When writing your personal statement, how much should you include about your hobbies and interests? Get that tricky balance right...

Personal statements are academically focused, which can make them a struggle to write. The temptation to include a little too much about what you get up to in your free time (i.e. the things you enjoy most) is an easy path to head down to pad out those 47 lines stretching out before you.

If you're finding yourself stuffing outside interests into your personal statement in order to take things back to more comfortable territory, stop and reflect on what you're including first.

Browse our subject guideswhich include personal statement advice, tailored to your subject.

So, should you include your hobbies?

Yes! But there are a few things to watch out for.

Admissions tutors encourage applicants to produce a personal statement which distinguishes them from others. Talking about your interests and hobbies, in a way that supports the rest of your application, can help serve this purpose.

Just make sure you stand out for the right reasons...

Keep it brief

Your personal interests should only make up a small proportion of your overall statement. If you don't keep tabs on how much you're writing, you risk waffling on about your love of bird-watching rather than why you're the perfect candidate for a psychology course.

Your personal statement should centre around your interest in the subject and why you want to pursue it, your academic achievements, experience, and why you're a good fit for that course, all demonstrated with some solid examples.

Your personal interests, usually towards the end of your statement, can then help admissions tutors build a more rounded picture of you.

Relevance to the course

If your interests and hobbies have some connection to the field you're applying to study, then this is a terrific reason to include them. However, try to tie them back to the course, rather than just making empty statements. If you're applying to a film course, don't just say 'I love watching films.' Talk about specific films or genres you enjoy, what you've learned, and how you've developed critical and analytical skills as a result.

Similarly, don't simply put ‘I play rugby on Sundays.’ Talk about the qualities this has taught you – from teamwork to tactics, leadership to resilience – and relate them back to your suitability for the course.

Standing out (in a good way)

Not everyone will view your interests in the same way as you, so it's worth thinking about how a hobby might be perceived by an admissions tutor reading it. While you and your friends may love a certain subculture, it might have a different connotation to others.

Think about whether it's really relevant for inclusion in your personal statement. Anything odd or extraordinary might not make the impression you were hoping for.

Remember, highlighting work experience and other activities can equally work to convey your personality and interests.

Be prepared to talk about your interests

You may be required to attend an interview where you'll have to expand on what you wrote in your personal statement. While this will focus on your suitability for the course, your interviewer might start the interview with a more personal ice-breaker question to put you at ease.

So be prepared to talk about your hobbies, face-to-face, in a formal setting (another reason not to write anything too strange!). Equally, don't make up hobbies or interests, as you may be tripped up when asked about these.

Oh, and avoid mentioning these...

  • 'Going to the cinema'
  • 'Seeing friends'
  • 'Going for long walks'
  • 'Going out'

These over-used personal statement fillers don't really say much about you without more context.

Distinguish yourself with some well thought-out interests that tell the admissions tutor something about you and your suitability for the course.

Hobbies and your personal statement: FAQs

Do jobs count as extracurricular activities?

If any part-time jobs can help you demonstrate relevant skills for your course, then go ahead and include them.

Even seemingly unrelated jobs can benefit your personal statement – for example, a retail job where you’ve worked as part of a team and had to practise strong communication skills can be valuable when applying to study dance (where you’ll also work closely in groups etc).

Do hobbies count as extracurricular activities?

Yes they can – though like part-time jobs, stick to the most relevant ones, and keep in mind how they might be perceived by the average person on the street.

Also prioritise any where you have some sort of official role or responsibility, over those which you might enjoy in a passive way. For example, watching football on TV simply shows that you like football, but being a captain of your school football team demonstrates excellent leadership and communication skills.