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Personal statements can be a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, they all need to do the same things as each other, namely describe your interest in a subject, your motivation for studying it at university, and your readiness to undertake the course. On the other, they have to be unique to you and to stand out from all the others. It’s little wonder that students struggle to know how and where to begin.

It’s also understandable if the prospect of putting pen to paper is daunting, but the best way to approach it is not to delay but instead to look at the writing of it as you might an essay. There are certain requirements that it must fulfil, it needs to follow a structure, and it should be interesting and entertaining to read.

To dispel any concerns you might have about what to do and not do when writing your statement, this guide will take you through the following steps:

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

An application to a university is made up of several components, including predicted grades, teachers’ testimonials, and your personal statement. Where the personal statement differs from the other elements of the application is that it comes from you; no one else should be writing it because this is your opportunity to tell admissions tutors, in your own words, why you deserve a place on their course.

Predicted grades help to inform the tutors’ decisions, of course, and teachers’ testimonials tell them about you from their perspective, but the personal statement is the one opportunity to talk about your qualities from your own point of view, and to make the case for admission onto the course.

For these reasons, it’s important to be happy with your statement before submitting it, and to be sure it includes everything it needs to as you can’t write more than one per application. This is why it’s worth considering this advice and taking the time to get it right.


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What Should I Include in a Music Personal Statement? 

Degree courses in music are diverse in their content and broad in their outlook; available modules (or ‘papers’) can range from performance and transcription to ethnomusicology and conducting. Wherever your particular interests lie, you should present yourself as intellectually open to new avenues of musical exploration and be prepared to learn new skills.

The Many Sides of Music

The majority of students will have in-depth experience with the practice of music, for example through singing or playing an instrument. While performance is certainly an important component of music degrees, it’s far from the only one.

Universities will want you to look at the academic spectrum of music, and to have an interest in its history, cross-cultural differences, theory, practice, and applications. You should discuss how you have engaged with music in as many forms as possible and make clear what you have derived from that engagement. Come to some original views about what you’ve read and experienced, and be ready to talk about them at interview.

To help you build these opinions, and to prove your academic interests to the university, it's important to have consulted academically-relevant resources such as books, documentaries, concerts, lectures, and others. Your personal statement should mention the resources you found particularly interesting, as well as identifying which particular aspect of the resource piqued your interest and/or inspired you to delve further into the academic side of music. This will demonstrate your analytical and critical thinking to the university, as well as preventing your statement from becoming a mere list of books.

Interests and Aspirations

As this is a personal statement, it should focus on what you, on a personal level, find most exciting and interesting within music. That can range from its styles and practice to its history and therapeutic applications.

Moreover, try to bring in concrete examples of your musical experiences and aspirations; perhaps your interest in baroque music was piqued by a certain ostinato in Bach, or your desire to learn to conduct came from watching Sir Simon Rattle in action. As long as you’ve thought hard about them and express them clearly, your interests in music will come across as genuine and convincing.

Be Open-Minded

A degree in music will expose you to many disciplines you may not have considered or encountered before, including psychology, ethnography, physics, and anthropology. This means you shouldn’t present yourself as being shut off from exploring new ideas or the implications other fields of study and methodologies might have on our understanding of music.

To show your intellectual openness, you can discuss content from various aspects of music you have explored in your wider reading. Naturally, you will only have time to go into a few aspects in detail, but it's good to ensure that the areas you do focus on should be as varied and diverse as possible, whilst still genuinely reflecting your personal interests.


What Should I Avoid in a Music Personal Statement? 

Don’t just focus on the one or two aspects you’re most interested in, e.g. playing jazz piano or analysing the works of lesser-known German Romantic composers. As the degree is a broad one, show that you’re willing to learn about other areas and to acquire new skills.

The language of your personal statement should maintain a polite formality and avoid casual language. You should also never rely on banal clichés or other people’s words, i.e. quotations, because this is your chance to talk about you in your own words and way.

Above all else, don’t exaggerate and don’t lie; tutors can tell when abilities are overstated and books haven’t been read. This is especially important if you’re going for an interview or have to give a performance as questions will be asked.

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Advice on How to Start a Music Personal Statement  

One way to open your personal statement is to begin with why you’re compelled to study music at university and talk about how your interest has developed up to this point. It’s not necessary to trace your deep interest in music all the way back to the first piece you ever heard. It’s enough to mention a moment of recognition or realisation in your relationship with music that set you on this path.

If you don't want to begin at the chronological start of your musical journey, you could instead open with the area that most captures your interest. Use this as an opportunity to jump straight into an academic discussion and set the tone for the rest of your statement.

Universities want to see you’re going to maintain your interest and passion, but also that you can develop further as a musician and academic. It's difficult to encompass this in an opening statement, so sometimes it helps to brainstorm ideas around the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your choice, and only then begin to draft an interesting introduction.

Advice on How to Finish a Music Personal Statement  

A degree in music is going to expose you to so much more than you have encountered up to now in this field, so universities want to know this won’t be lost on you. If you feel so inclined, you can talk about various modules you like the look of (as long as each university in your application offers something similar) and what you think studying those will bring you.

The conclusion to an effective statement brings together your ideas, interests, motivation, and ambition to reiterate your desire to study music to an advanced level and your suitability to do so.


It’s likely that some of your music degree will involve working as part of groups, as well as independently. This reflects the music industry more widely as, whether it’s in a studio or an orchestra pit, musicians, composers, conductors, and sound technicians all have to work together to produce what you ultimately hear. Your statement should therefore reference the extent to which you’ve collaborated with others to achieve common goals, as well as what your own independent endeavours have produced.

A degree in music relies on a range of skills, many of which you’ll have started to develop at school. Examples of these include problem-solving, analysis, critical thinking, creative invention, an eye for detail, and performance under pressure. It’s not necessary to list all your skills and how you’ve acquired them, but mentioning how you’ve come by some and the ways they could be transferable to the academic study of music will enable you to demonstrate your readiness for the degree.

The personal statement cannot exceed 4000 characters (including spaces), or alternatively 47 lines of the UCAS form. It’s therefore paramount you make the most of all the available limit you’re given by working out in advance what you should include and exclude, based on how important you deem the information to be. When you start writing, it will become easier to work out how best to express your ideas concisely.

Naturally, your extracurricular engagement with music should be given space in the statement, but it’s not enough just to list what you do and to what level. Universities want to see how you’ve learned and grown as a student and musician, and whether you have the potential to develop even further. Over and above your musical competencies, it’s always worthwhile talking about instances where you’ve done something out of the ordinary, which might be leading a youth orchestra, playing the piano in a care home, or teaching music to toddlers. Finally, your reading and thoughts around the subject should always feature in the statement as this is a surefire way of demonstrating intellectual curiosity and independent thinking.

Whilst you cannot be too specific (since the same statement is sent to all your university choices), there are some styles and techniques you can employ to ensure your personal statement is Oxbridge-appropriate.

A main consideration to make is that the Oxford and Cambridge courses are expectedly broad, but give you scope to tailor your path to suit your interests. This means you have free rein, within reason, to choose modules that suit you. That said, the universities will want to see your willingness to learn what might not initially appeal to you, as this is a mark of a dispassionate and intellectually free approach to study. You shouldn’t, therefore, rule anything out either in your statement or interview, but rather maintain an open mind and be prepared to throw yourself into all that the course can offer.

Furthermore, Oxbridge personal statements should be incredibly discerning on content, and should only mention academically-relevant experiences or resources which prove either your interest, motivations, or skills relevant to the music degree course.

Book your Music 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 Music, we have admissions test guidance and interview preparation readily available. 

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