How Can I Include Work Experience in My UCAS Personal Statement?

6 Feb, 2024 | Online Internships, University Preparation

Work experience can really improve the quality of a personal statement, elevating it from one level to the next. For a university admissions officer, it shows that you’re dedicated to your subject and have taken the time to explore career possibilities for your future.

Please note: This blog post covers writing a personal statement in its current format; UCAS is currently overhauling the university application process and students applying in the 2025/26 cycle will be following a different personal statement structure.

Keep up to date with the latest personal statement changes to stay informed and prepared.

What Is a UCAS Personal Statement?

The UCAS personal statement (in both its traditional essay style and its new three-question format) is a crucial component of the UK university application process. It provides a unique opportunity for students to showcase their personality, achievements and motivations. 

It’s a space to go beyond academic grades and highlight the individual. What makes you different and interesting? Why should the admissions officers pick you over another student with similar grades? 

Why Include Work Experience in Your UCAS Personal Statement?

Adding work experience to your personal statement can be really valuable. It demonstrates your practical skills, as well as your ability to apply these skills in a real workplace setting. 

It can also showcase your commitment and initiative. Gaining work experience clearly demonstrates your drive to go above and beyond for the subject – a key element of an impressive university application!

How Work Experience Enhances Your Personal Statement

You may be wondering how work experience can elevate a personal statement so significantly? The answer can be covered with the following:

I. Demonstrating your skills

Throughout a work experience placement, there are many transferable skills for you to learn and develop. These include communication, teamwork and problem-solving. Immersing yourself in a real workplace is an important learning experience that can equip you with a plethora of useful skills. 

Work experience is also an opportunity to apply your academic knowledge practically in a professional setting. This is a rare chance that not every student has access to, so showcase your experience to take your application one step further.

Two Science students working in a laboratory

II. Highlighting your achievements

Writing about work experience in your personal statement is also a great way to show off! It’s an opportunity to narrate your achievements and detail all the contributions you made during an internship, placement or part-time role.

By providing specific examples, your personal statement will reflect your growth and success in a professional environment.

III. Showing your commitment

If your work experience aligns with your chosen course for university, this will highlight your dedication and passion for the subject, making you an excellent candidate. 

Work experience offers in-depth insights into your subject and the future you may be pursuing that you simply can’t gain just by studying! By emphasising these, and the ways you’ve been influenced as a result, your personal statement will be elevated.

Types of Work Experience

There are a lot of work experience opportunities available to students in a range of different areas. If traditional work experience is limited or unavailable to you, there are alternative ways to demonstrate your skills and commitment to your subject. 

Here are some of our favourite ideas!

I. Internships

Structured work experience within a specific industry can prove to be really significant in the development of your academic and professional career. Internships, for example, provide deep insights into the workings of a profession, helping students to develop industry-specific skills. 

If you’re unable to attend an in-person internship, there are lots of opportunities to gain experience remotely, such as our online work experience internships. Virtual internships can be especially valuable in the current climate as they showcase adaptability and a proficiency in remote work.

II. Summer courses

Participating in academic programmes over the summer is a great way to delve even deeper into a subject in preparation for university. Summer courses showcase your commitment to continuous learning, and illuminate a student’s drive and hardworking nature. 

Our online summer schools are a fantastic – and convenient! – way of deep-diving into your chosen subject, boosting your university application.

Group of summer school students at their graduation

III. Volunteering

It’s beneficial to also engage in activities that contribute to your local community. Volunteering demonstrates a sense of social responsibility and empathy, which are highly-valuable traits beyond your university application, which also helps you stand out as a student. 

If you’re including volunteering experience in a personal statement, it’s useful to reflect on any leadership roles you may have undertaken. By presenting yourself as a capable and committed individual who prioritises supporting others, your potential value as a part of the university community will be clear.

IV. Part-time jobs

Part-time jobs exhibit an ability to balance work with academic commitments. In a personal statement, a part-time role effectively demonstrates strong motivation and time-management skills, which are easily transferred to university life. 

Due to the independent nature of university study, it’s always a good idea to illustrate your responsibility and independence, so make sure to expand upon your specific role and your individual responsibilities!

V. Work placements

Work placements are a great chance to immerse yourself in a professional setting. They bridge the gap nicely between theoretical knowledge and practical application, so are a useful experience to highlight in a university application. 

It’s super important to showcase specific achievements within your placements if you choose to write about it in your personal statement – be clear about the impact you made in your role.

Bird's eye view of an office desk with people working on laptops

VI. Leadership experience

Similarly, if you’ve ever been in charge of a student organisation, or led an extracurricular project, then this is also an important thing to highlight in your personal statement. 

As well as showcasing your leadership skills, working in a student leadership role highlights your capability to work with and manage others in a team.

VII. Extracurricular activities

Describing your involvement in clubs, sports, arts or other extracurricular activities can really enhance your university application.

Portraying yourself as the well-rounded person you are showcases your range of skills, passions and diverse interests outside of academics.

VIII. Personal projects

Personal projects related to hobbies or entrepreneurial ventures show initiative, creativity and a proactive approach to learning and skill development. 

When writing about these in your personal statement, make sure to showcase any outcomes or impacts of these projects, as well as the ways they’ve helped you develop as a person. 

How to Select Relevant Work Experience Opportunities for Your UCAS Personal Statement

When you’re writing your personal statement, try to select work experience that aligns with your specific academic and career goals. Prioritise experiences that make a strong impression and prove your suitability for the specific course you’re applying to.

Similarly, focus on quality over quantity if you want to write a personal statement that will leave a lasting impression. It’s always best to be selective when choosing which experiences to include. You have a limited amount of characters, so make them count!

How to Incorporate Work Experience Into Your Personal Statement

Student standing in front of a university building

So, how do you actually write about your work experience? How can you effectively incorporate it into your personal statement

Your personal statement should guide a university admissions team through your: 

  • Academic achievements 
  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Work experience 

It’s important to aim for a balance of the three. For a basic structure to build upon, you could start with a brief introduction establishing your character and personal goals, then write a paragraph for each of the three points, and end with a paragraph summarising why you’re a great fit for the course. 

A high quality personal statement should be clear and coherent. The writing should flow well between the individual points to present a well-rounded candidate. Here are some key tips to improve the quality of your personal statement:

Building a story

An effective personal statement should provide an introduction to you, your strengths, your achievements and your experience. Showcase what you bring to the table, and the unique ways in which you’ll benefit the university community. 

A good personal statement tells a story – set up a narrative and gradually build a profile of your achievements and growth. To incorporate work experience seamlessly, connect the skills you’ve gained with other experiences you’ve had. 

For example, when discussing your extracurricular activities, you might mention that they helped you develop organisational skills. You could then connect this with your work experience by starting a new point: 

“In addition, my work experience with [name of company] helped me to improve my organisational skills further and…”

Then you could provide specific examples of scenarios that helped you to develop these skills. 

Showcasing growth

A great personal statement goes beyond simply listing experiences. Reflect on how you developed as a person during work experience. Did you face any challenges? How did you overcome them? Did you learn anything new? 

This self-awareness showcases a level of maturity that demonstrates a growth mindset and your capacity to embrace challenges as opportunities.

Dos and don’ts of including work experience

Here are some simple things that you should and shouldn’t do when incorporating work experience into your personal statement:

  • DO tailor your writing to individual course requirements. Showcase specific aspects or details of your experience that coordinate well with your chosen course, or will help you excel in that specific subject.
  • DO quantify achievements where possible. If you can showcase evidence to back up your claims, that’s excellent!
  • DO focus on relevance and depth rather than breadth. The admissions team will be more impressed by a small amount of experience that’s highly relevant to your course than a lot of experience in a range of different areas. Focus on what will make you a better candidate for the specific course.
  • DON’T use clichés or generic statements. It’s best to avoid these if you want your personal statement to make an impression and stand out.
  • DON’T list experiences without meaningful reflection. There’s no use in simply listing everything you’ve done; you need to consider why each experience is important and show an awareness of how each one has helped you grow.
  • DON’T include unrelated or outdated experience. If you did some volunteering in year 7, that’s great, but not as important as your internship last month. Pick and choose relevant and recent experiences to show why you, at the exact point you’re at now, are an ideal candidate for the course.

The personal statement can be an excellent opportunity to sell yourself to an admissions team, so make the most of it! Remember to be authentically you, and tell a compelling story that showcases your unique skill set and experience.

For further guidance on crafting a captivating personal statement, take advantage of OxBright’s online resources

Good luck, and get writing! 

jessica

By Jessica Mason

Jessica is currently studying a BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in Early Modern theatre. She enjoys writing articles and has lots of experience in student journalism.
Gain work experience for your personal statement

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