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A personal statement forms a necessary part of your application to institutions of higher education and is one of the most important bases on which admissions decisions are made.

The personal statement represents a unique opportunity to tell universities about your passion for linguistics and why you’d like to spend at least the next three years studying this challenging and rewarding subject. Moreover, it allows you to convey an idea of who you are as a person to someone you’ve never met.

Of course, this isn’t a straightforward task. It’s likely you’ve been interested in language and how it works for a while, and people usually find self-reflection difficult at the best of times, so writing a good personal statement takes considerable effort.

That’s where this guide comes in. It will take you through the writing process step-by-step from beginning to end, and provide you some helpful tips along the way, including:

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

This is a reasonable question to ask given how much time and effort you’ll be putting into it. If you imagine you’re an admissions tutor who has to work through potentially hundreds of applications to study a particular subject, you’ll need to decide who to admit and on what basis.

Of course, grades count, as does performance at interview(s) if that forms part of the process, but the first and enduring impression you get of a student is what they choose to tell you. The statement is therefore an unrivalled opportunity to present yourself at your best and to convey your passion for linguistics and your motivation to learn more about this fascinating discipline. It’s also a way to tell a university that you have the capability to study a demanding subject at an advanced level and see it through to the end.


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What Should I Include in a Linguistics Personal Statement? 

Deciding what to include and exclude from a personal statement is one of the hardest parts of writing it. When you have only 4000 characters (including spaces) to play with, you want to make sure that what you include will maximise your chances of advancing through the admissions process.

The first point to note is in the name: personal. This means it’s about you and why you want to study linguistics at university. The second point to remember is that it’s all about what led you want to do this degree, not any other. And the third consideration when deciding what to include is relevance. You must be able to link whatever you talk about back to the study of linguistics at university, which is the reason you’re writing this in the first place.

With this in mind, the following points should give you an idea of what underpins a good personal statement:

Your Interest in Linguistics and Reasons for Studying It

While it’s not expected that you have studied any linguistics per se, an interest in language, how it works, how it has developed over time, and differences between languages is important to show.

It may be the case that a particular aspect of a foreign language you learned piqued your interest, or something about your own native language made you research language a bit more deeply. Whatever it is, it should be your personal motivation and reasons for wanting to learn more that you’re conveying in the statement.

Deeper Research

When applying to study a subject at university, especially one that’s not formally taught at school, it’s vital you demonstrate your pro-active research into the subject, so universities don’t think you’ve chosen it on a whim.

You can achieve this by reading widely around the subject and, fortunately for you, there is a huge amount of popular and accessible books written about language for non-experts. Reading some of these and some more academic works, including journal articles, is good evidence that you’ve taken the time to consider your choice.

Looking Forward

Naturally, universities would like to know you’re going to make the most of your time there. This means it’s a good idea to talk about what you’d like to participate in or contribute to, whether that’s founding your own society, taking modules in a particular area, or studying a new language at the language centre to strengthen your studies.

You should make the statement applicable to all universities, so mention only what is available at all your choices (most universities have societies devoted to individual languages). Admissions tutors also like to know if your degree choice is part of a longer-term plan, so if your intention is to become a speech therapist, for example, then now’s the time to mention it.

What Should I Avoid in a Linguistics Personal Statement? 

No personal statement should be tailored to any one university, unless you’re only applying to one. That means you need to keep it general enough but also relevant enough for universities to accept it as valid for their degree course. You shouldn’t, therefore, talk about how you’ve always dreamed of studying at one institution – even if you have!

Personal statements should also be direct and written in simple language to communicate your point as clearly as possible; this shouldn’t be a problem for you if you want to study linguistics.

Avoid clichés and pretentious language as these not only don’t impress, they also detract from the quality of your statement and distract the reader. Your statement should contain only what is relevant to you and to linguistics, so every time you think of mentioning something, ask yourself if this is the case; if it isn’t, don’t include it.

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Advice on How to Start a Linguistics Personal Statement  

Beginning any piece of writing is difficult, but this is especially the case for personal statements as they form such an integral part of your university application. As such, don’t be scared to begin somewhere in the middle; writing about your interests and your research can help slowly shape the introduction in your mind.

When you’re ready to start the beginning, make it direct and attention-grabbing, but not clichéd. It should convey your desire to study linguistics and/or your general interest in how language works, and leave the reader in no doubt what it is you’re proposing to study and why.

It can also sometimes help to make notes around the points you wish to include and keep a list of these, even if you don’t yet know where to put them, just so you don’t forget any. Remember: you only have 4000 characters (including spaces) to work with, so you won’t be able to include everything.


Advice on How to Finish a Linguistics Personal Statement  

When you finish reading something, your lasting impression is often formed by the ending. For this reason, it pays to conclude your statement well. You want to leave the reader in no doubt of your passion for linguistics, your motivation to study it to a higher level, and how capable a student you will be.

An effective way to do this is link the ending back to the start so you recapitulate (without repeating!) points in your introduction. This will reinforce to the reader why you’d be a good student to have on the course and one who will derive the maximum benefit from it.

Remember that your intention is to receive an offer of an interview or a place on the course, so your final words should be convincing and make the reader want to meet you to find out more.



Linguistics admissions tutors are likely the ones who will end up teaching you the subject, so they want to know you’ve thought deeply about it. Whatever your personal thoughts and insights, you should incorporate these into your statement; a good place is in the section on motivation and interest. After all, language is a fundamental part of being human, so you are already in a great position to reflect on it already.

As linguistics isn’t taught at school, the only way you could have delved into it is by yourself, in your own time. That already shows a pro-active and self-directed approach to learning, which should come out in your statement.

Needless to say, your wider reading should feature, but be selective; don’t list all books you’ve read on language and don’t turn it into a book review. Chances are, the person reading the statement has also read what you have.

The personal statement has a low character-limit (4000 including spaces or 47 lines of the form, whichever is reached first), so you should aim to use all that you’re given. Obviously don’t keep writing for the sake of it, as fewer words of quality will always be better than more of nonsense, but to do justice to yourself it’s advisable to make use of as much of the character-limit as possible.

When considering including activities, ask yourself how they relate to linguistics or advanced academic study. If you struggle to answer, then it’s likely not worth including as you have so few words at your disposal. It goes without saying that your relevant reading should be mentioned, but other activities like volunteering or work experience could be relevant if you want to make a point about time-management or a pro-active attitude.

Whilst you cannot make your statement to specific to any one university, there are certain things you can do to ensure Oxbridge tutors know you are thinking of them.

Linguistics at Oxford and Cambridge is interdisciplinary, so you’d have the chance to study everything from syntax and dialect to psycholinguistics and phonetics. With so much on offer, it’s a good idea to see what you’d like to study in particular, and to mention one or two areas, but make sure other universities offer them too.

Moreover, as Oxford and Cambridge have very strong historical linguistics departments looking at how languages have changed over time, so this may be an area to delve into further, if that’s your thing.

Book your Linguistics Personal Statement Package

You can contact our Oxbridge-graduate Consultants on +44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or email [email protected] to discuss our personal statement packages. 

If you’d like to know more about Linguistics, we have admissions test guidance and interview preparation readily available. 

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