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Your personal statement satisfies a number of checkboxes for Admissions Tutors. It’s the first opportunity to give them the chance to meet the real you. You can demonstrate a passion to study your intended subject, show what you are capable of bringing to the university and faculty and prove why you are the applicant that should be offered a place.

As you only have a limited space to express yourself – just 4,000 characters or 47 lines in the UCAS box (whichever limit you reach first) which is equivalent to just over a full typed page of A4 – you need to make every included sentence count. It’s important to remember you only get to write one personal statement that will be sent to all your over university choices. Your statement needs to be tailored as much as you can to each of the courses you are applying to as you don’t want tutors to doubt your commitment to their university and course. 

There is one guarantee when writing a personal statement – you won’t get a quality, polished personal statement on your first attempt. In fact, it often takes many drafts, lots of editing and plenty of late-night spurs of inspiration to get a strong personal statement that encourages offers from your preferred universities. To assist you in getting started, we’ve gathered together the following useful tips that will lead you in the right direction and help you to get to grips with how to write a great personal statement for university. 

What should you include?

It’s called a personal statement but that doesn’t mean Admissions Tutors want a complete timeline of your life from childhood. They want to see the best side of your academic self, your passion for the course and subject you are applying to and an overview of your academic achievements that are relevant to your subject. In your personal statement, it’s beneficial to include;

  • Any subject-related work experience you have completed or intend to carry out
  • Any courses or lectures you have attended that advanced your knowledge
  • Demonstrations of your interest extending beyond the classroom environment
  • A relevant list of book, articles and essays you have read

Try to avoid simply listing the things you have done and instead, try to show how your reading and experiences have expanded your knowledge and developed your interests and understanding of your chosen subject. Relevant extra-curricular activities and achievements should also get a mention however, how much space you dedicate to this section is dependent on the university you are applying to. For students applying to Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial universities, extra-curricular activities should be kept to a footnote mention with a greater focus on your academic achievements. Students that are applying to universities such as Loughborough will need to include their extra-curricular achievements in more detail. These universities look at what you can bring to the faculty as a whole and supporting extra-curricular activities can show you will be a good fit. 

How do you start?

Starting your personal statement can be done in a million ways and is often the part that many students get stuck on. There is no correct way to start your statement off, some applicants choose to begin with a quote that is relevant to their interests while others open with an anecdote that provides insight into where their curiosity for the subject has come from. 

How you open will set the tone for the rest of your personal statement, including establishing your enthusiasm and interest in your subjects and providing the Admissions Tutor with an introduction to your personality. Never use someone else’s words or pretend to be someone else in your personal statement, the Admissions Tutors will quickly see through this and with only a short space to express your true academic self, you don’t want to waste space on other’s content. We recommend speaking as though you were speaking to your headteacher, in a clear, mature tone that retains a sense of who you are as an individual. 

How do you finish?

Finishing your personal statement can be as hard as finding the right words for your introduction. The final paragraph doesn’t have to be long or expansive, but simply enough to round off your statement and summarise your interest and dedication to your chosen subject. This part may need some reworking after 4,000 characters of blowing your own trumpet so get plenty of feedback to avoid getting carried away and coming across too arrogant or self-assured in your outro!

Is there anything to avoid?

Your personal statement is submitted alongside your UCAS form, so there is no need to rehash or revisit certain details such as your A-Levels or GCSE grades. Avoid mentioning anything that is readily available to the Admissions Tutors and instead, use the space to focus on selling your own subject interest and dedication. 

Aim to remain positive in your personal statement as you are selling your achievements and showing off why you are going to be a good choice for the university, so you should avoid using this space to explain potential disagreements that influenced your grade or reasons behind extended periods of leave. 

If there is further information that you feel is beneficial for the Admissions Tutors to know, you should talk to your teacher about including a note in the reference section of your UCAS form. Admission Tutors prefer to read this from the teacher’s point of view and it ensures you can use your personal statement space for the things that matter – the achievements, interests and eagerness that universities are looking for. 

Final advice

After potentially spending days, weeks and even months drafting, editing and reworking your personal statement, proof-reading may not seem like an exciting activity but it is absolutely essential. Typos can and do regularly change our opinion of a piece and its author, even if it is something minor in an otherwise engaging and informative article, so it’s key to ensure your personal statement is without grammatical flaws. 

Admission Tutors are likely to be strict on accuracy and grammar and to ensure your personal statement ticks the right boxes. We recommend asking your teachers, friends and parents to read over and proof-read your personal statement a few times. A further tip we can offer is to begin with the last sentence and work your way through your personal statement backwards, sentence by sentence. This ensures you can focus on the individual sentence and its accuracy and grammar, rather than getting distracted by the full statement. 

From all of us at Oxbridge Applications, we wish you the best of luck with your personal statement. It can be tricky, but look at it as your first challenge to university life and use this opportunity to talk about your best and most interesting subject – you!

Writing a personal statement for Oxford and Cambridge? We explore some of the frequently asked questions about Oxbridge personal statements in our 12 Personal Statement FAQs and answers article.

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