Blog post

How to write a personal statement

By Tamzin Burch - 21 October 2021

Not to panic you or anything, but a personal statement is quite a big part of your application for university, and it often gets overlooked by students as something not that important. Spoiler alert: it is so important!

It shows the university you’re applying to who you are as an individual. It outlines what you’re about, your personality, interests, hopes, and dreams… it shows who you are when you look past the predicted grades or previous qualifications. It’s the heart and soul of your application. This is why it’s so integral to the application process, even if it seems lengthy, annoying or like you’re just bigging yourself up. (You are bigging yourself up. It’s an invitation to flex.) 

I still remember the opening line of my personal statement and I haven’t read it back in years. The reason why I still remember it is because I spent so much time mulling over it. It started with, “What makes a good personal statement?” because that’s exactly what I was trying to do, believe it or not. I was trying to make it good, and I wanted it to “stand out”. I followed up with, “It’s like asking a marketer, what makes a good piece of copy?” or something along those lines. I wanted to exemplify that I was creative, as that is crucial for my course, and that I had a great understanding of the topic at hand which was marketing.

I am a keen writer, so I wanted to show my skills there, and use rhetoric to hopefully persuade whichever admissions officer it was that was reading my statement, that I was a good fit for Derby. Luckily, they must have thought so, seeing as I am here now, and writing this. 

Advice #1 – personal 

My main piece of advice when it comes to writing a personal statement is to make it personal. The clue is in the name. No, you don’t need to tell your whole life story, but it’s nice to have your personality shine through, your uniqueness. It sets you apart from the rest, you’ll be remembered for all the right reasons and the admissions officer won’t be bored reading it.

Think of how many personal statements they must-read. Don’t add to any boredom they may face. Make it factual, but entertaining, gripping and interesting. Why not discuss what you get up to in your spare time, detail a cool hobby that you find yourself doing on the weekends? Side note: Keep it appropriate, I am not sure the antics of your Friday night down town is classed as a “cool hobby”. Maybe you go rock climbing with your friends or run a book club?

Advice #2 – proof 

My second piece of advice would be to get someone to proofread it. I asked my best friend who also happens to have a PhD in Rhetoric and English to read mine and she came back with some great advice and pointers, which I applied without losing my tone of voice or character. I also got a couple of other opinions on it, from my mum and work colleague, to make sure it really represented me in the best light possible.  

Advice #3 – specific 

My third piece of advice would be to make it specific to the course you’re applying for. If you’re applying for Zoology, talk about your passion for animals and the kinds of modules you most look forward to! If you’re applying for Marketing, talk about your love for marketing and all the work experience you hope to secure. This shows that you are a great fit for the course and that you’ve done your research into what the degree and university will entail, showing both your commitment and interest. 

All in all, your personal statement is a reflection of you. It’s your chance to explain or elaborate on any areas in your application and can make or break a university’s offer to you. Celebrate your previous wins and explain how you plan to learn from any other experiences you may have faced. Believe in yourself and believe that you will be an asset to any institution, and you will flourish. I just know that whichever university you apply for, they will be lucky to have you. And if it’s Derby, I hope to see you soon. 

About the author

Tamzin standing next to a river, smiling.

Tamzin Burch
Marketing, PR and Advertising student

I am a current student, studying Marketing, PR and Advertising, whilst also working part-time in marketing. I am passionate about writing, marketing, travelling, feminism, higher education, student employability, mental health, plant-based food, animals, and 70's music!