What is a personal statement?
A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It’s a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.
What to write about
You’re telling admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college.
It’s important to remember you can only write one personal statement – it’s the same for each course you apply for. So, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name.
If you’ve chosen similar subjects, talk about the subject in general, and try not to mention courses titles. If you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, just write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Look at course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experience it requires – you can use these to help you decide what to write about.
- Tell the reader why you’re applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.
- Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you’ve gained from education, work, or other activities.
- Include any clubs or societies you belong to – sporting, creative, or musical.
- Mention any relevant employment experience or volunteering you’ve done, such as vInspired Awards, Step Together, or Project Trust.
- If you’ve developed skills through Duke of Edinburgh, ASDAN, National Citizen Service, the Crest Awards scheme, or young enterprise, tell them.
- If you took part in a higher education taster course, placement, or summer school, or something similar, include it.
- If there are any personal circumstances which have affected your educational performance, outline them in your personal statement. For example, this might be something that caused you to miss school - such as a physical or mental health condition, or caring for a family member.
- If your personal circumstances have affected your qualification choices, you can mention this in your personal statement. For example, a change of school which did not offer the same options, or having gained non-different qualifications, skills and experience to many other people (e.g. through the Armed Forces).
- If you have suffered financial hardship during your studies (e.g. received a bursary to cover the costs of your education), you can let the university know about that here.
If you have a question about writing your personal statement, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Here are some useful blogs to help:
International and EU students
Refugees and asylum seekers
How to write it
Your personal statement should be unique, so there’s no definite format for you to follow here – just take your time. Here are some guidelines for you to follow, but remember your personal statement needs to be ‘personal’.
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise, and natural style – nothing too complex.
- Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes, or anything unusual – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
- Structure your info to reflect the skills and qualities the unis and colleges value most – use the course descriptions to help you.
- Check the character and line limit – you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines. Some word processors get different values if they don’t count tabs and paragraph spacing as individual characters.
- Proofread aloud, and get your teachers, advisers, and family to check. Then redraft it until you’re happy with it, and the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.
We recommend you write your personal statement first, then copy and paste it into your online application once you're happy with it. Make sure you save it regularly, as it times out after 35 minutes of inactivity.
Here are some useful documents to get you started:
If you’re applying to study Teacher Education in Scotland, you’ll need to make your application through the UCAS Undergraduate scheme. Read dedicated personal statement advice from Scottish training providers (457.95 KB) about what to include in your personal statement.
This tool is designed to help you think about what to include in your personal statement, and how to structure it. It also counts how many characters you’ve used, so it’s easy to see when you’re close to the 4,000 character limit. Use our tool to start building your personal statement over time by saving your progress as you go.
Personal statement dos and don'ts
- Do show you know your strengths, and outline your ideas clearly.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show you’re interested in the course, it may help you get a place.
- Do expect to produce several drafts of your personal statement before being totally happy with it.
- Do ask people you trust for their feedback
- Don’t be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement, or share yours. All personal statements are checked for similarity – if your personal statement is flagged as similar to other applicants, it could affect your chances of being offered a place.
- Don’t exaggerate – if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
- Don’t rely on a spellchecker, as it will not pick up everything – proofread as many times as possible.
- Don’t leave it to the last minute – your statement will seem rushed, and important information could be left out.
- Don’t let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement.
What happens to personal statements that have been copied?