Writing your personal statement: Carers, estranged students, refugees, asylum seekers or those with limited leave to remain

Everyone is individual, but certain life circumstances provide an opportunity to showcase the unique qualities and experiences you can bring to university life.

This guide is specifically for those with caring responsibilities, those studying without the support of parents or family, and those who are refugees or seeking asylum. 

What’s a personal statement? 

We have plenty of advice to help you write a personal statement. You can find a full guide here. But what about when you have other responsibilities? These will undoubtably have given you different skills and experiences.

In this guide, we’ll show you how you can make the most of your unique circumstances so your personal statement stands out from the crowd.

Chloe Ng – HE Career Coach, Manchester Metropolitan University

'You’re encouraged to highlight how your journey has equipped you with certain skills or personality traits that make you a valuable asset.'

Personal statement for carers

If you’re a carer you’ll have lots of additional skills and strengths that are highly valued in higher education.

We’ve worked with Carers Trust and course providers to help you identify your key strengths. Highlighting these in your personal statement is key, as they’ll make up for any experience missing due to your caring responsibilities. 

What experience may be missing?

If you have caring responsibilities, you may find it difficult to do certain activities, like after-school clubs, local societies or gain work experience, because your free time is limited. If this is you, you could feel like you’re missing out on opportunities to build an impressive personal statement. 

How can you stand out?

Caring for another person develops a range of important skills and characteristics. Thinking about these is a great starting point for writing your personal statement. You don’t have to go into lots of detail about your circumstances or responsibilities. Instead, it’s about showcasing the skills you have.

Let’s look at things to note down to help you think about what to include in your personal statement:

Think about your responsibilities

These are the things you do as a carer. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • emotional support
  • financial support and management
  • practical household tasks
  • personal care or physical help
  • supporting with medical professionals

Think about your skills

These are the skills you demonstrate every day as you care for someone else. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • manage challenging situations or behaviours
  • show empathy and understanding
  • understand complex information
  • problem-solving skills
  • calm under pressure and in stressful situations

And finally, think about your personal characteristics

This focuses on everything you are as a result of caring for someone else. To get you started, here are some things to note down:

  • patient and supportive of others
  • flexible and responsive to changing situations
  • highly compassionate
  • resourceful and resilient
  • high moral and ethical awareness

Personal statement for estranged students

Being an estranged student means you’ll be studying without the support of your parents due to a breakdown in your relationship.

We’ve worked with Stand Alone to help you to think about the skills, experience, and strengths to write about in your personal statement.

What experience may be missing?

It’s likely that you’ve lived in difficult conditions at home and may no longer be in contact with your parents. Your circumstances could have affected your ability to participate in activities because of limited resources, or you may have taken a break between finishing school and considering higher education. Whatever your individual situation is, you’ll feel you’ve missed out on opportunities to include in your personal statement.

How can you stand out?

Through your estrangement, you’ll have overcome and survived many personal challenges and gained a variety of skills and strengths that are highly valued in higher education. Understanding what these are, and talking about them, will help your application stand out. It’s a hugely positive personal step you’re taking in applying to university or college without family support.

Let’s look at things to note down to help you think about what to include in your personal statement.

Think about your responsibilities

These are the things you do because you’re an estranged student. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • live independently
  • manage finances and personal budget
  • persevere in difficult circumstances
  • manage personal needs
  • able to source support independently

Let’s move on to your skills

These are the skills you demonstrate every day as a result of the relationship breakdown. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • stay calm under pressure
  • a strong communicator 
  • able to critically evaluate situations
  • able to set goals and plan to achieve them
  • strong time management skills

And finally, on to your personal characteristics

This focuses on everything you are as a result of studying without support. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • hard working and committed
  • independent and creative
  • self-aware
  • responsible
  • adaptable

Personal statement for refugees, asylum seekers, and those with limited leave to remain

Although no one refugee experience is the same, as someone seeking refugee protection you’ll have gained many additional skills and strengths that are highly valued in higher education.

We’ve worked with Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and its group of Equal Access Activists to help you identify your key strengths and transferable skills as you apply to university or college. 

What experience may be missing?

For many refugees and people in the asylum system, gaining experience and taking on extracurricular activities, while navigating the asylum process or adjusting to life in the UK, can be very challenging.

You might feel you’re missing out on opportunities to build an impressive personal statement, but managing the complexities of restarting your life in the UK will certainly have helped you develop a range of important skills and characteristics. Thinking about what these are will give you a great starting point for your personal statement.

How can you stand out?

You don’t have to go into lots of detail about your circumstances or experiences (or share anything you don’t feel comfortable talking about) – just focus on the skills you use and identify your key strengths and abilities by exploring your own experience. 

Let’s look at things to note down to help you think about what to include in your personal statement.

Think about your responsibilities

These are the things you’ve needed to do as a refugee or asylum seeker. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • learn a new language
  • immerse yourself in a new culture and way of living
  • navigate and understand legal proceedings
  • personal development to gain new skills or qualifications
  • manage family needs as well as personal

Let’s move on to your skills

These are the skills you demonstrate every day as someone who’s needed refuge protection. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • strong endurance of hardship
  • understanding of complex information
  • effective stress management
  • calm under pressure
  • great attention to detail

And finally, on to your personal characteristics

This focuses on everything you are because of needing to seek refuge. To get started, here are some things to note down:

  • courageous and brave
  • hopeful and optimistic
  • committed and dedicated
  • resourceful and determined
  • self-motivated and independent

The information in this guide has been created to help you highlight all your unique skills that’ll help your personal statement stand out, no matter what your background or personal circumstances. 

The examples we’ve given are just to get you started – we’re sure you’ll come up with many more.

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