I’m feeling nostalgic at the moment. This time, 14 years ago, I was filling out my UCAS application form and toiling over my personal statement

Like many A Level students, it was the first time I had ever written anything like it. I felt woefully unprepared and a little out of my depth. Fortunately, I had a few excellent tutors (and some smart friends) to help me through it.

Nearly a decade later and it seems like very little has changed. The personal statement is as important as ever. 

After ensuring you meet the entry requirements, the personal statement is what many admissions officers use to firmly decide whether to give you a place. It’s your one and only opportunity to impress, so it’s vital you get it right.

How can you do that? By making sure you include these ten things.

1. Give your reasons for wanting to study the course

Show the admissions tutors that you have a real passion for your subject from the first line. 

You can talk about how your interest developed and demonstrate that you are committed and enthusiastic.

Talk about the wider reading and related extra-curricular activities you do too. If you’re hoping to study computer sciences and you make video games in your spare time, let it be known!

2. Show that you’re a good fit 

Having the right grades isn’t enough (though it’s definitely a great start). There are thousands of students with similar grades competing for the same course. How do you stand out? Why should the university pick you?

Use your personal statement to show what skills, knowledge and experience you can bring to the course and university in general. Demonstrate that you’re prepared to get stuck in to all areas of university life. 

But most importantly, let them know that you are ready and willing to learn and that you understand what studying at university will involve. 

3. Talk about your interests outside of academia

Your hobbies, interests and extra-curricular activities are a big part of who you are, so include them in your personal statement. Don’t simply list them off though; explain how they have made you a more rounded person. 

For example, does being part of a football team require you to learn how to manage your time better? Did volunteering at the local homeless shelter teach you anything? Does your Saturday job make you more responsible?

You don’t need to write about all your hobbies; just those that you feel will add something to your application

4. Let your personality shine

Don’t be quirky for the sake of being quirky or drop inappropriate jokes, but do let your personality shine through. 

Be honest, open and original. Let the personal statement be a reflection of who you are as an individual. 

If you have any unusual interests, talk about them! If you have a unique perspective on your subject, include it! Admissions officers read hundreds of personal statements every year, make yours the one they remember.

5. Be honest

Do not write that you are fluent in German if you can only say “Good morning” in German.

Do not write that you are good at problem-solving if your only example is being able to carry four plates at a time. If you are good, then you are good the way you are.

There is no need to create a false image, and indeed the truth will always come out sooner or later, especially if you are invited to interview.

6. Focus on your strengths

In these 4,000 characters you are trying to sell yourself to the university. This isn't a huge amount of space, so you need to be concise and use the space wisely.

You should write about your experiences, your knowledge and your future plans. Don't write, “I wanted to learn French but I gave it up after a week” or “I am not very good at maths, but that's not surprising when it's so boring.”

7. Write a great opening sentence

Starting with something funny, interesting, unusual or surprising will give a good first impression and grab the tutor's attention. Don't try to be funny, or put down the first thing that comes into your head.

Take time to think about it. Is there a relevant life experience you can use that sparked your interest in the subject? Or a particular aspect of the subject you really enjoy?

8. Avoid cliches

Following on from the previous point, don't include any cliches or overused sentences such as "from a young age", or "I've always been interested in", especially as an opening sentence.

Admissions tutors won't be impressed and it certainly won't make your application stand out from the crowd!

Remember - they have hundreds of UCAS forms to look through, so your statement needs to contain some golden nuggets of information that will make them want to read the whole thing straight away!

9. Proofread your statement

Your parents, teachers, friends and family are all people you can call on to look through your statement and provide constructive feedback.

The more people you show it to, the more comments you will get, and the better the final version will be.

Of course, some advice will be better and some less so, but it is easier to ask many people first, and decide what suggestions you want to incoporate, and what to leave out.

Reading it out loud will also help a lot. It will help identify vague, incoherent parts, or areas you want to amend, or include more/less detail about.

10. Submit in plenty of time

After putting in all that hard work, don't forget to add your personal statement to your UCAS application in enough time to submit it.

If you're applying to Oxbridge, this will need to be by the 15th October. For all other universities, the deadline is 15th January to garuantee your application will be considered.

Any UCAS forms received after this don't have to be considered by your chosen universities, so make sure you don't leave your personal statement to the last minute. It takes longer than you think to put together a successful statement!

Further information

For more tips and advice on writing your personal statement, please see:

You may also find my eBook guides useful, all available on Amazon Kindle:

If you have any comments, questions or feedback on my post, please pop them below!