University Tips Blog
Image of students working on their personal statements supported by teachers
A headshot image of the author, Kat Knight

by Kat Knight

UK Student Recruitment and Schools Liaison Manager at City, University of London

posted on 11 Jul '23

Note from UniTasterDays - this content was kindly provided by Kat Knight, City University, London and Erin Tungate, King's College London, for the UniTasterDays Students' Guide to University brochure.

What to write in a personal statement – tips from the experts

What is the personal statement?

When reviewing applications, university admission tutors will use academic information like predicted grades, teacher references and the personal statement to decide whether you should be offered a place. Alongside this, the personal statement is the opportunity for you to tell universities directly:
• Why do you want to study the course?
• How have you engaged with the subject in your own time?
• What experiences have you had in preparation for university?
• What makes you unique?

If you are finding it difficult, here are some things that you can do to help:

• Mind-mapping is a great way for you to think of key points to include, without the pressure of putting them into sentences or paragraphs. Universities often provide resources to support with this as well.
• Are you still unsure? Look at university websites to find out more about the courses you’re interested in. Many universities explicitly list qualities that they like to see in students which may be a great place to start.
• Are you using lots of quotes? Whilst we encourage you to write about your extra reading, universities want to hear from you directly. Instead of writing a quote word for word, think about what a particular quote means to you using your own words and ideas.
• A little thesaurus-heavy? You should prioritise writing clearly and cohesively, rather than using extravagant language. Try reading the statement out loud to hear what does and doesn’t flow well.
• Over the character count? The personal statement has a 4,000 character limit. Use the ‘ABC method’ to think about keeping content relevant. When giving an example or discussing an experience, you should succinctly (A) summarise the activity, (B) be able to discuss the benefits and (C) link these to the course you are applying for. If this can’t be done, it might not be relevant!

The A,B,C approach in practice

If you are considering applying for English courses at university you could (A) discuss an assessment you wrote on the role of women in Shakespeare’s plays (B) as an example of developing your research and essay writing skills and (C) this shows good preparation for planning and writing coursework in an English Literature degree.

Deadlines

It is important for you to stick to deadlines given by your school or college – this will allow you enough time to receive written feedback and submit your application before the UCAS deadline.

Top Tip: Use the ABC method to think about keeping content relevant.
A - Summarise the activity
B - Discuss the benefits
C - Link these to the course

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