Personal statement advice: chemistry

Want to find the right formula for a chemistry personal statement that will achieve the reaction you're hoping for? The two key elements are passion and personal – here's how to get the right mix.
‘How do you as an individual know that three or four years of chemistry lectures and labs is not going to bore you? Or where do you think you might end up with your degree? Some foresight about this is always a good sign of a mature thinker and not someone who has been pushed into doing the subject.’ Andrew Pike | Admissions Tutor – Newcastle University

Evidence your passion!

According to Andrew Pike, Admissions Tutor at Newcastle University, a 'genuine passion for the subject' is the top ingredient to convey in your chemistry personal statement. 'After all, you will be studying just chemistry for three to four years and would be mad to want to do that if you didn’t like the subject'.

He wants to see you actually demonstrate this passion in a way that's unique to you – just saying 'I love chemistry' or 'I have a passion for chemistry' won’t cut it. You could explain what it is about the subject that makes you feel sure you will be motivated by it, or how you see it fitting into your longer term plans or career:

This doesn't mean you need to know exactly where you want your future career to lead. But it's good to write a sentence or two about what you think you might want to achieve through your chemistry degree, whether in terms of career progression, personal fulfilment, academic curiosity, specific topics you want to learn about, or whatever.

‘Avoid generalisations. You need to make this personal. It is about you, so you don’t need to tell me how a detailed theory works or make a political or environmental point unless you actually did something about it.’ Andrew Pike | Admissions Tutor – Newcastle University

Don't be general, be personal

Tutors also like to see applicants who say something personal in their statement – this sounds obvious but some applicants don't.

The issue here is that some applicants try to demonstrate their knowledge of chemistry by describing a particular theory or by making some random observations about the subject that don’t genuinely resonate with them. It’s no good just explaining a theory in your statement, there’s nothing personal about that and you’re just telling admissions tutors things they know already – they're experts.

They can also easily tell if you’ve just written something for effect. But what does interest them is anything that has genuinely impacted on your knowledge, understanding or enthusiasm, or on you as a person – it’s that personal touch they’re after.

Our guide to studying chemistry has more need-to-know advice to explore.

‘Genuine enthusiasm for the subject is sought. Chemistry underpins everything in the material world (bold statement, but true!). Therefore, it is important to see that candidates are making the connection between chemistry and the real world.’ Dr Subrayal Reddy | Senior Lecturer in Applied Analytical Chemistry – University Of Surrey

Motivation and real world connection

Dr Simon Gerrard, Assistant Admissions Tutor for chemistry at University of Southampton, is slightly less concerned about your longer-term objectives – although, it’s always good practice to briefly mention this in your statement if you have genuinely thought about it. But he does want evidence of your motivation. 'It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do after university, what I really like to see is enthusiasm and a passion for the subject’.

One way to really get your passion and commitment across is if you can give an example or two of how you have applied your learning to real life – for example, through work experience, a lecture you attended, a documentary you saw, a podcast you heard, or something specific you’ve discovered through your wider reading. Hopefully, you can see ways to really bring your statement alive and prove conclusively that you really do love chemistry.