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An overview of personal statements

Why does it matter?

Breaking it down

The introduction:dos & don'ts

Work experience

Talking about the course

Extra-curricular activities

Concluding the statement

The ABC rule

Why does it matter?The personal statement is where you can talk about your experiences and your love of the subject.Universities and colleges read personal statements to identify candidates that are committed and suitable for their courses. Remember, universities and colleges want students who will complete, and flourish on their courses.While reading a personal statement, they will be asking themselves if this is a person they want at their university (or college) and on their course.

An overview of personal statementsThe personal statement is an important element of the UCAS application.It’s your chance to introduce who you are as a person, and as a potential student in higher education.For competitive courses, and courses that don’t require an interview, the personal statement can be the deciding factor in whether your application is successful.

Breaking it downThe personal statement can be up to 4000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines (on the UCAS form).It should be written in the form of an essay, not a letter. This means using paragraphs.It should have a strong introduction and conclusion.Approximately 75% of the personal statement should be about your passion and motivation for the course, and the experience and skills that make them suitable.The remaining 25% should focus on your extra-curricular activities.For Oxford and Cambridge applications, the split should be 80% / 20%

The introduction: dos & don'tsThe introductory paragraph needs to be strong and grab the reader’s attention.Be original and avoid clichés such as, ‘I’ve always had a passion for…’ or ‘From a young age, I’ve always wanted to…’.Avoid using quotes, and don’t try to be funny.Explain how the course is an essential part of your longer-term plan.

Talking about the courseDo your homework on the course you are applying for, and demonstrate this in your writing. Are there any course elements or modules that you are particularly looking forward to?Was there a particular project, or piece of work, that sparked your interest in this subject?What have you already studied that will benefit you on this course? (see ABC rule)

Work experienceAll work experience is valuable, and it doesn’t have to be glamorous. Include any work placements, part-time jobs, or voluntary work.Keep the focus on the skills that were developed, and how they are relevant to the course you’re applying for. This is particularly relevant if you’re applying for a vocational course, such as Nursing.How has the experience impacted on your future plans?

Extra-curricular activitiesFocus on your most relevant experiences, what you gained from them, and how they benefited you.Was there an experience that made you think, ‘This is what I want to do?’Activities could include special duties at school/college, sports clubs, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (or similar), volunteering, university masterclasses or taster sessions.Again, ask yourself how these activities have affected or reinforced your future plans. What skills were developed?

The ABC ruleListing your skills and experiences is not enough.Use the ABC Rule to ensure what you write is relevant:ActivityBenefitCourseWhen writing about your experiences (Activity), be sure to discuss what skills you developed from each experience (the Benefits), and how these skills will benefit you as a student on the course (Course).

Concluding the statementLike the introduction, the conclusion should pack a punch and leave an impression.It should summarise key points from the statement, but be careful not to introduce new information here.Make reference to how the course fits into your long-term plans.