Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Writing the personal statement is one of the key part of making a University application to the UK. This is the only opportunity a student has to communicate who they are as a person, why they are so excited about studying a particular course and what makes them a stand out student – and all of this in 4,000 characters including spaces! We asked our education team and Oxbridge tutors for their top tips on writing the perfect personal statement.
Fiona advises “Start off with a big brainstorm with all the ideas that you might want to include, this will give you lots of information to pick and choose from and help you work out the ‘story’ you want to tell the admissions team. It is easier to start with a huge character count and edit it down”
Clare says “Avoid using flowery phrases and cliché’s, there is no space for empty words or waffle. Try to avoid working your way though the Theasaurus using every simile for ‘passionate about’. Use words that are familiar to you and you would use everyday and remember the overall tone should be formal.”
James recommends that you don’t just list the things that you have done, you need to reflect on what you have learnt from them. Played a team sport? Think about the practice and dedication this has required as well the verbal and non verbal communication skills. Taken part in MUN? How has this prepared you to think on your feet, to form an argument and to listen to another person’s point of view.
Dylan suggests that you stay focussed on the positives; talk about the things you have learnt, the experiences you have had and your plans for the future. This is not the place to dwell on things that have not gone so well.
Mohini is clear that every sentence has to count and make good ,clear points. Remember PEE, Point, Example, Explanation, all three should feature in each sentence.
Carl writes ‘Keep it honest – do not claim to have read books or speak languages or to have written competition entries if you have not done any of the above. You will certainly get caught out if you are called for interview and unless you have genuinely done these things it will generally be obvious when you cannot justify them with contextual information.’
Lewis advises that a well written personal statement will take many drafts, so it is best to start early. Ask one or two teachers to look at it but do not ask too many people as everyone will have a different view and give conflicting information which can muddle your message.
Duc’s guidance is to always work off line and check, check and check again before you paste it into the UCAS application. There is no excuse for grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. He also points out that you must resist the temptation to use phrases you have found in online statements – every application is checked for plagiarism and if detected the application will be withdrawn.
Oliver points out that the personal statement is your only chance to communicate with the admissions tutor why you are so passionate about studying this subject further. He suggests that 80% of your statement is dedicated to your academics and experiences relevant to the course, with only about 20% about your extra curricular activities and only if they are relevant.
All of the team agree that it is essential to make sure it is your voice and your words as only then will it sound authentic and convince the Admissions tutor that you are the person they really want on their course!