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Personal statements for courses

Watch this video to help you get started with writing personal statements for courses.
If you’re applying for courses in the UK, you’ll probably need to complete a personal statement as part of the application form. This is a blank section for you to write about yourself, so it’s often the most difficult part, but also the most crucial. This is your space to sell yourself to the admissions tutor and tell them exactly why they should choose you. Admissions tutors won’t have long to read your statement, so start with a strong opening paragraph to grab their attention. Throughout your statement, try to be original in what you write, decide on your unique selling points, and make sure they’re relevant to the course you wish to study.
If you are applying for courses through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, you can apply to up to five institutions, so don’t write about why you want to study at each one, because your application is going to get sent to all of them. So instead, state what you really like about the subject. If you’re applying to an individual institution, perhaps for a postgraduate course, you can state why it appeals to you. Does the institution have a reputation in your subject, or are there specific academics that you wish to work with?
Whether you’re applying for undergraduate or postgraduate study, describe how your interest and knowledge in this subject has developed so far, and give examples of related coursework that you’ve enjoyed and excelled at. Provide convincing examples of how you can match the course specification. This is your chance to demonstrate your relevant skills and knowledge by completing projects, writing essays, or making presentations, which will help you to be successful on the course. Skills could also include communication, teamworking, problem solving, and other things. Also include the skills you’ve gained through work experience, volunteering, work shadowing, or through memberships of clubs and societies. Many of these will be really relevant to your application. Think about your future career plans and goals.
Although you don’t need to be too specific, try to think how the course really will help you. It will demonstrate your commitment to do well in your studies. Make sure your goals are realistic and you’ve given them careful consideration, providing evidence of what has inspired you. If you have the space, set out other experiences that you think are of interest. For example, you might write about your interests or leisure activities not necessarily relevant to the course, but where you’ve gained some great skills and experience. End your statement with a positive and lasting impression. You could re-emphasise your motivation and commitment to the course. Or provide a relevant and memorable fact about yourself, something that admissions tutors will remember you by.
Make sure you write in plain English and check for spelling and grammar. Structure your statement with paragraphs so that it flows well. If it is difficult to follow, or you’ve left in spelling mistakes, the admissions tutor might not make you an offer. Make sure you keep within the limits of the maximum number of words or lines of text. So don’t ramble or repeat yourself. Finally, make sure you proofread your statement and get someone else to look over it too. Once you’ve sent in your application, make sure you keep a copy. If you are invited to interview, you’ll need to look over it and remember what it was you wrote, so good luck.


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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?

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 against 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.

Things you haven’t had chance to tell them about in other parts of the form

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.


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 statement – you will need it if you are called for interview.
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