Think carefully about how you want to structure your personal statement. If your argument flows naturally and follows a logical order, this will impress admissions tutors and show them that you will do well on their course. After all, it’s a skill that will come in very handy when it’s time to write your essays and sit your exams over the next three or four years.
Basic personal statement structure tips
- Use paragraphs. This can be tricky as it will eat into the 47 lines available to you so don’t use lots of paragraphs but try to have a few. This will make your personal statement easier for the admissions tutor to read than one large block of writing.
- Have a clear beginning, middle and end. This will make help your personal statement flow naturally. For help with how to begin your personal statement, read our article on writing your opening sentence and, for help with the rest of your personal statement, read our article on what to include in your personal statement.
- Use the ABC method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, what skills and qualities have come from it and how does it relate to the course?
- Keep it short and sweet. You’re limited to 4,000 characters (47 lines) so use short, concise sentences and delete any unnecessary words.
Structure your personal statement to best show off your examples
There is no one set way to structure your personal statement. However, consider putting the most relevant and unique examples of your skills and experience towards the start of your personal statement. This can be more effective than working through all your examples in chronological or reverse chronological order.
For example, if you’re applying to study history you’ll probably want to make sure the school trip you went on to Auschwitz in year 12 has centre stage, rather than feeling you need to start with examples from year 13 or from when you were doing your GCSEs.
Read our article on what to include in your personal statement for more help on what to write about.
The three section approach to your personal statement
If you’re still not sure how you want to structure your personal statement, you might find it helpful to loosely split your personal statement into three sections. Jonathan Hardwick is a former head of sixth form and now a professional development manager at Inspiring Futures, a provider of careers information, advice and guidance to young people. He explains: ‘Your personal statement should cover three things. These are:
- why do you want to study the course?
- what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
- what else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university?’
Section one: why do you want to study the course?
You need to explain to the admissions tutor your reasons for wanting to study this subject. If it’s a vocational course, such as nursing, think about what you like about this profession and why you think it’s the right career for you. If it’s an academic degree, such as geography or chemistry, why do you want to spend a long time studying this subject in detail? Think about what you’ve enjoyed so far and what you want to learn more about.
Section two: what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
This is the biggest part of your personal statement. You’ll need to draw on your experiences to explain why you think you’d be a good student on the course and how you’ve developed the skills and knowledge needed.
If it’s a vocational course, think about what you’ve done that shows you’re engaging with the profession. Now is the time to mention any relevant work experience or voluntary work that you’ve done.
If it’s an academic subject, show that you’re going beyond what your teacher is telling you to do. If you’re doing an EPQ (an extended project) or you’ve done lots of extra reading, for example, tell the admissions tutor what you’ve done and how this has prepared you for the course. Or if you’re applying for a creative course, such as drama or music, write about what you’ve done outside the classroom. For example, for a creative writing course you could mention your blog or the poetry competition in which you were shortlisted for a prize.
Section three: what else have you done?
‘As a rule of thumb, 75% of your personal statement should be about your studies and your justifications for applying and 25% should be about your extracurricular activities,’ says Emma-Marie Fry, an area director at Inspiring Futures. Emma manages the careers guidance team in London and the south-east and goes into schools to deliver support to students.
A quarter of a personal statement is 1,000 characters (around 11–12 lines), so aim to roughly devote this amount of space to what else you’ve done. This is your chance to write about what you’ve done that perhaps isn’t so related to the course but makes you an interesting and well-rounded person. This could include any hobbies you enjoy in your spare time, paid employment or volunteering.
‘It’s important that you demonstrate why these interests and experiences are relevant to your application (for example, to show that you are able to balance your studies with your commitments) rather than just listing them,’ says Dr Helen Moggridge, a lecturer in geography at the University of Sheffield. Use your examples to show that you’ve developed important skills that will help you thrive at university. Good skills to highlight include independence, time management and organisation. So, for example, a Saturday job as a waitress may have improved your communication skills as well as your ability to work under pressure and prioritise urgent tasks. These skills will help you communicate with your lecturers and peers on your course, as well as juggling your coursework and exams.
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UCAS Personal Statement
How to write a UCAS personal statement
A personal statement is part of your application to study at a UK university. In a personal statement, the student writes about what they hope to achieve on a UK university course, what they hope to do after the course and why they are applying to this particular university. It is your first chance to show a demonstrable passion and understanding of your chosen subject away from exam results.
Personal Statement Editing
We will edit your personal statement and ensure the English is clear and grammatically correct. Arrange a free consultation today to learn more.
What to include in your personal statement
- Your career aspirations
- How you became interested in studying the subject
- What, if any, relevant work experience you have undertaken that is related to the course or subject
- What aspects of your previous education you have found the most interesting
- What attracted you to the particular university
- Other relevant academic interests and passions which display positive character and personality
Genuine experiences of extra-curricular clubs, work experience or knowledge around a subject are much more likely to make your personal statement stand out, while admissions officers are also for looking for positive evidence of your character which will make you a productive member of the university
How long should my personal statement be?
The length of a personal statement varies depending on the university, but generally the average length for an undergraduate application is between 400-600 words, around one side of A4 paper or a maximum of 47 lines. Certain postgraduate programmes may require a 1000 word personal statement, but this will be clearly specified.
Try not to go over the given character limit as admissions officers have many personal statements to go through, and a clearly written and concise personal statement is more likely to stand out.
Common personal statement errors
- The personal statement is too short/long
- The personal statement does not include important information/includes negative information
- The personal statement has a confusing structure
It is also important to not lie about any aspect of your personal life and education history, or even exaggerate. Admissions officers will question you about almost all aspects of your application and are more than adept at getting to the bottom of any non-truths.
UCAS personal statement tips
- Express a passion for your subject
- Start the statement strongly to grab an admission officers attention
- Link outside interests and passions to your course
- Be honest, but don’t include negative information
- Don’t attempt to sound too clever
- Don’t leave it the last minute, prepare ahead of the deadline
- Have friends and family proof read it
- Don’t duplicate material from your CV/resume
In terms of presentation, attempt to create five clear paragraphs of text in a clear font such as Arial or Times New Roman, with a maximum size of 12.
How we can help
Once you have completed your personal statement, visit SI-UK in London or Manchester for a free consultation. We can edit your personal statement and ensure the English is clear and grammatically correct. Once this process is complete, we will return your personal statement within 1-3 working days.
Example personal statement
Please see below for an example of a personal statement to a Development Studies course.