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Writing a Personal Statement

Northumbria’s ultimate guide to writing an undergraduate personal statement. 

The Personal Statement in the UCAS application is all about you but it’s also an opportunity to tell universities why you want to study there and why you want to study a particular subject. 

 

Why is a Personal Statement important?

There are some courses where you may have to have an interview, or provide a portfolio, but for many courses, universities make their decisions solely on your UCAS application - and the personal statement is your chance to sell yourself. 

Read our current student Emma's hints and tips on writing your personal statement. 

What should you include in your Personal Statement?

This will depend on the courses you want to study. Generally, universities want to know how your current studies have shaped your decision and what experiences you've gained. They want to know what interests you about the subject area, and whether you have a long-term career goal.

Ultimately, they want to learn about you - your extra-curricular activities, what you do in your spare time, any relevant work/volunteer experience, and any other achievements.

You should use this opportunity to demonstrate the transferable skills and attributes you have gained from inside and outside of school/college. For instance, if you're a good maths student, you're likely to have good analytical skills and problem-solving abilities. If you are part of a sports team, you’re likely going to have good teamwork skills.

If you're not sure where to start, scribble down a list of what you've done, and pick out the most relevant parts.

If you are applying to a Health Course such as Nursing, we want to know that you understand the career and the skills and values needed to succeed in it, so make sure you do your research.

Things to include:

  • Hobbies
  • Qualifications
  • Volunteering
  • Books or articles you’ve read
  • Subjects you’ve studied
  • Personal qualities (communication, leadership, organisation etc.)
  • Your future goals

A personal statement’s maximum length is 4,000 characters. So, a page or two at most. 

Any tense is fine. Present tense may read more naturally and show active enthusiasm for your subject. 

Some people believe that personal statements, cover letters, and CVs, should avoid the use of first-person pronoun “I”. While it’s reasonable to not over-use “I” (or any repeated word for that matter) it may often be the best way for you to articulate your sentence in the right way – so don’t worry. A few “I”’s here and there isn’t going to be a problem. 

Keep the language clear and straightforward. Don’t overcomplicate your content. If you do find yourself struggling for varied adjectives, a thesaurus (or more likely thesaurus.com) should be your go-to. However, if you don’t understand the word or wouldn’t use it naturally, then avoid it. However, it can help your memory working when stuck.

Similarly, say it with conviction. Avoid hedging terms like ‘might’ - believe in yourself! You ‘will’ be good for this course, you ‘do’ have passion for the subject, and you ‘will’ strive to achieve your career goals. 

Tips for constructing your personal statement

  • Keep it focused - Don't waffle and avoid using unnecessary quotes or statements.
  • Keep it relevant - Don’t list everything you have ever done if it’s not relevant.
  • Keep it organised – make sure it’s clear, concise, and logical.
  • Keep it authentic – Don’t embellish or copy. Make sure you could talk about anything in your statement.
  • Keep it neutral – You only get one statement for all universities.
  • Avoid cliches - Phrases such as 'for as long as I can remember' may sound good but they can sound cliched and at times simply aren't true.
  • Be enthusiastic – show some enthusiasm for what you want to do.
  • Back up your statements - For instance, if you find something interesting, don’t just say that, explain why.
  • Get it checked – Have someone read it over before you submit.

The start of your personal statement should grab the reader’s attention. Lay down the foundation of why you are the right candidate for the course and make the reader to know more. Be careful, though, avoid cliché lines or OTT explanations - University’s read hundreds of personal statements each year, so you need to stand out while keeping their attention.  

End as strong as you started. Make a lasting impression, your conclusion needs to highlight everything you have mentioned. Link everything back to your degree and why you should study it. Explain what makes you special and why you would be a perfect addition to the campus.

Once you’ve written, proof-read and had your personal statement checked, you might feel ready to submit it.  Your personal statement gets added to your UCAS application when you apply and must be added before the deadline.

Remember, your personal statement can’t be changed once it’s been submitted so make sure you’re 100% satisfied before you add it into the application. If you have extra materials to add, you can contact your university directly, and they will decide whether additional materials are necessary. 

Your personal statement should be written and added to your UCAS application before you submit. This means, if you’re applying this year to start next year, you will need to write your personal statement this year.

If you intend to gain experience, travel, or study more between that time, include details of this in your personal statement and explain how that will make you a suitable candidate. Alternatively, you could start a new application next year which details everything you achieved during your year away from education. 

Good luck!


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