Top tips for your Personal Statement

By Robin Chu, founder of CoachBright 

What matters most…grades or your personal statement? With the competition for places the truth is your personal statement may well be the deciding factor to whether you get an offer or not. The good news is this means the power is in your hands. Your Personal Statement is your chance to sell yourself, and make a positive impression. 

What do universities want to see?

Well the most important thing is to tell them why you are applying for your particular course and then build up a picture of the kind of person you are. They want to know your experience in and outside of school, your achievements and the areas of life you’re interested in and engaged with. 

That said, Paul Teulon Director of Admissions at Kings College University, suggests that “Students focus about 75% of their statement on academic interests and why you want to study the course and 25% on the extra-curricular dimension that shows you’re a well rounded person".

Our Top Tips

  • Read specific advice for individual courses from the university website. It’s not good saying how much you love ancient history if the course starts from the Middle Ages.
  • Show genuine first hand passion for the subject rather than anything generic like 'I want to study History as the past influences the future?' Try a more individualised approach that shows intellectual curiosity.
  • Show wider reading and understanding of your subject. Reading X has taught me Y.
  • Youthful energy is great! There’s no need to sound too formal.
  • Write about what you have done that is above and beyond others both academically and non-academically. For example: summer schools you have attended or university lectures or extra reading around subject.
  • Focus on a handful of key points and build detail on them rather than cramming various points in that aren't backed up by evidence or coherent explanation.
  • Quadruple check your personal statement for any spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Make your conclusion short and sharp, saying what you hope you’ll achieve with the course. 

Things to avoid:

  • Over-egging it. Don’t exaggerate.
  • Avoid using the thesaurus to 'sound smart'. Plain English is the best.
  • Avoid being overly dramatic. 'Ever since I was a foetus I have always shown a keen interest in medicine'.
  • Avoid colloquial and general terms - using words such as 'like' and 'things'. 'I like reading books'.
  • Over-patronising flattery. Telling them it would be a privilege to study at their brilliant university is not something an admissions tutor wants to see.
  • Don’t stress out. All the admissions tutors want to see is that you’re enthusiastic about the subject and that this shows in your academic and extra curricular life.

Read what UCAS suggest putting in your personal statement here