Skip main navigation

Personal Statements on Application Forms

Personal statements can be one of the most daunting aspects of an application form as you need to write about yourself, your interests and motivation. These can be a part of a job or course application so we’ll look at both situations in turn starting with convincing an admissions tutor that you are the right person for the course and moving on to job applications in the next step.

Personal statements can be one of the most daunting aspects of an application form as you need to write about yourself, your interests and motivation. These can be a part of a job or course application so we’ll look at both situations in turn starting with convincing an admissions tutor that you are the right person for the course and moving on to job applications in the next step.

Applying Through UCAS

In the UK, prospective students usually apply for higher education courses through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and can list up to five institutions. If you are applying through UCAS (or a system similar to it), you don’t need to name the institutions in your statement or describe why you would like to study at one in particular. Instead, state why you really like the subject, how your interest in it has developed and provide examples of course work that you have enjoyed and excelled at.

Applying to an Individual Institution

If you are applying directly to an institution (perhaps for a postgraduate course or professional training), you can state why you want to study there.

  • Does it have a reputation in your field?
  • Is the mode of study appealing?
  • Are there specific academics or teachers you wish to work with?
  • Are there other reasons for choosing this institution?

Show that you have investigated details about the course or research and that you are motivated to pursue it. For example, is the programme noted for a particular specialism, or highly regarded for its training? Explain how you became interested in this area. What have you learnt about it and what insights have you gained?

State Your Academic and Career Goals

Describe your specific academic goals or career aims, and show how you think the course or postgraduate research will help you. Try to be realistic in what you hope to achieve, to convince the admissions team that you have given it serious thought. It will also demonstrate your commitment and motivation to succeed.

Make the Match With the Course Specification

State clearly and provide evidence of how you match the course specification, using the information you have gathered as part of preparing to apply. This can be an ideal opportunity for you to demonstrate your relevant skills, attributes and specific knowledge.

Write about your recent studies to date, including any relevant projects, essays or presentations. Use it to demonstrate study skills, research skills and/or transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving or others that are necessary for the course. For example, if the course that you are applying for includes project work, describe where you have gained experience of this in the past.

If applying for postgraduate research, include details of any papers you have written.

Work Experience

Depending on the course, some institutions will expect you to have already undertaken a period of directly relevant work experience. Provide details, including what you have learnt and how you feel you have developed as a result.

Even if you don’t need specific prior experience, think about any recent work experience you have done including part-time, temporary jobs, volunteering or work shadowing. What skills have you developed as a result that would be relevant to your application? You could include, motivation, time management, decision-making and many more.

Personal Statement Additional Information

You might use your personal statement to set out experiences that you feel are of ‘secondary’ importance ie, things that are still relevant but which you haven’t written about earlier in the form as they are not as important. For example, you might write about your involvement in clubs or societies, interests or leisure pursuits, that are not directly relevant to the course but where you have developed some pertinent transferable skills.

You may be asked to provide other specific information. For example, if you are applying for postgraduate study, you may need to include a ‘research proposal’. If you aren’t sure what information you should provide, contact the institution’s admissions team to clarify matters.

Stick to the Guidelines

Be clear and concise when you write, keeping within any word count, and make sure you check for spelling and grammar – the admissions team will also be reviewing your writing ability. Incorporate subheadings or bullet points if you feel it is appropriate.

Try to end on a high note with a positive concluding statement. It is vital that your writing is impressive.

Get a second opinion. Show it to friends and family and, ideally, someone who is knowledgeable about the course you are applying for, such as a working professional or course tutor.

Keep a copy of your Personal Statement – you will need it if you are called for interview.

This article is from the free online

How to Succeed at: Writing Applications

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education