What should be in the Personal Statement?
A successful Personal Statement will have a sound structure and a clear sense of direction. Following the simple guidelines below should help ensure you don’t go wrong.
Your Personal Statement should consist of three distinct sections and you should apportion appropriate space to each:
1. Academic Aptitude and Subject Specific Material
The bulk of your Personal Statement (at least 70%) should be devoted to the subject being applied for. It should address what you want to study, why you want to study it and introduce any relevant skills, experience or aptitude you can bring to its study.
If you are applying to read something familiar (e.g. an A level History student wishing to read History at university) then you should address why you have found this subject so interesting that it warrants further study and what particular aspects of the subject interest you – it can be something you have already studied, but ideally should be something beyond your A levels. If it is something totally new (e.g. Law or Medicine) you should explain what has led you to this choice and why you think it will be rewarding to study. Remember, if you’re applying for a joint degree you will need to explain why you are interested in both aspects of this joint programme.
Whatever the subject you must support your claims with hard evidence e.g. examples of books you have read, what you have learned from your wider reading, what relevant experience or skills you have acquired. You should draw upon your AS and A level studies to provide further evidence of relevant skills and aptitude. The aim is to convince admissions tutors that you are not only exceptionally well qualified for the course, but that you are also highly motivated. Be sure to check university and college prospectuses, websites and Entry Profiles on UCAS, as they usually tell you the criteria and qualities that they want their students to demonstrate.
2. Extra-curricular Activities at School and Work Experience
This should take up no more than 20-30% of the Personal Statement and is far less important than the academic material. You should address extra-curricular interests and activities both at school and beyond, wherever possible trying to emphasise any positions of responsibility held and any soft skills acquired. If your extra-curricular interests or activities are relevant to your chosen field of study it is essential you make that link e.g. if you are applying for a Sports Science course then it makes more sense to talk about your sporting achievements than if you were applying for History. If you are applying for a vocational subject like Medicine or Veterinary Science your work experience should form the spine of your Personal Statement.
3. Personal Interests
While admissions tutors first and foremost want subject aficionados, they also want to teach well-rounded and balanced individuals. It is a good idea to identify any hobbies or interests that you are regularly engaged in, especially if they showcase skills which are relevant to your chosen course. This is a small consideration and should not account for more than a few lines and certainly not more than 10% of the overall statement.