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Applying to university

What to include in a personal statement

Knowing what to include in your personal statement and what to avoid will improve your chances of having your university application accepted. These are our tips.

Student looking inquisitively at their laptop


  1. What to include

  2. What not to include

  3. What to remember before you start

What to include

One of the most important parts of your university application is your personal statement. Knowing what to include won’t only help your chances of earning a place on your ideal course but will help you stand out from other applicants.

Include the following when crafting your personal statement:

  • Why you want a place on the course
  • Your career aspirations and how your chosen subject fits into these (if you’re still unsure on your future career goals, give an idea of what you’d like to move into upon graduation)
  • Qualities and experience you’ll bring to your studies, supported with evidence of how you’ve demonstrated these qualities or gained such experience
  • Examples of any relevant work, volunteering or academic experience to support your claims. Identify what you took away from each experience and link it to why you’ve chosen to apply for the subject
  • Other examples of learning and growth to support your claims, including extracurricular activities and achievements. This shows unis that you’re willing to engage with other aspects of the university experience beyond your studies
  • Any sponsorships or placements you've acquired or have applied for, with an explanation of why they’ll help with your career aspirations
  • If your first language isn't English, describe any opportunities you've had to use English (such as attending an English-speaking school or working somewhere where the main language is English)
  • Details of your gap year, if you plan to take one, and how it contributes to your interest in your chosen subject
  • Positive language, especially when describing your experience, that shows why you want to study your chosen subject
  • Challenges you’ve faced during the covid pandemic, how you’ve positively handled these and what they have taught you
  • Words and sentences in active voice, such as ‘I intend to...’, ‘I strongly believe that...’ and ‘My future career aspirations include...’

What not to include

You don’t need to include everything in your personal statement. You only have 4,000 characters and 47 lines to work with, so keep your writing clear and concise

Avoid including:

  • Plagiarised content, under any circumstances. All personal statements are scanned by detection software – if you’ve used someone else’s work, your offers can be withdrawn
  • Words that make you sound too clever or gimmicky – there’s no guarantee that admissions tutors will understand your humour
  • Waffle or padding – only include relevant information
  • Quotations or quirky language – unless it’s relevant and makes sense based on the qualities you’re describing
  • Any mention of specific universities or course names – you’ll be using the same personal statement for each course and university you apply to
  • A list of your qualifications – unis will already have this information, so there’s no need to use up space listing them again
  • Additional papers to UCAS – these can be sent directly to the universities you’re applying to, with your UCAS application number attached
  • Anything that might come across as immature or that you can’t sensibly talk about in an interview
  • Excuses as to why you haven’t been able to gain relevant experience
  2. Tips for writing your personal statement              
  3. How to make your personal statement stand out

What to remember before you start

The task of writing your personal statement may initially feel overwhelming. But by leaving yourself enough time and starting with a plan, you’ll eventually craft a personal statement to be proud of.

Do the following before you start:

  • Leave yourself plenty of time to plan and write your personal statement
  • Write your first draft somewhere other than on the application itself, such as on Word or Google Docs. You can then copy and paste your personal statement into UCAS Apply
  • Keep the language clear and concise throughout – you have a limit on character count
  • Remember that a first draft is a first draft. Your personal statement doesn’t need to be perfect right away. Re-read and edit your piece as much as you like before the deadline
  • Find 2–3 people willing to proofread your personal statement and give feedback. They might notice any mistakes you’ve missed

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