How to write the perfect personal statement

Applying for a place at university or college requires as much thought and preparation as any job application. (Picture By Simon Hulme)
Applying for a place at university or college requires as much thought and preparation as any job application. (Picture By Simon Hulme)
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Applying for a university or college place takes as much thought and preparation as any job application.

Personal statements are important because they give prospective students their chance to persuade colleges and universities to accept them on their courses.

Course tutors use personal statements to compare applicants so students need to try and make theirs stand out.

Personal statements are now part of the application process run by the University and College Admission Service, but with thousands of candidates applying each year, it can be difficult for individual students to make their mark and stand out from the crowd.

Every word in the personal statement has to count­ but, if that sounds daunting, there is plenty of advice on hand to help students through the process.

Elizabeth Archer, now 22, took advantage of all the advice and help she could find when it came to applying to study English literature and language at Newcastle University.

“Our teachers started helping us in year 13 and advised us every step of the way. It was also useful to talk to other students who had been down the same road a couple of years ahead of me and to go to university open days and talk to admissions tutors about what they were looking for. I knew it was important to present myself and my skills in the best possible way.

Elizabeth, who lives in Ilkley, said she felt it was important to tailor the statement towards the course she wanted to study and to the particular the modules she was interested in.

“I wanted to emphasise that I was passionate about the subject and also what I would bring to the university. I included reasons why I wanted to study there, my hobbies and interests, work experience and the skills that I gained.

“Lastly it is very important that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Check your statement thoroughly and ask someone else to check it too.

“I tried to showcase my strengths and show why I should be offered a place on the course.”


• Personal statements are specific to each course and take a lot of effort, so make sure the one you are applying for is definitely what you want to do.

• Have a brainstorming session before getting started. List bullet points of why you want to take the course, what relevant experience you have, any research you have done on the subject as well as details of hobbies, interests or any special achievements.

• Be positive. Emphasise your experience and transferable skills.

• Be relevant and avoid flowery language and clichés. Do not show off -­ it will make you sound arrogant - and do not waffle.

• Ask as many people as possible to read through your statement to check for mistakes or omissions.

• Work on numerous drafts until you have a copy you are really happy with.

• Read example personal statements if you find them helpful ­ but DO NOT copy from them.

• Emphasise how excited you are about the course and show that you will be 100 per cent committed to studying.

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