Blog post

13 ways to perfect your personal statement

8 things to include – and 5 phrases to avoid – when writing your personal statement

By Sarah Little - 4 October 2016

If you’re applying for an undergraduate course at university, putting the ‘personal’ in your UCAS personal statement is going to need some of your amazing brain power and quite a lot of your precious time.

You need to stand out from the thousands of other applications your chosen institution is going to receive over the next few months. The last thing you want is to look like everybody else who wants to study law…or nursing…or geology…

So you’re really determined to land that offer at your favourite uni?

Read on for our 8 things to include in your personal statement, but first:

5 phrases TO AVOID in your UCAS personal statement opening lines:

Right, we’ve covered those and you now know what university admissions tutors don’t want to read. So, what do you include?

Here are 8 things TO INCLUDE in your personal statement:

Why do you want to study the course?

Be specific – what really makes you want to study this subject further at a university level? This should be your opening paragraph. Talk about how your interest developed and demonstrate your enthusiasm for it.

What have you done outside of the classroom and why is it relevant?

Here you can talk about any additional reading around your chosen subject you’ve done, giving your opinions about it. Also, you can reflect on your volunteering experience, work placement, theatre visit or summer school – it all counts towards demonstrating your interest in your chosen degree subject.

Don’t just describe your experience, reflect on it. What did you learn? What can you apply to your course or chosen career?

Is there a specific career or job you want to go on to do? What’s your end goal?

Show that you’ve thought about this. What will this course enable you to do? Explain your career plan and why you want to be a maths teacher, occupational therapist, marketing manager etc. You can also talk here about going on to study a masters degree if your chosen career requires you to have a postgraduate level qualification.

Highlight the transferable skills you have

And yes, you do have them! It could be your problem-solving skills that are important for your course, or your leadership skills that you’ve gained that will make you stand out. Make sure you include them and how they will help you when you get to university.

Demonstrate you’re a critical thinker

Your chosen degree course will require you to think analytically, and if you are able to show that you are already able to do, this will help you to stand out. Think about how your A-level assignments or a work placement you’ve undertaken has enabled you to work and think independently.

Talk about how you’re right for the course

Do you fit the selection criteria for you chosen subject? If so, explain how. You also need to demonstrate that you’ve researched the course or profession.

Show that you understand what studying the subject at university level will involve, and how you’re prepared for this.

What makes you unique

This could be extra-curricular activities you take part in or how you’ve had to overcome personal challenges to get to where you are now. Think outside the box!

Finish where you started

An effective technique to close your personal statement is to link your opening sentence with your final paragraph. This reinforces what you said at the beginning, demonstrating that you really do want to study your chosen course.

And now we’re going to finish where we started. If you’re applying to university to you need to stand out from the crowd and make your personal statement memorable.

About the author

Sarah Little
Digital Content Officer

Digital Content Officer at the University of Derby, responsible for creating and publishing innovative content across our websites, blogs, and social media channels.