How to write a personal statement for university (undergrad and postgrad)

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is something that you need to include in your application for your undergrad degree, and the majority of postgrad degrees. It is around 300 – 400 words long (you will be given a limited number of characters) and you need to include a certain amount of information in it. This is so the university can get a better understanding about the person you are and why they should offer you a place at their university. A lot of universities want to see what sort of activities you take part in outside of school and the skills you have built so far.

What do you need to include in a personal statement?

There are a few things that you HAVE to include in your personal statement so that the universities you are applying to get the information they need about you.

Explain the reason for your course choice

You should start your personal statement with the reason why you want to do the course and why you are suited to it. A good idea is to explain your career goals.

Another thing you can do is an online course in your chosen subject to show that you are being proactive, you enjoyed the mini online course, so this is the reason you want to do this course at university.

Of course, if you are writing your postgrad personal statement then you will be able to include your undergrad degree and what you have learnt form that.

Offer examples of work experience

Think about what makes you suitable for the course. Even if this is something as simple as a paper round. Every job is important as you will be building on some kind of skill. For example, with a paper round, you can explain how you have worked on your time management and keeping to a schedule.

Of course, if you had any experience so far in the career you want to do then you 100% need to include this. This would show that you are very sure that this is the career path you want to take and that you want to do well in it.

Lots of schools and sixth forms give you the opportunity to do a week’s work experience so this would also be a good place to mention this and what you gained from this experience.

Offer academic experience

The next paragraph should take about your current qualifications such as your A-Levels or BTECs. Talk about what you gained from each subject you took. For example, if you took an essay-based subject such as English or history, then talk about how you were able to work on your essay writing skills and techniques. If you study something lie economics or accounting, then talk about how you learned about the wider economy and the current events that are happening in the world that affect your subject.

If you are struggling with this section then reach out to your teacher for each A level you take and go over what you are gaining from each subject and why this would help you on your new course.

Mention any extracurricular activities you have taken part in

This includes things like Duke of Edinburgh, any school camps you did, any hobbies such as swimming, running, dancing. Something that shows commitment. These extracurricular hobbies let the university understand a bit more about you as a person and what you enjoy doing. You can also use these activities to show what skills you have learnt. For example, if you dance and you take part in shows then you could explain how this has helped your confidence.

Top tips:

  • Don’t waffle – don’t mention things that aren’t relevant as you will be using up space for those things that are important.
  • Avoid explaining the same thing over again in a different way – repeating yourself can make it seem like you do not have anything else to write about, it is also not how you write an academic piece of writing.
  • It should be roughly 700 characters long so around 300-400 words – you will be given a limit when you start writing and the reader will stop reading after you hit the limit so make sure you do not go over!
  • Take around a month to work on this – make sure you revise your first draft by getting family, friends and your teachers to look over it.
  • Write it in your natural style – this will show a little bit about you.
  • Avoid too much humor.
  • Make sure you mention the skills you need for your course and where you’ve gained those skills.

Final Thoughts

The hardest part is getting started when you are trying to write your personal statement. I think the best thing to do is to write down some notes of all the things you would write in each section and the skills you have learned for these that are relevant to your course.

Then you can give it a go a writing each section one step at a time.  You do not even have to write it in the correct order. Try starting for the work experience section if you feel like you have more to say about that part.

It is most likely the case that you will write over the word limit and have to cut down words so do not worry if this happens to you!

Good Luck!

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