How to Write a Personal Statement

19 Jul, 2023 | University Preparation

The personal statement can be one of the most daunting aspects of a UK university application. However, when utilised correctly, it can also be the most effective way to make your application shine! 

The goal of the personal statement is essentially to convince the admissions team they should choose you for a place on their course. A well-written personal statement, showcasing your unique qualities and motivations, is one of the very best tools to enhance your application and secure your university spot.

Why Do I Need a Personal Statement?

When admissions teams come to review your UCAS application, they have a key decision to make: are you suited for the programme, the university and the department? 

While the other aspects of your application provide them with helpful information, none of them are quite as useful as the personal statement. 

The personal statement is your opportunity to present yourself to the admissions teams! It allows them to get to know you, your academic potential, your personal interests and your goals.

How Do I Prepare to Write a Personal Statement?

For many students, the most difficult part of writing their personal statement is simply getting started. It’s a good idea to spend some time researching the universities and courses that you’re applying to, and making sure you understand their mission, values and academic offerings. 

You want to find a course at a university which aligns with your goals, values and skills. This makes it especially important to take a moment to reflect on yourself, and focus on identifying your strengths, interests and goals to make sure you’re making choices which are tailored for you. If you’re struggling to engage in this self-reflection, check out the OxBright Career Test to help you get started! 

Once you know which courses you’re applying for, the next step is to figure out what to include when writing your personal statement. It can be useful to start by writing down all of your relevant academic work, work experience and further reading that you’ve completed, making links to the relevant aspects of your desired course. 

It’s a lot easier to organise your thoughts once they’re already on the page. Take some time to choose what to include and expand upon, and consider how to logically order your points.

What’s the Best Way to Structure a Personal Statement? 

First of all, make sure you check the most up-to-date guidance on how to structure your personal statement. UCAS is currently reviewing the personal statement for 2025 entry, but at the time of writing, there’s no set structure to the personal statement – it’s 4000 characters or 47 lines of free text. 

Here are some tips for structuring your personal statement: 

1. Start with an engaging introduction! The opening paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the personal statement so make sure it grabs the admissions teams’ attention. You could open by identifying the origin of your interest in your subject, or a principle within your area of study that particularly appeals to you.

2. Maintain a coherent and logical flow in your points. This could be through a chronological account of your academics and experiences that demonstrate your suitability for the course.

3. For each experience or achievement, form links to the skills you obtained, and how these are relevant to your course. If you completed coursework in a particular subject, identify the key tasks you completed, the skills you acquired, and how these make you suited to the course. 

4. End with a powerful conclusion – something memorable! Use a short concluding paragraph to emphasise the points you’ve already made on why you’re suited for the course, and to show your enthusiasm and excitement for the course.

5 Things to Include in a UCAS Personal Statement

1. Your Motivation and Passion

Universities want to see that you’re genuinely enthusiastic and interested in your chosen subject, so emphasise your passion when writing your personal statement. The best way to do this is to share any experiences that  demonstrate your motivation. Try to identify times where you’ve gone beyond the school curriculum – have you taken part in any summer courses, projects or essay competitions?

2. Academic Achievements and Relevant Skills

Universities also want to know that you’ll be able to handle the academic intensity of the course, so highlighting your academic accomplishments and demonstrating your ability to achieve is vital. 

Remember that universities will already have access to your grades, so it may be worth focusing on some specific achievements in your personal statement, such as any relevant coursework. An effective way to demonstrate your academic suitability is to provide concrete examples of your skills and abilities, and use these to showcase transferable skills, like research or problem-solving.

3. Extracurricular Activities and Personal Development

The personal statement isn’t all about academics! While they might initially seem irrelevant compared to academic achievements, extracurricular activities are actually a great way to demonstrate a well-rounded personality. 

If you’re involved in any clubs, societies or volunteering, make sure to include this in your personal statement! Engaging in extracurricular activities demonstrates skills such as time management, teamwork and communication, all of which are essential for success at university, and in your future career. 

4. Relevant Work Experience or Internships

Having relevant work experience – or participating in an internship or conference – demonstrates extra-curricular engagement with your subject, and provides concrete examples of your motivation. It also demonstrates the ability to apply your knowledge in a real-world setting, so be sure to include any relevant work experience when writing your personal statement. 

Make sure to reflect on what these experiences have given you, and how they have contributed to your understanding of the subject and your suitability for the course.

5. Future Goals and Aspirations

What do you want to do with your degree? Take some time to consider your long-term goals, and how the chosen course aligns with these aspirations, and include this in your personal statement! 

Universities are looking for students with ambition, drive and a sense of purpose, and the best way to demonstrate this is to showcase a clear vision for the future and a consideration of how the university can support your goals.

Anything Else I Should Know?

1. Avoid cliches! Admissions teams read a large volume of personal statements, so you don’t want yours to blend in with the rest. Instead of saying you’re “passionate” about the subject, make sure you’re providing specific examples and anecdotes to demonstrate this passion. It’s easy to say that you’re passionate, motivated and skilled, but much more difficult – and impressive! – to show it.

2. Maintain a formal and concise writing style. With an absolute limit of 4000 characters, there’s no time for waffle, so make sure you know your key points before starting, and stick to them! Take some time to review what you’ve written, and consider if you can write it in fewer words.

3. If you feel like you’re lacking in things to write about, take a look at OxBright’s University Preparation Report to get some personalised reading recommendations for improving your application.

OxBright students crafting their personal statements.

Can I Ask Others to Read It?

A vital part of the personal statement is reviewing and editing it – in fact, it’s not unusual to spend more time doing this than writing the initial draft. 

Sharing your personal statement with teachers, mentors and family members can be a great way to gain some valuable perspectives on your personal statement. It’s especially helpful in making sure your personal statement reads fluently, as this can be quite difficult to evaluate by yourself when you’ve been working on it for a long time. 

Try not to share it with too many people though – remember your personal statement should be a reflection of yourself, so you don’t want to get lost in other people’s ideas!

While daunting, remember that the personal statement is the perfect opportunity for you to sell yourself, and make sure that all your unique skills, experiences and passions are taken into account during your university application. Taking the time to properly plan, review and edit your personal statement is one of the best things you can do to enhance your application!


By Kylie Li

Kylie is reading Experimental Psychology student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She is most interested in developmental and cognitive psychology, and how these can be applied to the education system.

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