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Personal Statement Guide


With the start of the new academic year upon us already, we also enter a new round of university applications. UCAS deadlines, especially those for Oxford and Cambridge, are fast approaching, and making sure everything you’re submitting in your form is in tip top condition should be the main priority for the weeks between now and the mid-October deadline. Perhaps the most important, and most notoriously difficult, part of the UCAS form is the personal statement. This can be a very difficult part of the application to finesse, especially since most students will never have written something like it before. With this in mind, we’ve brought together our senior consultants’ top pieces of advice on personal statement writing, from how to get started, to meeting Oxbridge expectations, to making yours stand out from the crowd.


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Getting Started

As difficult as a personal statement can be, getting started is often the most difficult part. You my spend hours, days, weeks, even, sitting thinking about what you could possibly say about yourself or your academic journey so far. It’s important to remember that feeling apprehensive like this is totally normal! The key to getting started is, perhaps obviously, to just start. This may sound silly to say, but it’s easy to get caught up wanting to read just one more book, or watch just one more documentary, but even if you’ve not got through all the material you wanted to, start getting ideas down on paper and the ideas will flow a lot more easily. Why not begin by making a list of all the things you want to mention in your personal statement? Getting your thoughts down in writing is a big first step, and we promise you’ll feel a lot better about the personal statement once this step is done.

Read more about getting started on your personal statement here

Matching Oxbridge Expectations

When writing your personal statement for top UK universities, it’s important to think not just about what you want to showcase about yourself, but also about what Oxbridge will want to see from you. The key thing to remember here is that Oxbridge, and other top UK universities, are not looking for someone who has a varied range of extracurricular clubs or is popular with their school friends or has won lots of different medals (even though these are all great achievements!) unless they are directly relevant to the subject you’re applying for. So our top tip on this front is to make sure that everything you say links back to a key skill or area of personal development that will help you in your future academic career. 

Oxbridge are also looking for someone who is going to enjoy a rigorous studying schedule and will show sufficient passion for their subject to put in the hours and hours of required effort to mastering it. This means that your personal statement needs to prove with hard evidence that you’ve got genuine interest in your subject. This could be through books you’ve read or talks you’ve been to; whatever it is, show that you’ve delved into the subject and are interested in it!

Oxbridge also want to see a critical side to your research and reading. This means that you’ve not just read the most revered books on the syllabus and can namecheck them, but that you’ve read them and have something interesting to bring to a discussion of their contents; do you agree with the author? How does the book make you feel? How does the contents reflect a wider issue within society or your subject area? Considering questions like these will help impress your admissions tutors and help your statement stand out. 

Read more about what Oxbridge want to see in your personal statement here


The Personal Statement is the first thing that universities will see about you. Get tailored support.

Standing Out

This brings us to the last key theme of this blog; standing out. This can be the trickiest part of the personal statement, since it can be so easy to work through a clear personal statement formula, mentioning all the right things as you go, but to still not achieve a place at your chosen uni. This is where making sure that you have interesting feature points, ideas, or experiences mentioned in the personal statement will help you stand out and get that illusive invitation to interview. Our top tip for this is to follow a general set structure, but within this to make sure you’ve got an interesting experience or unique idea to bring to your readings.

Begin by thinking of all the ‘evidence’ you have to show passion for your subject. This could be seminars you’ve attended, books you’ve read, awards you’ve won, anything along these lines that shows you’ve demonstrated interest in learning more about your subject. Then, and this is the key, develop these ideas further through reflection and further research. It’s not going to be enough to just name a TV show you watched or work experience you did, so think about what this experience meant to you, how it made you think/feel, and how it has impacted your opinions on your subject area. This is where great personal statements are made; in the analysis

Read more about making your personal statement stand out here and here

Sharing is caring

A final bonus top tip from our experts is to show your personal statement to as many people as possible for constructive criticism and feedback! As with anything, the more time and effort you put into your statement, the better it will be – so start now, and good luck!

Personal Statement FAQs

There is often a large amount of confusion surrounding how to write personal statements, especially when it comes to Oxford and Cambridge and other top research universities. Every year, we have thousands of students ask us what qualities go into making a successful personal statement. To help, we have broken down this question into 12 of the most frequently asked questions our prospective students ask when they are trying to draft their personal statements.


Read the FAQs here


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