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Who, Where, Why, What, When?

Trying to sum up your skills, knowledge and interests in 4000 characters might sound daunting, but if you do your research and use a template, it’s a straightforward process. Our top statement-writing tips are below. You’ll also find links to useful resources to help you as you go.

Who am I writing for?

Your statement will go to the admissions tutors at the universities you apply for. They are responsible for reading applications and working with the teaching staff to decide who will be offered an interview and/or a place. They want to know why you want to study a particular subject, what skills and experience you have, and what you hope to gain from your degree.

Where should I go?

Every year lots of students start writing their statement before they’re sure what they want to study and where they want to go. This can make writing your statement much harder as it’s almost impossible to decide what to include if you don’t know where you want to go.

Only you can decide which course is right for you, but researching your options is essential. If you are looking for more information about how to choose a course, and a university, head over to our decision-making page to find a range of resources, or check out this blog.

Why am I writing a statement?

Universities receive more applications than there are places available on their courses. Your personal statement contains all the information (other than your grades and qualifications) that you want the admissions tutors to know. It’s your opportunity to share your personality, knowledge and skills, which in turn help us to decide to offer you a place.

What should be in my statement?

A successful statement has structure, so organising your statement under appropriate headings is worthwhile. The following headings could help you get started;

  • Academic skills and experience (current studies) - start with the subject most relevant to the degree you are applying for
  • Why you want to study this subject/what you hope to gain from your degree
  • Relevant work experience
  • Other relevant skills and experience e.g. part-time work or extra-curricular activity
  • Personal qualities

Don’t forget to tie everything to your chosen degree path – if you can’t think of a way to relate certain experiences or interest to your degree, you can leave them out.

Once you’ve got your headings sorted, make a list of what you want to include and arrange it under the headings. Once you have something under every heading, that’s your first draft done.

When should I start?

As soon as possible!

Strong personal statements aren’t written in a day. Give yourself time for each stage of the process. If possible, take a day or two between drafts (making sure you meet your school, college or employer deadlines of course) as you’re more likely to see typos and possible improvements with fresh eyes.

Resting between drafts will also help you avoid common pitfalls such as repeating yourself. It’s tempting to write the same important point in a range of different ways. Not only is this a waste of valuable space, but personal statements are fairly short, so you don’t have to worry about the admissions tutors forgetting what you said earlier in the statement. If you have said something once, that’s enough.

What else?

Carefully consider your use of language. There’s no such thing as perfect statement, but you need to sound like the best version of yourself.

Once you’re ready to start writing, it can be tempting to use overly-complicated language (you want to sound impressive after all), but this may make your statement sound stiff and formal. Whilst it’s vital that your statement is well-written, it’s also your opportunity to share a little of your personality with the admissions team, so it’s even more important that you sound like yourself. If your enthusiasm and commitment are obvious, you’ll sound impressive, and rightly so.

Getting started. Avoid sentences like ‘I have been passionate about animal welfare since an early age’ as they aren’t particularly effective in demonstrating your commitment to your subject area. Be specific and provide examples e.g. 'I have been interested in studying biology since completing my work experience at an animal shelter last year’. Don’t be tempted to apologise for skills or experience you don’t have; insteasd, focus on what you have done, and explain how you hope to extend your learning further. In short, keep it positive!

Check. Your statement may take several weeks to complete, and it can become hard to spot mistakes, this is where enlisting the help of friends, relatives and your tutors can be very useful. Asking someone else to read your statement will help you to find any mistakes, and they may be able to offer suggestions for improvement.

Reading your statement out-loud may sound odd, but is one of the most effective ways to that your statement ‘flows’ well.

Draft. Keep going until you get it right –drafting, checking for mistakes and asking other people for their input is all part of the process.

You can find further resources to help you with your statement on our website.

Good luck!


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