, your personal statement is an opportunity to tell universities how good a candidate you are and why they should offer you a place. This rough guide gives you a clearer way of structuring your personal statement and shows you it doesn’t need to be complicated.