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Writing a personal statement is not simple, as it demands a lot from you. It requires you to be introspective and analytical about your opinions, interests, and motivations. It wants you to show yourself to your best advantage without coming across as arrogant and boastful. It asks you to convince people you’ve never met to offer a place on their course to someone they have little knowledge of. All of this in 4000 characters or fewer? Not so easy.

This guide is designed to help you navigate this challenging, but hopefully ultimately rewarding, task by taking you through what makes a good and a not-so-good psychology personal statement. It will give you a very good idea of what a personal statement is and isn’t, as well as what admissions tutors are looking for, and how to present yourself in the best light. The guide will lead you through the following points:


Why are Personal Statements Important? 

A personal statement represents you, your interests and your motivations to your selected universities. Some universities don’t interview candidates, so for those prospective students it’s the one and only chance they get to make the case for their admission onto their chosen courses. Even for those candidates who are interviewed, the personal statement forms an enduring impression of the individual to the admissions tutors and is often used to direct the conversation in the interview itself.

That’s why it’s vital that you know your statement inside out, are able to talk further about everything that’s in it, and don’t invent anything.  For these reasons, putting good preparation into the personal statement is incredibly important.

For a psychology personal statement to be effective, it should be about you and why you wish to study psychology at university, as well as how you came to be interested in the subject. It should inform whoever reads it of your suitability for your proposed course of study and your longstanding interest in it.


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What Should I Include in a Psychology Personal Statement? 

Your statement should be a tailored and curated account of your passion for the subject and a justification for wanting to study it at university. Without explaining to the admissions tutors what psychology is, you should demonstrate that you know what it is and that you have an understanding of its scientific aspects, such as statistics and experimentation. You also need to demonstrate a well-founded commitment to the subject, which has a sound rather than unstable basis.

In short, the admissions tutors want to know that you know what you’re signing up for and that you’ll enjoy it.

Showing Evidence of Commitment

Universities want to see that you’ve looked into the course you’ve chosen to study and know what it entails. This is important, as everyone wants to ensure that applicants hit the ground running once they begin the course itself. Mentioning certain topics or areas of psychology (offered by all the courses to which you are applying) is a good way to do this. Another way to show your commitment is to demonstrate that you've undertaken extra research outside of the classroom, which could be anything from reading a thought-provoking journal article to speaking to a clinical psychologist.

Demonstrating a Range of Interests

Psychology is a broad science with many diverse sub-disciplines. Your motivation for studying the subject can be evidenced by concrete examples of your exploration of these different areas through reading, attending lectures, or listening to podcasts.

Psychology also reaches into so many aspects of life, so if you’ve volunteered or worked somewhere that allowed you to draw on your interest in the subject, then mention that too. The universities will want you to connect those experiences to your decision to study the subject.

Answering 'Why?'

It’s never easy to explain why you like what you like, but it’s paramount that you express why you’re interested in psychology in general, and in studying it at university in particular. What is it about the subject that really fascinates you? Was your fascination brought on by a certain experience that made you want to find out more?

This may or may not have been encouraged by learning in the classroom, but whatever the reasons behind your interest, ensure you can put them across convincingly as this will set you apart from others who may be applying on a whim.

What Should I Avoid in a Psychology Personal Statement? 

While personal statements should be personal to you, yours should not be about your own psychological or mental health history. Even if some or all of your motivation for studying the subject stems from this, it would be inappropriate to state as much since you should retain a scientifically objective interest in the formal academic subject beyond how it might be relevant to you personally.

You should also avoid talking about how the degree might help you to understand your own mentality or psychological health as this isn’t a guaranteed outcome of the course, and could suggest you’ve misunderstood what it involves.

Remember to maintain a formal, professional, and academic detachment and tone throughout.

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Advice on How to Start a Psychology Personal Statement  

The start of your personal statement should set out why you’re interested in the subject and why you’d like to study it at university.

You should always avoid using quotations or clichés as these come across as hackneyed; instead, use simple and straightforward language that is appealing and memorable. You want to create a good impression through your own words, not someone else’s.

If you’re struggling with the first line, it might help to draft some reasons for your interest and motivation separately and incorporate these later. Once you have begun, make sure your statement follows a sensible order and that its structure is clear from reading it.


Advice on How to Finish a Psychology Personal Statement  

Like with the initial impression from the statement’s introduction, the final impression made on the reader should be a positive one that excites them and leaves them with a genuine sense of who you are and why you’re applying.

Without repeating what you’ve already said, you should try to emphasise the extent of your interest and why you’d like to study psychology. Plans for how you'd like to expand your academic performance at university can come into this section, as can any ambitions the degree could assist you with further down the line.

The important point to remember is that you want to leave the reader thinking it would be the best course of action to invite you to an interview or make you an offer


Refine your interests by looking into the broad areas of psychology that most universities will offer, e.g. developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, etc. Do some research into what appeals most to you through books and articles, and take notes so you can highlight your own personal informed interests where appropriate throughout the statement. This will give a much better impression than repeating what you know from your school syllabus.

Try to mention in the statement the academic skills you already possess and how these might equip you for success during the degree, e.g. your mathematical competency for dealing with statistics, or your experimental experience in the sciences. If you’ve won any academic prizes or awards, then by all means mention them but only if they’re made relevant to your ultimate study of psychology.

Your statement will be restricted to 4000 characters (including spaces) or to 47 lines of the UCAS form, whichever you reach first. Needless to say, such a limit makes every word count even more than usual, so it’s best to try to use all 4000 characters to express everything you need to. Create a list of points you want to include and tick them off to ensure you don’t omit anything.

So many activities you do outside the classroom will be underpinned by psychology, e.g. playing or coaching sports, gaming, and interacting with animals to name a few. Anything you do mention should go towards establishing your profile as a capable and skilled potential student of psychology, but these activities don’t necessarily need to relate directly – they could teach you different skills that would come in useful during the degree, such as research skills or empathy. Any mention of non-academic pursuits should be kept to a minimum and always related back to the subject you intend to study.

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

Oxford and Cambridge value intellectual curiosity, an appreciation of interdisciplinary interest, and flexible thinking that allows you to test ideas. It’s therefore advisable to consider what evidence you have of these attributes which you can incorporate into your statement. Good examples of this would be challenging current ways of thinking, going beyond the confines of your school syllabus, or conducting an experiment with surprising results. In addition, given the system of small group teaching at the two universities and the onus they place on independent study, showing some evidence of academic autonomy would help to prove your suitability for their courses.

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

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