Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Writing the Personal Statement
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.
The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:
1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:
This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.
2. The response to very specific questions:
Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.
Questions to ask yourself before you write:
- What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
- What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
- When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
- What are your career goals?
- Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
- Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
- What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
- What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
- Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
Answer the questions that are asked
- If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
- Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.
Tell a story
- Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.
- Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.
Find an angle
- If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.
Concentrate on your opening paragraph
- The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.
Tell what you know
- The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.
Don't include some subjects
- There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).
Do some research, if needed
- If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.
Write well and correctly
- Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.
- A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.
For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- Applying to graduate school
- How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.
A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.
To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:
- Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
- Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
- Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?
This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.
Urban Planning Psychology History
Table of contents
Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.
Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.
For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.
There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.
The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.
Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene
An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:
- A personal experience that changed your perspective
- A story from your family’s history
- A memorable teacher or learning experience
- An unusual or unexpected encounter
To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.
Strategy 2: Open with your motivations
To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.
Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:
- Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
- Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
- How does it fit into the rest of your life?
- What do you think it contributes to society?
Tips for the introduction
- Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
- Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.
Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.
To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.
Strategy 1: Describe your development over time
One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.
- What first sparked your interest in the field?
- Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
- Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?
Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.
My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.
Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles
If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.
- Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
- Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.
Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.
Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.
Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field
Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.
- Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
- Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
- Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.
The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.
In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.
Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions
Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.
- If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
- If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
- If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.
Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.
One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.
Tips for the main body
- Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
- Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.
Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.
Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.
Strategy 1: What do you want to know?
If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?
If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.
Strategy 2: What do you want to do?
If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?
Tips for the conclusion
- Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
- Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.
You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.
Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.
Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.
Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.
A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.
A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.
However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.
The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.
Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.
If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.
Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.
If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.
If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.
If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
- College essay examples
- College essay format
- College essay style
- College essay length
- Diversity essays
- Scholarship essays
- Writing process
- Avoiding repetition
- Literature review
- Conceptual framework
- Dissertation outline
- Thesis acknowledgements
- Burned or burnt
- Canceled or cancelled
- Dreamt or dreamed
- Gray or grey
- Theater vs theatre
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
McCombes, S. (2023, July 03). How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved September 8, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/graduate-school/personal-statement/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to write a graduate school resume | template & example, how (and who) to ask for a letter of recommendation, master's vs phd | a complete guide to the differences.
As a new or continuing student, you need to complete the registration process .
How to write a UCAS personal statement
Writing a great personal statement
Read our guide on what it is, what to include, how to start, length and what makes a good personal statement , once you've decided which universities and courses to apply for, completing your application is pretty simple – until it comes to how to write your ucas personal statement..
This guide covers everything you need to know about how to write a personal statement for university. We look at what it is and how you can start your personal statement. We've also got questions to guide you and a suggested personal statement structure you can use so you know what to put in it.
If you'd like even more resources, support and UCAS personal statement examples, you can sign up to access our personal statement hub .
What is the UCAS personal statement?
How universities use your ucas personal statement, how to start a ucas personal statement.
- Get feedback on your UCAS personal statement
The personal statement is part of your UCAS application. It's how you show your chosen universities why you'll make a great student and why they should make you an offer.
Your personal statement also helps you think about your choice of course and your reasons for applying, so you know you’ve made the right decision.
Get feedback on your personal statement
Sign up to our personal statement hub to get feedback on your draft. You'll also get access to videos, help sheets and more tips.
Sign up now
UCAS personal statement word limit
Your personal statement length can be up to 4,000 characters long.
This may sound a lot, but it's a word limit of around 550–1000 words with spaces and only about 1 side of typed A4 paper.
You need to keep it concise and make sure it's clear and easy to read.
Applying for multiple courses
Although you can apply for up to 5 courses on your UCAS application, you can only submit 1 personal statement. So it needs to cover all your course choices.
Lots of students who apply to university have achieved the basic entry requirements and many more students apply than there are places available. Admissions teams can use your UCAS personal statement to get to know you and decide why you're more suitable than other applicants.
Some universities read every personal statement and score them. Then they use them alongside your qualifications and grades to decide whether to offer you a place or interview. Other universities put less emphasis on the personal statement and use it with students who have borderline entry requirements.
Universities might refer to your personal statement again on results day if you don't get the grades you need. So a good personal statement could clinch you a uni place even if your grades aren't what you hoped for.
Starting your personal statement can seem scary when you're staring at a blank screen. But, things will seem less daunting once you start.
- Set aside some time in a place where you're comfortable and won't be disturbed. Grab a notepad or computer.
- Write down anything and everything that's influenced your decision to go to university and study your chosen subject. Jot down your skills and experience too.
- Use the questions below to guide you. Don't worry about the personal statement length at this point – you can cut things out later.
When to start your UCAS personal statement
Ideally, you want to leave yourself plenty of time – a few weeks or even months – to plan and write your personal statement.
Try not to leave it to the last minute, as tempting as this may seem when you've got so many other things to think about.
Questions to guide you
- Why do you want to study at university?
- Why do you want to study this subject?
- How did you become interested in this subject?
- What career do you have in mind after university?
Academic ability and potential
- How have your current studies affected your choice?
- What do you enjoy about your current studies?
- What skills have you gained from your current studies?
- How can you demonstrate you have the skills and qualities needed for the course?
- What qualities and attributes would you bring to the course and university?
- What work experience (including part-time, charity and volunteer work) do you have and what have you learnt from it?
- What positions of responsibility have you held? (For example, prefect, captain of a team or member of a committee)
- What relevant hobbies or interests do you have and what skills have they helped you develop?
- What transferable skills do you have, such as self motivation, team working, public speaking, problem solving and analytical thinking?
Research and reading
- How do you keep up with current affairs or news in your chosen subject?
- What journals or publications relevant to your chosen subject do you read?
- Which people have influenced you, such as artists, authors, philosophers or scientists?
Now it's time to write your personal statement using your notes. It's best to draft it on a computer, and remember to save it regularly.
You can copy and paste it into your UCAS application when you're happy with it.
Personal statement structure
While there's no set template for a personal statement, you may find it useful to follow this personal statement structure when you decide what to put in your statement.
What to include in a personal statement
- Reasons for choosing this subject(s)
- Current studies and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
- Experiences and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
- Interests and responsibilities and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
- Your future after university
- Summary including why you'll make a great student
Further tips for a good UCAS personal statement
- Use information on university websites and the UCAS website. This often includes the skills and qualities universities are looking for in applicants
- Ask friends, family and teachers to remind you of activities you've participated in. They might remember your successes better than you do
- Don’t include lists in your application, like a list of all your hobbies. Focus on 1 or 2 points and talk about them in depth to show their relevance to your application
- Explain and evidence everything. It’s easy to say you have a skill, but it's better to demonstrate it with an example of when and how you’ve used it
- Avoid clichéd lines such as ‘I've always wanted to be a teacher’ as it says nothing about your motivations or experiences
- If you’re applying for a joint degree or different subjects, give equal time to each area and try to find common aspects that show their similarities
- Never lie or plagiarise another statement – you'll be caught and it could result in your application being automatically rejected
- Proofread your personal statement by reading it out loud and ask friends, family or a teacher to check it for you
Sign up to our personal statement hub
Watch videos, get top tips and download our help sheets – that's what our personal statement hub is for. It's for you to write your story, so you can show your strengths, ideas and passion to your chosen universities.
You'll also be able send us your draft, so you can get feedback and feel confident about what you've written.
- Online Degree Explore Bachelor’s & Master’s degrees
- MasterTrack™ Earn credit towards a Master’s degree
- University Certificates Advance your career with graduate-level learning
- Top Courses
- Join for Free
How to Write a Personal Statement
A personal statement can be a key part of your college application, and you can really make yours shine by following a few tips.
When you're applying to college—either to an undergraduate or graduate program—you may be asked to submit a personal statement. It's an essay that gives you the chance to share more about who you are and why you'd like to attend the university you're applying to.
The information you provide in your personal statement can help build on your other application materials, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation, and build a more cohesive picture to help the admissions committee understand your goals.
In this article, we'll go over more about personal statements, including why they're important, what to include in one, and tips for strengthening yours.
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay —is a brief written essay you submit along with other materials when you're applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.
Many colleges and universities in the US, especially those using Common App , provide prompts for you to use. For example, "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea" or "Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time" [ 1 ]. If the school you're interested in attending doesn't require prompts, you will likely want to craft a response that touches on your story, your values, and your goals if possible.
In grad school, personal statements are sometimes known as letters of intent , and go into more detail about your academic and professional background, while expressing interest in attending the particular program you're applying to.
Why is a personal statement important?
Personal statements are important for a number of reasons. Whereas other materials you submit in an application can address your academic abilities (like your transcripts) or how you perform as a student (like your letters of recommendation), a personal statement is a chance to do exactly that: get more personal.
Personal statements typically:
Permit you to share things that don't fit on your resume, such as personal stories, motivations, and values
Offer schools a chance to see why you're interested in a particular field of study and what you hope to accomplish after you graduate
Provide an opportunity for you to talk about past employment, volunteer experiences, or skills you have that complement your studies
Allow colleges to evaluate your writing skills
Bring life to a college application package otherwise filled with facts and figures
Build job-ready skills with a Coursera Plus subscription
- Get access to 7,000+ learning programs from world-class universities and companies, including Google, Yale, Salesforce, and more
- Try different courses and find your best fit at no additional cost
- Earn certificates for learning programs you complete
- A subscription price of $59/month, cancel anytime
How to write a personal statement
As we mentioned earlier, you may have to respond to a prompt when drafting your personal statement—or a college or university may invite you to respond however you'd like. In either case, use the steps below to begin building your response.
Create a solid hook .
To capture the attention of an admissions committee member, start your personal statement with a hook that relates to the topic of your essay. A hook tends to be a colorful sentence or two at the very beginning that compels the reader to continue reading.
To create a captivating hook, try one of these methods:
Pose a rhetorical question.
Provide an interesting statistic.
Insert a quote from a well-known person.
Challenge the reader with a common misconception.
Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary.
Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it comes from a reliable source.
Follow a narrative.
The best personal statements typically read like a story: they have a common theme, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. This type of format also helps keep your thoughts organized and improves the flow of your essay.
Common themes to consider for your personal statement include:
Special role models from your past
Life-altering events you've experienced
Unusual challenges you've faced
Accomplishments you're especially proud of
Service to others and why you enjoy it
What you've learned from traveling to a particular place
Unique ways you stand out from other candidates
Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements every year, which is why being specific on yours is important. Back up your statements with examples or anecdotes.
For instance, avoid vague assertions like, "I'm interested in your school counseling program because I care about children." Instead, point out experiences you've had with children that emphasize how much you care. For instance, you might mention your summer job as a day camp counselor or your volunteer experience mentoring younger children.
Don't forget to include detail and vibrancy to keep your statement interesting. The use of detail shows how your unique voice and experiences can add value to the college or university you're applying to.
Stay on topic.
It's natural to want to impress the members of the admissions committee that will read your personal statement. The best way to do this is to lead your readers through a cohesive, informative, and descriptive essay.
If you feel you might be going astray, check to make sure each paragraph in the body of your essay supports your introduction. Here are a few more strategies that can help keep you on track:
Know what you want to say and do research if needed.
Create an outline listing the key points you want to share.
Read your outline aloud to confirm it makes logical sense before proceeding.
Read your essay aloud while you're writing to confirm you're staying on topic.
Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and make suggestions.
Be true to your own voice
Because of the importance of your personal statement, you could be tempted to be very formal with structure and language. However, it's better to use a more relaxed tone than you would for a classroom writing assignment.
Remember: admissions committees really want to hear from you . Writing in your own voice will help accomplish this. To ensure your tone isn't too relaxed, write your statement as if you were speaking to an older relative or trusted teacher. This way, you'll come across as respectful, confident, and honest.
Tips for drafting an effective personal statement
Now that you've learned a little about personal statements and how to craft them, here are a few more tips you can follow to strengthen your essay:
1. Customize your statement.
You don't have to completely rewrite your personal statement every time you apply to a new college, but you do want to make sure that you tailor it as much as possible. For instance, if you talk about wanting to take a certain class or study a certain subject, make sure you adjust any specifics for each application.
2. Avoid cliches.
Admissions committees are ultimately looking for students who will fit the school, and who the school can help guide toward their larger goals. In that case, cliches can get in the way of a reviewer understanding what it is you want from a college education. Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me."
3. Stay focused.
Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written. Does every paragraph flow from one point to the next? Are the ideas you're presenting cohesive?
4. Stick to topics that aren't controversial
It's best not to talk about political beliefs or inappropriate topics in your personal essay. These can be controversial, and ideally you want to share something goals-driven or values-driven with an admissions committee.
Polish your writing skills on Coursera
A stellar personal statement starts with stellar writing skills. Enhance your writing ability with a writing course from a top university, like Good with Words: Writing and Editing from the University of Michigan or Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Get started for free to level up your writing.
1. Common App. " 2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts , https://www.commonapp.org/blog/2022-2023-common-app-essay-prompts." Accessed June 9, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
RUB 1 unlocks unlimited opportunities
- For a limited time, get your first month of Coursera Plus for RUB 1 .
- Get unlimited access to 7,000+ courses from world-class universities and companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yale.
- Build the skills you need to succeed, anytime you need them—whether you’re starting your first job, switching to a new career, or advancing in your current role.
Add Project Key Words
Personal Statement Structure: How to Organize Your Essay
July 1, 2020
If you’re about to be a high school senior, you’ve probably heard this many times by now — the personal statement can make or break your application. Using just 650 words, you have to demonstrate who you are, what makes you unique, and what you’re passionate about in a way that impresses admissions officers. Once you’ve found the perfect topic, the question then becomes, what is the right personal statement structure?
High school students are used to writing a traditional five-paragraph essay. The Common App essay doesn’t follow that pattern. Your personal statement structure needs to highlight the core of your personality and character with more of a “bang.” So, you can’t necessarily go on philosophical tangents or drag out introductions. In this blog, I’ve elaborated on ways to organize your essay so that you can captivate admissions officers at your top choice colleges and sets yourself apart from the other applicants.
How to Organize Your Essay
No matter what you’re writing about, your essay needs to be well organized and flow smoothly. Admissions officers will not appreciate a haphazard piece of writing that seemingly tells no story or where the narrative is all over the place. As you figure out personal statement structure, you need to keep 3 key aspects in mind: the introduction, the evidence, and the ending. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.
An exceptionally important step in your personal statement structure is your introduction. Obviously, this is the first thing that admissions officers will read, so you have to make a memorable impression with your opening statement and paragraph. Remember that these officers read hundreds of applications - and essays - each day, so it’s crucial that you start your story off in a unique way so that you grab and keep their attention.
- Hook: The hook of your essay is a catchy phrase or sentence that should capture the reader’s attention immediately as they start your essay. Your hook can include a quote (for a personal statement, quotes are better suited if they’re a dialogue from real life rather than from a famous person), a fact that might startle your audience, or a vivid description of something unique and makes the admissions reader say, “That’s interesting!” and want to keep going.
Example of a hook: It hit me when I was twelve years old: I had a problem. I hated taking showers.
- Problems: Once you’ve got your hook, you can build on it by outlining the problem, or issue that you faced. Because many essays often tell stories of growth in an individual or how the writer worked on something they’re passionate about, there’s often a conflict that stands in the way. As you work on your personal statement structure , consider whether you faced any obstacle that could go hand in hand with your hook.
Example problem: No, it had nothing to do with the warm water, fragrant hair products, or the time spent alone, but rather with how I spent my time afterward. For a little over a year, I blow-dried and straightened my hair after every shower, turning what should have been a fifteen minute affair into an hour-long ordeal. Why did I do this? It was a symptom of what I call ‘The Curly Hair Teenage Angst Syndrome.’
- Solution or Thesis: You’ve probably heard the word “thesis” when it comes to your English class essay. This is the main point, the purpose of your essay. What do you want to convey to the reader in the next few paragraphs? As you introduce your essay, you want the reader to know that this is a story of personal development or hard work and determination. So, take advantage of the introduction to provide a picture of exactly what you’ll be covering in your response — how did you get to the solution? This gives the admissions officer an idea of what to expect as they continue reading.
Example thesis: My hair was perfectly straight, but I hated it. I hated succumbing to my vanity, continuing to do something that the reasonable part of my brain knew was silly. Deep down I could acknowledge that I was blow-drying my hair only for external approval and that ultimately, my curly hair was just fine by me.
Once you’ve introduced the topic or theme of your essay, it’s time to get into the more nitty gritty details. Next up in the personal statement structure : the evidence. If your story is about your amateur wrestling career or how you founded your own company, it’s time to let the admissions officer know about the specifics. Because this essay is one of the most effective ways to let the colleges of your choice get a picture of who you are, making careful choices here is very important. You want your personality to shine through by using captivating dialogue, vivid descriptions, and subtle tone techniques. The reader should come out of this experience knowing what makes you unique and different from other candidates.
You don’t have to use overly flowery language. The point is clarity and vividness. The more concrete your depiction of events, the better the admissions officers can picture it, and understand why this topic is important to you. And of course, as cliche as it sounds - remember to show, not tell.
Example evidence: As a lifelong artist and self-proclaimed craft aficionado, I decided to bring my cache of crafting supplies to the hospital the next day: colored-paper, yarn, fabric, beads, and more. My grandma and I spent hours weaving bracelets and debating color combinations. By the time it got dark, my grandma, satisfied from an unexpectedly eventful day, fell asleep quickly, unbothered by her back pain. I went home, eager to brainstorm new crafting ideas. I scrolled through blogs, scoured YouTube compilation videos, and scribbled down crafting plans in my sketchbook.
Once you’ve fleshed out your plot and descriptions, you’ve arrived at the final part of understanding the personal statement structure. Just as it’s crucial to start your essay in a catchy manner, it’s essential that your ending is memorable as well. There are a few ways you can end your response. Your conclusion can refer back to your opening paragraph — especially if you’d started with an anecdote — and talk about it in light of the things you mention as part of the evidence. You could choose the expansion route and reflect on a personal or universal truth, and how you’ll focus on events or similar situations moving forward. You could also take it back to your thesis — talk about your growth, and how you’ve changed or how your life may have shifted. Or, you could be more creative and take less of a traditional path and end in a quote or ellipses.
Example ending: In addition to establishing a meaningful friendship, this experience seeded a mentality that will continue guiding my actions, attitudes, and interactions. It showed me the value of being empathetic and considering others' perspectives. I learned to view my setbacks and predispositions as mere short-term obstacles that can be overcome with a growth mindset - truly believing that anybody can do anything.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of personal statement structure , it’s time to start brainstorming. Once you have a topic, think carefully about the best ways to approach it through your essay. Write multiple drafts to figure out the best way to convey your story so that you can stand out among the competition. Good luck!
Tags : personal statement tips , personal statement structure , how to organize your personal statement , common app essay , common app personal statement tips
Schedule a free consultation
to find out how we can help you get accepted.
How to write a great personal statement
Student Admissions & Access
Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell us more about yourself and why you are interested in studying your chosen subject. In this article, we offer you some tips and advice on how to start building your personal statement and make the best impression with your application.
Where to start
Don’t let the blank page put you off. Just start writing and try not to overthink it - you can always change and refine your statement later.
You might want to begin by thinking about the following questions to help you make a list of what to include:
- What do I know about the course and its modules?
- Why do I want to study the subject?
- What do I like about the subject?
- What do I already know?
- What have I read, watched or attended that is relevant to the subject?
- What excites me about the subject?
- What are my academic strengths?
- What makes me a good fit for studying this course?
Start turning your list into sentences. Think about how each thing in your list relates to your subject, and start to form concise sentences. Aim to organise the sentences into paragraphs and form a logical structure to make a case for your suitability for the course.
Aim for one idea per sentence, and one major theme per paragraph. If you can, try to tie it all together with common themes and ideas. For example, you may have learned a topic during your A Levels, then read a book about it and independently researched more about the theory, which sparked some ideas and questions of your own. You may have read a number of books on a similar theme - think about any parallels or contrasts between them.
Draft, draft, draft
Get everything down on paper first. Then go back to draft and start to rework it. Don’t let your personal statement become a long list of ideas – that was your starting point. Think about the most important points you’ve made, and work on developing those. Remember that sometimes, less is more. At this point, you may have to delete whole sections, so don’t become too attached to what you have written.
When working on your draft, try to be clear and concise – remember, you only have limited space.
The beginning at the end
Often it’s easier to write the main body of your statement first, and come back to the opening later. The first sentence should really show your enthusiasm for the course, so talk about something that excites you.
Don’t forget your conclusion. Try to tie everything together at the end, and finish on a positive note that leaves the admissions tutor with a positive impression. If you approach your personal statement as a short academic essay about yourself and your motivations, we should be left with a clear sense of where your passion lies and your suitability for the course.
Check before you submit
Before you submit your application, it’s a good idea to carefully proof your personal statement and to share it with someone else – that could be a family member, friend or teacher. You don’t always have to follow their advice, it’s personal after all, but you may find that they have some good ideas and they might spot mistakes you’ve missed.
- Show your passion, don’t just tell us.
- Be yourself and sound like yourself – you don’t have to use the thesaurus for every word!
- Make sure you can talk about everything in your personal statement in detail, as you’ll be asked about it at your interview.
- Link any extra-curricular activities to your study – maybe your part time job taught you time management or communication skills.
- Make sure it relates to the course you have applied for.
- Check your spelling and grammar, and use clear, plain English.
- Avoid sweeping, general statements, make every word count.
Watch this video from UCAS for some more great tips to get you started:
If you choose to apply to cambridge, we can’t wait to find out all about you.
The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing. Last reviewed July 2023. For more information about applying to the University of Cambridge, visit our website .
A guide to writing the best personal statement for your college application (with template and examples!)
Why is boasting about a best friend SO much easier than writing about yourself? Unfortunately, writing about yourself is exactly what a personal statement essay requires you to do–whether it’s for your college admissions application, or for a scholarship application to pay for college . Here’s our guide, to ensure you’re well-equipped to write a killer personal statement!
First off, what’s the purpose of a personal statement?
What topics can i write about, how do i decide what to focus on, in my college essay, okay, i’ve got my personal statement topic. but now i have to actually write it. 😱what do i do .
- Do you have personal statement examples?
Now it’s your turn.
Your personal statement should share something about who you are, something that can’t be found in your resume or transcript.
- It should paint a picture for colleges to understand who we are and what we bring to the table. This is why it’s often better to tell a story, or give examples, rather than just list accomplishments.
- It should complement the other parts of your application. Consider your college application as a whole. Your personal statement, application short answers, and supporting documentation should together tell a story about who you are. This also means not being super repetitive with your personal statement and your short essays. (For instance, if you have to answer 3 questions AND submit a personal statement, maybe they shouldn’t ALL focus on music.)
For scholarship applications:
- It should indicate why you’re deserving of the scholarship. This often means making sure your essay relates to the scholarship provider’s goals. (Get more help on writing a killer scholarship essay here , and then make sure you’re applying as efficiently as possible. )
- It should showcase your strengths. This doesn’t mean it can’t acknowledge any weaknesses, but it surely shouldn’t only focus on negative aspects!
It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. First, figure out what your choices are. Some colleges may have very specific college essay prompts. That said, many students apply using the Common App, which this year offers these 7 topics to choose from :
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? ( Psst – If you choose this topic, you can sign up for Going Merry and apply for a scholarship bundle : one essay, multiple scholarships! )
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
You’ll notice that #7 is a catch-all that allows you to submit any personal statement about anything at all .
So maybe that doesn’t help you narrow it down.
Here’s a 3-step solution:
STEP 1. Brainstorm about your life
Dedicate 5-10 minutes each to brainstorming about these 4 sets of questions.
You can do this by yourself (writing down your thoughts), or do this exercise out loud with a friend or family member, and then jot down notes as you’re talking. If you “think out loud” better than you do on paper, brainstorming with someone else may be the way to go!
(A) What were defining moments in your life?
How did these moments in your life changed you, what did you learn from it, and how has it shaped your future plans? Some topics might include:
- An accident or injury
- A best friend you made (or lost)
- A defining talk with a peer
- Something new you tried for the first time
- Revealing a sexual or gender identity, to friends or family
- Discovering something about your family ( e.g., see Jesus’s story )
- Moving to a new city
- Traveling somewhere, or learning about a new culture ( e.g., see Gabby’s story )
- Your first pet (new responsibilities as a fur mom or dad)
(B) What have you chosen to spend time on?
Remember to focus not just on the what , but also the why – What were your motivations? How did you feel? What have you learned? Some topics on this might include:
- The moment you joined band, color guard, or the soccer team.
- A time you struggled with that activity – e.g., Maybe you got passed over for captain of the soccer? Or maybe you got an injury and had to sit out on the sidelines?
- Maybe a moment you really fell in love with that activity – e.g. Maybe the first time you investigated a story for the school newspaper and realized journalism was your calling?
(C) Whom or what are you inspired by?
How did you find out about this person or thing? Why are you inspired? In what ways are you inspired? Is there anything that inspiration has made you do (e.g. join a club, do an activity or internship on the topic)? Some topics on this might include:
- Technology – Maybe a specific App made you inspired to learn to code?
- Person in your life – Maybe meeting someone (or knowing someone in your family) has affected you?
- A show, movie, book, or podcast that inspired you to look at life differently
- A dance or song that has made you interested in performing arts
(D) What are you proud of?
Make a list of all the things you’re proud of. These can be milestones, hobbies, qualities, or quirks that are what make you, you. Topics to consider might be:
- Times you saved the day – like that epic left-handed catch you made on the field
- Personal qualities – Maybe you’re really funny, or amazingly calm under pressure. What are some examples of times when you showed those qualities?
- Random life things you’re amazing at – Baking a mean chocolate brownie. Guessing how many gumballs are in a jar. Tell a story when that amazing talent was handy!
Don’t worry if some of your ideas repeat between sections. This is just a way to get ideas flowing!
STEP 2. Shortlist your ideas
Identify your strongest ideas out of the bunch. This should probably be very few (2-4).
STEP 3. Freewrite about your possible essay topics.
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas and identified 2-4 winners, we agree with Find the Right College – just start freewriting! Start by writing a few sentences or paragraphs about any of your shortlisted topics, and let the words flow. Write for about 15 minutes, on each shortlisted topic. Don’t worry about structure or organization – this is just an exercise so you feel comfortable getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
It will also allow you to see which of the topics seems to have the most “legs” — often, you’ll notice that your best topic will:
- Be the easiest to write about (those 15 minutes flew by!)
- Lead you to tell at least one interesting story
- Feel like it genuinely reveals something important about who you are
- Not be captured easily by other parts of your application (you’ll need a full 500 words to really be able to tackle this meaty topic)
Well, let’s start here: What makes a personal statement good or even great ?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Get personal.
Remember the “personal” in personal statement. We all have a story to tell, and we all have a different journey that led us to where we are today. We might think “someone already wrote about this” or we might think our story isn’t unique, but IT IS.
2. Speak like you.
Write your personal statement in a genuine tone that reflects who you are . There’s no right or wrong tone – just make sure your tone represents YOU. This means, in particular, not using big words just to show off. Often, this just seems like you’re trying to hard. (Or, even worse, you accidentally use the word incorrectly!)
3. Think about your audience.
Who will you be writing your personal statement for? What message do you want to convey? If it’s for to the college admissions committee, how do you show you’ll align well with the culture of the school? If it’s for a scholarship provider, how do you show you support their mission?
4. Hit the big three: Story, Implication, Connection to college/major.
Most successful college essays do at least 3 things:
- Mention at least one anecdote or story. (“Show, don’t tell.”)
- Explain why that anecdote or story is important to who you are.
- End (or begin) by connecting this information, to why you are applying to this specific college. This may include information about the major (why you think their department/program is great), or more general information about what attracts you to the school (e.g., location, sports, extracurricular activities, Greek life). Get specific so the school knows you’re really interested in them! This is the one piece of your personal statement that probably shouldn’t be cut & paste.
Here’s an example of how to use that personal essay template:
- Story: When I was 11, my family traveled to Italy and visited museums — one specific painting made me fall in love with art. ( 1-2 paragraphs )
- Why important: After that trip, I did lots of art and studied lots of art. Mention specific extracurriculars. ( 3 paragraphs )
- Why this college: I want to apply to X college because of its excellent art program, which I can also complement by joining Y and Z clubs. Since it’s in New York, it’ll also offer my the opportunity to visit the countless art museums like MOMA. ( 1 paragraph )
5. Hit the length.
Make sure you keep within the required length. Normally if you aim for 500 words, you’re golden. Some college or scholarship applications will allow you to write up to 600 or 650 words.
6. Edit your work.
Once you’ve written your personal statement, step away from it. There was a time when we used to rely on pencil and paper to write down all of our ideas and information (including first-draft college essays). Now, we mainly rely on screens, so our eyes grow tired, causing us to miss typos and grammar mistakes.
So save that document in an easy-to-find folder on your computer. Then stepping away from your computer and taking a break helps relax your mind and body and then refocus when you come back to edit the document.
( Psst – If you’re applying for scholarships with Going Merry, we’ve got built-in spellcheck, and we allow you to save essays in your documents folder, so no work will get lost! )
We can’t stress this one enough: Don’t submit your personal statement without checking your spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.! All the grammar things! Your personal statement reflects who you are, from the topic you choose to the style you write it in, so impress colleges (or scholarship providers) with excellent structure and great grammar!
7. Then, ask someone else to edit it too.
We recommend asking a friend, counselor, or parent to read your personal statement before you submit the document. One more set of eyes will really help you get a second opinion on the tone, writing quality, and overall representation of who you are in your personal statement.
8. Be brave, and hit that “submit” button on your personal statement!
Finally, when everything is completed, click submit! Don’t hold back!
9. Remember, personal statements for your college app, can also be reused as scholarship essays.
Get double-use out of your personal statement. Going Merry is your home for all things scholarships–fill out a profile, get matched to eligible scholarships, and apply. You can even save essays so that you can easily upload the same one for multiple scholarship applications. (We were inspired by the Common App to make applying for scholarships easier.)
Register for an account here , get the full lowdown on how it works , or just sign up for the newsletter below (to get 20 scholarship opportunities delivered to our inbox each each week!).
Do you have personal statement examples ?
Oh yes we do. First, here are some excerpts of personal statements from members of our very own Going Merry team!
Charlie Maynard, Going Merry CEO – wrote about what matters most to him and why, for his grad school application.
- The open paragraph read: “Being open to new ideas and able to take advantage of opportunities is what is most important to me. The most extraordinary times in my life have come as a result of moments when I’ve seized opportunities. This has been evident in my educational life, my travels around the world and my professional career.”
- This anchored the main topic of his essay. He then went on to explain examples.
Charlotte Lau, Going Merry Head of Growth – wrote for her college Common App personal statement:
“As a child, I was never close with my father, though we were always on good terms. He made me laugh and taught me all the things that made me into a young tomboy: what an RBI is, how to correctly hook a fish when I feel it biting, what to bring on a camping trip. But whenever I was upset, he wouldn’t know how to comfort me. He is a man of jokes and words, not of comforting motions.
But as I grew older and I too became infatuated with words—albeit in written form—our topics of conversation became more diverse and often more profound. We continued to watch sports games together, but during commercials, we’d have epistemological and ethical discussions more fitting for a philosophy class than a chat during a Knicks’ time-out. During these talks, my father would insert stories about his youth. They’d always be transitory or anecdotal, told as if they were beside the point. Still, I’d eagerly commit them to memory, and, over time, I began to get a sense of who my father was—and, in turn, who I am.”
Now, here are some excerpts from other sample personal statements:
These 3 are college essays about personal characteristics:
Essay 1: Humorous essay about getting a D and learning a lesson
“Getting a D probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not something anyone wants to see, let alone put, on a college application. It came back to me, scrawled in red, on the first big history test of the year. The one the teacher had assured us was a third of our grade. I could already see my chances of a four-year college going up in smoke and my school year hadn’t even started yet.
What happened? I’m not a D student. I’ll get the occasional C as well as the occasional A. D’s are out of character for me, and enough of a stomach punch to really get my attention. The short version is, I didn’t study, and I don’t remember precisely why. There is always a reason not to study, isn’t there? I didn’t study and I went into a test woefully unprepared and got beaten up.
I had two options here. I could accept that I was in fact a D student despite what I had thought. Or I could study hard for the next test and try to bring my grade up by the force of the average.”
Essay 2: Why a talent (in this case, one at football) is also a responsibility
“Talent is not remarkable. It’s usually the first thing anyone compliments. “You’re so talented.” It doesn’t mean what they think it means. It doesn’t mean I worked hard. It means I was lucky, or blessed, or anything else you want to call it.
I have talent. I’ve known since I was old enough to hold a football. The game just makes intuitive sense to me. The pathways of the players, both my team and the others, where the ball has to go, and what I’m doing. In the silence before a snap, I’m already playing out what is going to happen, watching the holes in my lines, tracing the route of my receivers. […]
It is far too easy to view talent as an excuse. For me, it is a motivator. For my talent, I will accept nothing less than a dream that only a tiny percentage of people ever get to experience. To get there, I’m willing to work hard and wring every last accomplishment from myself.
Talent is a responsibility. Because you had nothing to do with acquiring it, you are compelled to achieve every last bit you can with it. While I had grown used to thinking varsity would be it, that was not the case. Now, I can focus on the goal while I accomplish the steps.”
Essay 3: On living with depression
“Before I was diagnosed, I had been told it was a normal part of growing up. I was told that teens are moody. I would grow out of it. I couldn’t imagine anyone growing out of what I was feeling. I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving.
Diagnosis and medication have saved my life, allowing me to see the world as people without my brain chemistry would. […] what I found was a place of tiny kindnesses.
It might sound bad—as though kindness can only exist in the smallest forms. This is not what I mean. There are extraordinary people out there who devote their lives to doing very large, very important things for others. I’m not talking about them, partially because they are extraordinary. They are not the norm.
What is normal are the tiny kindnesses. These do not cost a person much of anything. A slice of time, a moment of openness, and little else. They are a smile when you’re feeling down, a comforting hand on the shoulder, a moment to talk.”
And here are 3 college personal statements, about what drove their interest in their intended major:
Essay 4: On why this applicant wants to study music
“My great-great-uncle Giacomo Ferrari was born in 1912 in Neverland, NY, the youngest of four sons. His parents had emigrated from Italy with his two eldest brothers in the early 1900s in search of a better life in America. Their struggles as immigrants are in themselves inspiring, but the challenges they faced are undoubtedly similar to those that many other immigrant families had to overcome; because of this, the actions that my relatives embarked upon are that much more extraordinary. Giacomo’s oldest brother Antonio, my great-grandfather, decided to take a correspondence course in violin, and to teach his youngest brother Giacomo how to play as well. Giacomo Ferrari eventually became an accomplished violinist and started a free “Lunchtime Strings” program for all the elementary schools in the Neverland area, giving free violin lessons and monthly concerts.
As a native English speaker who has had the privilege of studying viola and violin with trained, private teachers, I can only imagine the perseverance it took for my great-grandfather and great-great uncle to learn an instrument like the violin out of booklets and lessons that were not even written in their native language. Their passion and dedication to learning something new, something not part of their lives as blue-collar, immigrant workers, and their desire to share it with others, has inspired me as a musician and a person. It is this spirit that has motivated me to pursue an MA at Composition at the University of XXX.”
Essay 5: On why this applicant wants to be an allergy specialist
“Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
[…] After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.
In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens.”
Essay 6 : On why this applicant wants to study medicine
“My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems. distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.”
You made it this far. Now, it’s time to write your personal statement!
Ready to reuse your personal statement for scholarship applications? Sign up for Going Merry today for free to keep track of your scholarship applications and essays. We’re your one-stop shop for scholarship searches and applications.
- Recent Posts
- Scholarships for Students in Pennsylvania for 2021 - November 11, 2020
- Counselor Starter Guide: How to Use Going Merry’s Scholarship Platform - September 9, 2020
- How to write a financial need statement for your scholarship application (with examples!) - August 13, 2020
Ready to find scholarships that are a match for you?
Don’t want to sign up?
Get an estimate of how many scholarships you’re eligible for, instead. Just answer 7 quick questions. No sign-up required.
How to write your Personal Statement like a boss
Ace the uk personal statement.
The Personal Statement is your chance to demonstrate that you’d be an excellent student for the courses you’re applying to. It can seem like a big task though with no clear starting point and an odd request to ‘show off’. We’ve got you covered with our 6 tips on writing and structuring a statement to be proud of!
1. Make every word count
You only have 4,000 characters (that’s spaces and punctuation included) to make a great impression on an admissions team, so you need to be economical with your words. There are two ways of tackling this: keep everything concise, and have a clear structure to avoid veering off on a tangent.
To keep everything concise, you should:
- simplify complicated phrasing
- avoid exaggerated phrases like ‘I am fascinated by/ passionate about’ etc. (more on this later!)
- avoid unnecessary intensifiers like ‘really’, ‘very’, and ‘always’
- use acronyms for lengthy titles of well known qualifications or awards like the EPQ
- use surnames only when referencing well known authors, speakers, etc. except where there are two people in the same field with the same surname, like the Rosettis
- check for accidental double spaces.
Instead of: From a young age, I personally have always been a really keen and enthusiastic scientist, who has really thrived in all scientific subjects. Marie Curie - who discovered radium and polonium - has always inspired me to keep searching for the truth which is something I plan to continue doing at university.
We’re going to cover a lot of the issues with this example later on, but in terms of concision, there are unnecessary intensifiers (‘really keen’) and explanations (who Marie Curie is), extra wording (‘I personally’), and vague phrasing that doesn’t show very much at all (‘something I plan to continue'). This student also hasn’t shown that they are a keen scientist - you should make your interest in the subject so obvious by using lots of examples, that you don’t need to tell the admissions team.
Try: I am a keen scientist who enjoys using experimental techniques to solve problems. In Chemistry, I recently investigated the rate of reaction between magnesium and sulphuric acid…
This doesn’t include everything from the original, but it shows an admissions tutor how the student is a keen scientist and launches straight into an example which will further demonstrate their suitability for the course. It is also only 177 characters compared to the first example with a massive 304!
Your structure will also help with your word count, and will make your statement simple to follow - admissions staff have to read thousands of Personal Statements, so make their job easy for them!
Unifrog’s Personal Statement tool provides you with a template structure, allowing you to organise your points into three sections:
- Section 1: why do you want to study this subject? (up to 1,200 characters) You should use lots of detail and specific examples in this section.
- Section 2: what have you done in the past that makes you particularly suitable to study the subject? (up to 2,400 characters) You can discuss any course related work or voluntary experience here.
- Section 3: what else have you done that would contribute to the university community (up to 400 characters) You do not need to go into lots of detail here- keep it brief.
Once you have a basic outline, the rest of the editing and drafting process should be fairly straightforward - just select your best examples for each section and carefully edit the language to keep it concise and academically focused.
2. Keep your focus
Your structure should help you with this, but there are some other key things to remember to include and to avoid to make the most out of your statement.
The majority (80-90%) of a UK Personal Statement should concentrate on how you will make a great student in your chosen subject with lots of detailed examples. To keep the focus, ask yourself ‘does this explain why I am a good applicant?’ at the end of each example or description. Each point in Sections 1 and 2 should provide evidence that you have the right skills, experience, or attitude for learning for this particular subject. If the point or example doesn’t show this, it needs to go even if you spent a long time writing it! Be ruthless in your editing!
In thinking about which examples to use, there are two key things to remember: firstly, this is about your academic skill and ability, so hold on to your extra curricular activities to the end, even if your chosen university has the best hockey team in the league and you want to join it! Secondly, you are applying to study, not for the job that comes after studying so unless you’re applying for a vocational degree (medicine, architecture, etc.), you shouldn’t mention your future career goals; your admissions tutor wants to know you’ll be a great student, not a great museum curator or social worker.
You should focus your examples on your academic ability and interest and how that makes you a suitable candidate for the course. You can even pick out key general topics that you have an interest in and are looking forward to studying (e.g. sustainable building design in an architecture application), but avoid mentioning specific university courses or modules by name (e.g. Games and Virtual Reality at Glasgow School of Art), as you are sending this to all your chosen universities and this may limit your chances at those you don’t mention.
Instead of: The process of writing an EPQ taught me many skills that will be invaluable to me at university and in my future career as a Project Manager.
This is such a vague example - we have no idea what the EPQ was about or what specific skills this applicant built. The example also hasn’t been linked to the course that the student is applying for, but they have mentioned their future career goals, making this seem more important to the student than the actual studying bit!
Try: Through writing my EPQ on ‘Sustainability in the UK’, I developed my research skills and the ability to break down complex, interconnected policies and processes. These skills will be essential throughout my degree in architecture where I will need to be able to research widely and become familiar with policies on specific areas like sustainable building design.
In this example, the student has identified and evidenced two specific skills that they have related directly to their chosen subject. This example also answers the question, ‘does this explain why I am a good applicant?’
Please note that this example isn’t complete. We would recommend giving more information and picking out some key parts of the EPQ the student found particularly interesting, what they learned, and how this relates to their chosen subject.
3. Sell yourself
This can be a tough one! The thought of having to write about our best qualities fills some people with absolute dread, but you do have great skills and attributes and your university admissions team wants to hear about them! The trick here is to be confident without coming across as arrogant or overconfident: be proud of yourself, but don’t show off.
Try the following exercise:
- Start off by making a list of all the useful experiences you have had, the things you have done that you are most proud of, and any awards or certificates you have ever achieved, or competitions you have won (if you have been using Unifrog’s Activities tool, check here before you start your list to give you some ideas).
- Next to each example, make a note of the relevant skills and relevant subject knowledge you've gained.
- Finally, mark out the examples that are relevant to your chosen subject or to going to university in general; these are the examples you are going to use to demonstrate how fantastic you are to your admissions team.
When you write each example, avoid arrogant and sweeping statements such as ‘I have a vast array of skills’, which only shows your admissions team that you’re not quite sure what the value of that activity was! Instead, describe how specific skills have been put into practice to give real evidence of your ability.
Instead of: My class organised a geology day for younger pupils at my school demonstrating our teamwork and organisation skills.
This uses collective language (‘our...skills’), and doesn’t show the applicant’s involvement in the event, so the admissions tutor won’t find it relevant.
Try: My class organised a geology day for younger pupils at my school. My job was to research speakers and activities. I was also part of the marketing team where I made posters with the team, spoke in assemblies about the event, and encouraged as many students as possible to join.
This shows the students’ involvement, highlighting exactly what they did and how this contributed to the overall event, ‘selling’ the applicant by showing the value of their involvement.
4. Show your passion
Obviously, the reason you’re applying for your chosen subject is because you love it; unfortunately, telling an admissions team that you love engineering, or dentistry, or childhood studies isn’t enough to make them want to give you an offer.
Instead of telling them about your passion, show them by choosing 1-2 specific examples of things you’ve done outside of the classroom to demonstrate that you enjoy the subject so much, you want to spend your own time exploring it further. This will impress the team reading your application for 2 reasons: firstly, the admissions staff have often devoted their entire careers to studying this particular subject, so they like to see a similar commitment in the applicant; secondly, they want to admit students whose enjoyment of the subject will motivate them to work hard.
So, what examples could you use?
- Use the Geek Out sections in the Subjects library to find suggested films, talks, podcasts, articles, and books related to your chosen subject.
- Use the Read, Watch, Listen tool to explore more widely - find films, podcasts, books, poems, and more that you can filter by a range of categories including genre, vibe, and interest.
- Writing : write a personal blog, an article, an extra essay, or a project.
- Experiencing : go to lectures, museums, galleries, and planetariums.
- Getting involved : organise work experience, take part in competitions outside of school, create a society/club, or join a summer school.
- Helping others : teach younger children at school or as a tutor, or volunteer at a youth centre, local place of worship, or in a care home to share your knowledge.
- Creating : make a short film, start a podcast, or put on an event at school.
Don’t forget to record your thoughts on everything you explore using the Activities tool so you don’t forget what you learnt or found interesting! Your thoughts on what you read or did are key to your examples and will demonstrate both your independence and the love of your subject at the same time! Make sure you are honest about what you have read, researched, or taken part in: your admissions team will be able to verify a lot of what you have written through the reference from your teachers, so it will be clear if things don’t quite match up. And, if you are invited to an interview, it is more than likely that you will be asked about your independent reading and will be blatantly obvious if you have stretched the truth!
Examples: Instead of: I’ve always loved reading novels across a range of genres. I read in my spare time and I can’t wait to study more of them in my English Literature degree.
This is too vague so doesn’t convincingly evidence the applicant’s passion for English literature. There are no examples of the type of novels or authors this student enjoys reading, and it’s not clear that they read beyond the novels set in the English lessons. As a general point, always avoid phrases like ‘I’ve always loved…’ - they’re rarely true and very overused! Again, showing your love is more important than saying you love a subject.
Try: I greatly enjoyed reading ‘Money: A Suicide Note’ by Martin Amis as part of my English coursework. I was particularly interested by Amis’ use of the excess-driven protagonist John Self to explore the darker side of individualism. After I handed in my coursework, I was eager to explore contrasting presentations of consumerism further in Amis’ work, as well as that of other contemporary authors, such as Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. I read X which contrasted with my thoughts on Amis’ work as...
This convincingly evidences the applicant’s love for their subject by highlighting a specific interest- in this case, the presentation of consumerism in contemporary literature. It also shows that the candidate has thought about how their example (Money: A Suicide Note) connects with other key themes in their subject, and how this has sparked in interest in other novels and authors. The candidate is also comparing their in class studies with their wider reading, demonstrating a natural curiosity in the subject.
5. Stand out (for the right reasons)
Standing out in your Personal Statement doesn’t mean adding in jokes, writing it like a piece of creative writing, or sharing bizarre anecdotes. It means standing out as a strong academic individual through your experiences and unique interest in one particular aspect of the course. Convey your academic personality by discussing wider reading and independent research, and the impact this has had on your decision to study the subject.
This can often come in the form of an anecdote or unusual reason for your initial interest in the subject, but avoid shoehorning anecdotes or experiences into your writing for the sake of it - it’s more important to sound sincere than to sound unusual.
Another great way of standing out is avoiding clichés. Using famous quotes - for example - to start you off is a sure fire way of turning an admissions team off your application before they’ve even had a chance to read about you. Even if you’ve found an unusual quote that you think no one has ever used before, it’s very likely that the admissions team have seen it amongst the thousands of applications they’ve read over the years. Even more importantly, using inspirational quotes often suggests a lack of inspiration. It’s better to use your own words than someone else’s.
You should also avoid clichéd phrasing like ‘from a young age’, ‘interesting’, ‘passion’ and ‘team player’ as this lacks real substance. Equally, steer clear from those ‘lightbulb’ moments when everything suddenly became clear and you knew you wanted to study mechanical engineering - not only is it highly unlikely that one moment decided your whole life for you, but your decision to study a subject at university should be carefully considered across all your experiences and interests.
Examples: Instead of: I have wanted to study liberal arts and sciences from a young age ever since I visited the Science Museum with my primary school.
‘From a young age’ should definitely be avoided - it is clichéd and shows the admissions tutor that your decision isn’t based on anything recent or carefully considered. We also have a ‘lightbulb’ moment in the form of visiting a museum - this might have sparked an interest in a subject area, but it’s super unlikely that the decision to study liberal arts at university was made by the primary school you!
Try: S tudying liberal arts will further develop my interest in how the worlds of arts and science are interlinked and feed off of each other. When studying Da Vinci in art, I began exploring human proportions and how our perception of these can be affected by artistic principles like lights and shadow...
This example feels more honest than the previous one. It also focuses on a long term, mature reason for choosing the subject considering the academic skills that the student enjoys and wants to develop .
6. Check your work
After each major edit, take a break, proofread it, and then proofread it again - unfortunately, even a small spelling or punctuation mistake can overshadow a brilliantly-crafted sentence, and you don’t want your hard work to lose its impact!
Once you’ve completed your Personal Statement, have it checked by one key reader, and possibly a second to act as a subject expert. Careful not to ask too many people - you don’t want conflicting feedback.
How work experience benefits students – and how unifrog's placements tool can help.
30th August 2023
Making global connections: Unifrog’s first speed networking event for counselors and HE
23rd August 2023
How two colleges in the North West reversed the trend
27th July 2023
Unifrog rises in the ranks of the Escape 100: the top purposeful organisations to work for in 2023
24th July 2023
Step Up Expo: Over 5,000 students get support with their next steps
14th July 2023
Subject profile: Law and legal studies
12th July 2023
Making an impact: Unifrog's outreach work in Africa
11th July 2023
How do I prepare for Clearing and results day?
3rd July 2023
Recruiting young professionals: Unifrog's insights
28th June 2023
What makes a good employer profile?
23rd June 2023
Privacy & Terms
UK schools + colleges
Latest information about COVID-19
Writing Your Personal Statements
Your personal statement must demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have considered graduate school and their specific program seriously. It’s your opportunity to summarize your academic and research experiences. You must also communicate how your experiences are relevant to preparing you for the graduate degree that you will be pursuing and explain why a given program is the right one for you.
The personal statement is where you highlight your strengths. Make your strengths absolutely clear to the reviewers, because they will often be reading many other statements. Your self-assessments and honest conversations with peers and advisors should have also revealed your strengths. But you must also address (not blame others for) weaknesses or unusual aspects of your application or academic background.
Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment.
1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many statements, it’s important to start off with your strengths and not “bury your lede.” Consider traits of successful graduate students from your informational interviews, and identify which of these traits you have. These traits could involve research skills and experiences, expertise in working with techniques or instruments, familiarity with professional networks and resources in your field, etc.
- Check your responses from the exercises in the self-assessment section. You may wish to consult notes from your informational interviews and your Seven Stories . Write concise summaries and stories that demonstrate your strengths, e.g. how your strengths helped you to achieve certain goals or overcome obstacles.
- Summarize your research experience(s). What were the main project goals and the “big picture” questions? What was your role in this project? What did you accomplish? What did you learn, and how did you grow as a result of the experience(s)?
My research examines the interplay between U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy during the Cold War. As a native New Yorker, I saw firsthand how dramatically my city changed after 9/11, which prompted my early interest in U.S. policy at home and abroad. As an undergraduate at the City College of New York, I planned to study international relations with a focus on U.S. foreign affairs. I also quickly became involved in student activist groups that focused on raising awareness about a wide range of human rights issues, from the Syrian refugee crisis to asylum seekers from Central America.
The more I learned about the crises in the present, the more I realized that I needed a deeper understanding of the past to fully grasp them. I decided to pursue a PhD in history in order to gain a clearer understanding of human rights issues in the present and to empower young student-activists like myself.
— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History
Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects
- Identify weaknesses or unusual aspects in your application—e.g., a significant drop in your GPA during a term; weak GRE scores; changes in your academic trajectory, etc. Don’t ignore them, because ignoring them might be interpreted as blind spots for you. If you’re unsure if a particular issue is significant enough to address, seek advice from faculty mentors.
- Explain how you’ll improve and strengthen those areas or work around your weakness. Determine how you will address them in a positive light, e.g., by discussing how you overcame obstacles through persistence, what you learned from challenges, and how you grew from failures. Focusing on a growth mindset or grit and this blog on weaknesses might also help.
- Deal with any significant unusual aspects later in the statement to allow a positive impression to develop first.
- Explain, rather than provide excuses—i.e., address the issue directly and don’t blame others (even if you believe someone else is responsible). Draft it and get feedback from others to see if the explanation is working as you want it to.
- Provide supporting empirical evidence if possible. For example, “Adjusting to college was a major step for me, coming from a small high school and as a first-generation college student. My freshman GPA was not up to par with my typical achievements, as demonstrated by my improved GPA of 3.8 during my second and third years in college."
- Be concise (don’t dwell on the issues), but also be complete (don’t lead to other potentially unanswered questions). For example, if a drop in grades during a term was due to a health issue, explain whether the health issue is recurring, managed now with medication, resolved, etc.
2. Explain your commitment to research and their graduate program, including your motivation for why you are applying to this graduate program at this university. Be as specific as possible. Identify several faculty members with whom you are interested in working, and explain why their research interests you.
- Descriptions of your commitment should explain why you’re passionate about this particular academic field and provide demonstrations of your commitment with stories (e.g., working long hours to solve a problem, overcoming challenges in research, resilience in pursuing problems). Don’t merely assert your commitment.
- Explain why you are applying to graduate school, as opposed to seeking a professional degree or a job. Discuss your interest and motivation for grad school, along with your future career aspirations.
I am definitely not your traditional graduate student. As a biracial (Native American and white), first-generation PhD student from a military family, I had very limited guidance on how best to pursue my education, especially when I decided that graduate school was a good idea. I ended up coming to this PhD in a very circuitous manner, stopping first to get a JD and, later, an MFA in Young Adult Literature. With each degree, I took time to work and apply what I’d learned, as a lawyer and as an educator. Each time, I realized that I was circling around questions that I couldn’t let go of—not just because I found them to be fascinating, but because I did (and still do!) feel that my research could help to bridge a gap that desperately needs bridging. Because my work is quite interdisciplinary, I strongly feel that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this line of research without the degrees and life experience I gained before coming to this program.
— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature
WRITING YOUR DIVERSITY STATEMENT
- Read the instructions for statements related to diversity carefully. Many universities have subtle and yet significantly different approaches to asking similar questions.
- Review online statements related to diversity, inclusion, and equity from the university’s leadership.
- Being aware of different approaches to diversity may help you to communicate your own perspectives. Marc Nivet’s brief paper on Diversity 3.0 might be a helpful introduction.
- Review how the graduate program or university classifies diversity categories, e.g., in terms of race/ethnicity, gender identity, first-generation students, LGBQT+ communities, undocumented and DACA students, veterans, former foster youth, religion, etc.
- If you identify as a URM (under-represented minority) in your discipline, consider how aspects of your identity have shaped your academic journey and informed your research and career interests. Be sincere and genuine and avoid superficial or hyperbolic "overcoming all barriers" and "I’m the little engine that could" appeals.
- Whether or not you identify as a URM in your field, you can share how you participated or led activities that broadened participation in your field and promoted diversity and inclusive practices, e.g. mentorship or outreach programs, community-building events, professional development activities for underprivileged students, etc.
- Deciding whether or not to disclose aspects of your personal identity can be difficult, especially when dealing with less visible aspects of identity. Consider talking with close friends who have navigated similar paths. It might also help to observe if the graduate program (from websites and your personal interactions with contacts at the university) appears to operate from a “deficit model” or superficial “checkbox” approach to diversity, or has developed a more sophisticated framework in diversity (e.g. Diversity 3.0).
Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects
- Think in terms of engaging faculty in a conversation rather than pleading with them that you should be admitted. Ask reviewers to read drafts with this concern in mind.
- With later drafts, try developing an overall narrative theme. See if one emerges as you work.
- Write at least 10 drafts and expect your thinking and the essay to change quite a bit over time.
- Read drafts out loud to help you catch errors.
- Expect the "you' that emerges in your essay to be incomplete. . . that’s OK.
- You’re sharing a professional/scholarly slice of "you."
- Avoid humor (do you really know what senior academics find funny?) and flashy openings and closings. Think of pitching the essay to an educated person in the field, but not necessarily in your specialty. Avoid emotionally laden words (such as "love" or "passion"). Remember, your audience is a group of professors! Overly emotional appeals might make them uncomfortable. They are looking for scholarly colleagues.
© Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305
- Applying to Uni
- Health & Relationships
- Money & Finance
- U.S Universities
- Vocational Qualifications
- Budgeting, Money & Finance
- Health & Relationships
- Jobs & Careers
- Studying & Revision
- University & College Admissions
Guide to GCSE Results Day
Finding a job after school or college
In this section
Choosing GCSE Subjects
GCSE Work Experience
GCSE Revision Tips
Why take an Apprenticeship?
Applying for an Apprenticeship
What is an Apprenticeship?
Choosing an Apprenticeship
Real Life Apprentices
A Level Results Day 2023
AS Levels 2023
Clearing Guide 2023
Applying to University
SQA Results Day Guide 2023
BTEC Results Day Guide
Vocational Qualifications Guide
Sixth Form or College
Post 18 options
Finding a Job
Should I take a Gap Year?
Gap Year Guide
Gap Year Blogs
Applying to Oxbridge
Applying to US Universities
Choosing a Degree
Choosing a University or College
Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Guide to Freshers' Week
- Top Rated Personal Statements
Personal Statements By Subject
Writing Your Personal Statement
- Postgraduate Personal Statements
- International Student Personal Statements
- Gap Year Personal Statements
Personal Statement Length Checker
- Personal Statements By University
- Personal Statement Changes 2024
- Personal Statement Template
Types of Postgraduate Course
Writing a Postgraduate Personal Statement
Choosing A College
Ivy League Universities
Common App Essay Examples
Universal College Application Guide
How To Write A College Admissions Essay
Fees & Funding
Budgeting For College
Platinum Express Editing and Review Service
Gold Editing and Review Service
Silver Express Editing and Review Service
UCAS Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Oxbridge Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Postgraduate Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
You are here
- Mature Student Personal Statements
- Personal Statement Editing Service
- Personal Statement Writing Guide
- Submit Your Personal Statement
Personal Statement Examples
Browse our UCAS personal statement examples for university in the UK by subject, from A to Z. Please do not plagiarise phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs, as UCAS can detect this and will penalise your application.
Accounting and Finance
These two subjects lie at the heart of any business, and a degree in at least one of these will equip you with essential skills for life.
View 47 Accounting and Finance Personal Statements
To become a successful actuary you will need to use both mathematical and business skills to solve problems concerning financial risk and uncertainty.
View 13 Actuarial Science Personal Statements
Learn more about American culture, society, history and politics with this specialised degree
View 4 American Studies Personal Statements
Study the evolution and history of humanity around the world.
View 24 Anthropology Personal Statements
Dig into the history of human activity.
View 23 Archaeology Personal Statements
Understand the processes involved in the planning, designing and constructing of buildings and other structures.
View 35 Architecture Personal Statements
Art and Design
Pursue painting, pottery, textiles, sculpture and any other discipline that interests you in the world of art.
View 55 Art and Design Personal Statements
Investigate biological processes at the molecular level.
View 19 Biochemistry Personal Statements
Use traditional engineering techniques and apply them to real-world problems.
View 6 Bioengineering Personal Statements
Study a wide range of biological topics, and choose to specialise in microbiology, ecology, zoology, anatomy or any number of other areas.
View 84 Biology Personal Statements
Study and explore medically related subjects such as genetics, physiology, pharmacology and neuroscience.
View 65 Biomedical Science Personal Statements
Learn how to apply biological organisms, processes and systems to industrial tasks.
View 6 Biotechnology Personal Statements
Learn about economics, accounting, management and more.
View 86 Business Management Personal Statements
Learn all the skills you need to be successful in the world of business.
View 112 Business Personal Statements
Gain a solid theoretical foundation and practical training in this fascinating arm of science.
View 35 Chemistry Personal Statements
Delve into the literature, history, philosophy and archaeology of the Greeks and Romans.
View 9 Classics Personal Statements
Combine analytical knowledge and technical skills to ready yourself for an in-demand career.
View 108 Computer Science Personal Statements
Computing and IT
Get ahead in IT by becoming an accomplished programmer, learning how computers work and expanding your Mathematics skills.
View 120 Computing and IT Personal Statements
Study the science behind criminal behaviour, laws and justice.
View 39 Criminology Personal Statements
Explore the practice of dance and develop your performance, choreography and teaching skills
View 1 Dance Personal Statement
Study the latest approaches in dentistry, combined with practical clinical experience that will prepare you for your career.
View 14 Dentistry Personal Statements
Apply your artistic skills in a commercial environment.
View 24 Design Personal Statements
Qualify as a dietician in the UK with this degree that explores the science of nutrition and how to communicate it to the wider world.
View 3 Dietetics Personal Statements
Combine theatre theory and practice to help you on your way to centre stage.
View 19 Drama Personal Statements
Learning the fundamentals of this subject will pave the way to many career options, including a data analyst, stockbroker, forensic accountant and external auditor.
View 156 Economics Personal Statements
Explore how people develop and learn in their social and cultural contexts.
View 25 Education Personal Statements
Browse our engineering personal statement examples to help you write your own, unique statement.
View 183 Engineering Personal Statements
Improve your reading, creative writing and critical thinking with an English degree.
View 157 English Personal Statements
Explore different habitats, climates, formations and societies and how we can reduce the human impact on nature.
View 10 Environment Personal Statements
Learn more about the science of the environment through collaborative research, expeditions and teaching partnerships.
View 12 Environmental Science Personal Statements
This varied and exciting field will prepare you for a number of careers, including a hotel manager, charity fundraiser and a tourism officer.
View 4 Event Management Personal Statements
Find out more about the fundamentals of fashion and find out more about how to research, design and develop clothing.
View 16 Fashion Personal Statements
Discover the core skills required to become a screenwriter, director or critic.
View 23 Film Personal Statements
Equip yourself with the basic skills and techniques needed for a successful financial career.
View 57 Finance Personal Statements
Food Science and Catering
Discover more about travel, tourism, event management and food science in this exciting subject.
View 3 Food Science and Catering Personal Statements
Study a wide range of subjects from chemistry and biology, to criminalistics and toxicology.
View 10 Forensic Science Personal Statements
Personal statements written by students taking a year out before university.
View 6 Gap Year Personal Statements
Study the earth’s physical structures and scientific processes to prepare yourself for a career in urban planning, environmental consultancy, conservation and many more.
View 62 Geography Personal Statements
Understand the evolution of the earth, how our planet works and what the future holds for us through both laboratory and field work.
View 14 Geology Personal Statements
This subject provides a broad base of scientific knowledge and skills applicable to many occupations and potential career opportunities.
View 21 Health Sciences Personal Statements
History of Art
Increase your understanding of ancient and modern society and culture.
View 6 History of Art Personal Statements
Study the events and people from the past to better understand what our future could be like.
View 143 History Personal Statements
Give yourself a solid foundation for many different career options in this exciting and thriving sector.
View 6 Hotel Management Personal Statements
Understand how politics, history, geography, economics and law all require international co-operation to resolve global problems.
View 96 International Relations Personal Statements
Read personal statement examples written by international students.
View 23 International Student Personal Statements
A subject that is applicable to a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies.
View 10 International Studies Personal Statements
Study the foundation and development of Islamic knowledge from a broad and multidisciplinary perspective.
View 4 Islamic Studies Personal Statements
Explore Japan’s society, culture and language, with some universities offering the opportunity to spend a year abroad.
View 10 Japanese Studies Personal Statements
Develop the full set of skills required for a career in journalism.
View 14 Journalism Personal Statements
This multi-disciplinary social science course focuses on the study of economics, business and law and their relationship to the environment around us.
View 1 Land Economy Personal Statement
Set yourself on the path to an international career with a languages degree.
View 87 Language Personal Statements
Develop a critical awareness of the common law legal tradition and apply problem-solving skills to a range of legal and non-legal settings.
View 166 Law Personal Statements
Learn the science behind languages, and how to understand and interpret language on a global scale.
View 19 Linguistics Personal Statements
Gain a broad foundation in topics relating to business, finance, economics and marketing.
View 45 Management Personal Statements
Give yourself the knowledge and skills you need to excel as a professional marketer.
View 24 Marketing Personal Statements
Take your understanding of the theories and concepts of mathematics to a higher level.
View 105 Mathematics Personal Statements
Read personal statement examples written by mature UCAS students.
View 15 Mature Student Personal Statements
This degree is ideal if you want to pursue a career in PR, journalism, film, advertising or broadcasting.
View 45 Media Personal Statements
Browse our collection of medicine personal statement examples to help you write your own.
View 102 Medicine Perso Personal Statements
Gain the necessary skills and clinical experience to become a qualified midwife.
View 9 Midwifery Personal Statements
Develop your ability to create new music by studying topics such as composition, performance and music theory.
View 24 Music Personal Statements
Prepare yourself for a career in the music and audio industry.
View 7 Music Technology Personal Statements
Focus on various perspectives of the natural world, including chemical, physical, mathematical and geological.
View 18 Natural Sciences Personal Statements
Explore the workings of the human brain, from molecules to neural systems.
View 12 Neuroscience Personal Statements
Qualify for a rewarding career as an adult, children’s or mental health nurse.
View 36 Nursing Personal Statements
Learn the knowledge and skills to treat people with psychological, physical or social disabilities.
View 8 Occupational Therapy Personal Statements
Learn the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to become a registered osteopath.
View 1 Osteopathy Personal Statement
Personal statements by those applying to study at Oxbridge.
View 150 Oxbridge Personal Statements
Apply for this course to successfully qualify as a registered pharmacist in the UK.
View 20 Pharmacy Personal Statements
Find out how to form and voice your own opinions, and how to analyse and communicate ideas clearly and logically.
View 86 Philosophy Personal Statements
A course combining academic study and hands-on practice to help you become a skilled photographer.
View 8 Photography Personal Statements
Learn about the fundamental building blocks and forces of nature and how physics helps us understand the world around us.
View 55 Physics Personal Statements
Choose from a medical, human or general physiological science course.
View 3 Physiology Personal Statements
Learn the theoretical disciplines and gain the practical experience required to become a qualified physiotherapist.
View 6 Physiotherapy Personal Statements
Study how governments work, how public policies are made, international relations and other topics to open the door to a wide range of careers.
View 194 Politics Personal Statements
Read example personal statements written by postgraduate students for their chosen universities.
View 44 Postgraduate Personal Statements
Explore how our minds work and why we behave the way we do.
View 154 Psychology Personal Statements
Help diagnose and treat illness by producing and interpreting medical images, or learn how to treat cancer patients with therapeutic radiography.
View 5 Radiography Personal Statements
A creative discipline, vital to contemporary understandings of economy, art, politics, media culture and globalisation.
View 4 Religious Studies Personal Statements
A popular degree course, with a practical focus, that allows you to develop your professional skills and knowledge as you study to become a qualified social worker.
View 26 Social Work Personal Statements
Gain the knowledge and skills required to critically engage with issues facing society today.
View 66 Sociology Personal Statements
Sports & Leisure
Understand the value and purpose of sport in society, as well as the social, cultural and economic importance of sport and contemporary issues in sport and leisure.
View 13 Sports & Leisure Personal Statements
Learn about sports performance and the factors that affect behaviour in sport.
View 14 Sports Science Personal Statements
Discover how to manage buildings by exploring topics such as project management, legal and technical advice, building reports, defect diagnosis and conservation.
View 2 Surveying Personal Statements
Become a qualified teacher with this popular training course.
View 13 Teacher Training Personal Statements
Understand the different religious and spiritual perspectives in the contemporary world.
View 9 Theology Personal Statements
Travel and Tourism
Prepare for a career in one of the fastest growing industries with this vocational degree.
View 3 Travel and Tourism Personal Statements
Gather the skills required to help you shape and design the world around us.
View 3 Urban Planning Personal Statements
Study the basic veterinary sciences first before learning to apply that knowledge to veterinary practice as a clinical student.
View 6 Veterinary Science Personal Statements
Learn about all kinds of animals, including their anatomy, physiology, genetics, and their adaptations for survival and reproduction in different environments.
View 7 Zoology Personal Statements
How To Write A Bad Personal Statement
Find out more
Personal Statement Mistakes To Avoid
What is a personal statement?
The UCAS personal statement is an important piece of writing you need to put together for your UCAS application .
It is where students should sell themselves in order to try and secure a place at their chosen universities . This includes your strengths, achievements, interests and ambitions, and you need to convey why the university should choose you over other candidates.
How do I write a personal statement?
We recommend you start by making some notes about what you want to study at university and why, as well as a list of skills and interests, and your gap year plans (if you have any).
We then suggest reading some example personal statements for inspiration, and to see how previous students have successfully applied for courses at university.
This should give you an idea of how to put your own statement together, starting with an attention-grabbing opening that explains what aspects of your subject you enjoy and why.
The next few paragraphs need to cover your relevant work experience and activities outside of school, as well as your interests or hobbies, and anything else you’ve done related to your subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form.
The final paragraph should round off your statement succinctly and talk about your future plans after university, and how a degree can help you achieve these.
Our personal statement template can help you structure your statement correctly.
Remember that the language you use and the way it is laid out will be judged too, so it’s important to get all aspects of your statement right.
Once you’ve written your personal statement, ask family, friends and tutors to read it and give you some feedback. Look through their comments and amend your statement accordingly (if you feel they improve it).
Try to ask for several rounds of feedback to make sure it's as good as it can be before sending it off.
For more advice, please see our in-depth personal statement writing guide .
How do I start a personal statement?
The first rule with opening your personal statement is to avoid using any cliches or over-used phrases or sentences that the admissions tutors have seen a million times before.
These include: "ever since I was young/a child", "I have always wanted to be..." and "for as long as I can remember".
If you want the reader to go to sleep or immediately put your UCAS form in the rejection pile, then this is a sure way to go about it.
Instead, try to put together an eye opening sentence or two that will grab their attention and make them want to read on.
Our example personal statements above will help you with this, by showing you how students have constructed successful statements in the past.
Many students choose to start their statement by talking about a specific aspect of the subject they enjoy most and why they are interested in it. Others choose to relate a life experience (avoiding cliches) from their younger days, while some decide to begin their statement in another way.
There's no right or wrong answer - just make sure it doesn't read like hundreds of other statements the tutors have already seen before!
How do I end a personal statement?
You should conclude your personal statement with a concise summary of why you are an ideal candidate for this course, your career plans, and any other ambitions you have for the future.
Try to keep it to no more than three or four lines, but make sure the content sells you as a person and has a positive tone that will encourage admissions tutors to offer you a place.
Take a look at your initial notes to help you - remember, it doesn't have to be perfect at this point, as you will have time to redraft it later.
Again, our example personal statements above will provide you with some inspiration for this part of your personal statement (but please don't copy any of them, or UCAS will penalise your application!).
How do I structure my personal statement?
Your personal statement should have a clear beginning , middle and end.
Structure is important if your statement is to be a coherent creative piece of writing, so all the paragraphs should flow nicely together.
At Studential, we recommend the following approach as a guideline:
- Paragraph 1: Introduction to your subject, the aspects you’re interested in and why
- Paragraph 2: What you have done related to the subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form
- Paragraphs 3 and 4: Work experience placements and relevant extracurricular activities at school
- Paragraph 5: Your interests and hobbies outside of school, particularly those that show you are a responsible and reliable person
- Paragraph 6: Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment.
Of course, you may wish to structure yours differently and it's entirely up to you at the end of the day - just remember to make sure it's coherent and flows together well.
For additional help on piecing it together, use our personal statement template , which will give you an idea of how a successful statement should look.
What makes a great personal statement?
Tell the reader why you're applying to this particular course and university – 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.
You need to show the admissions tutors why you make a perfect candidate for your chosen course, and what value you can bring to their department.
What should you not write in a personal statement?
Avoid these common mistakes if you want your personal statement to be successful:
- Listing your skills, experience etc. Use full sentences and examples to back everything up.
- Any form of negativity - be positive!
- Omitting any relevant skills or achievements
- Embellishing the truth or lying outright
- Not checking for spelling and grammar issues - this sort of sloppiness just tells the admissions tutors you don't care very much
- Not asking for feedback from friends, family and teachers - this is a great way of receiving objective advice
- Stating the obvious or repeating what is already mentioned on your UCAS form elsewhere
- Including over-used words, phrases and sentences, such as "ever since I was a child..." and "I have always wanted to be...".
- Using jokes or humour - this isn't the time or place, and the admissions tutors probably won't appreciate it!
How long should my personal statement be?
For undergraduate courses, UCAS allows students up to 4,000 characters for their personal statement.
This isn't a huge amount of space, so you need to make sure every word counts and you sell yourself in the best possible light at all times!
Once you have put together an initial draft, you can check if it's too long or short with our personal statement length checker .
When should I start writing my personal statement?
We recommend you begin writing some notes during the school summer holidays, and maybe even have your first draft written before going back in September (especially if you're applying to Oxbridge ).
The sooner you start writing, the sooner you can get your final draft in place ready for your UCAS form. This also helps to take the pressure off, and means you won't be rushing to get it done at the last minute.
Use our handy UCAS personal statement template to help you structure your statement, and make sure you have included everything you need to.
Personal statement tips
For a successful personal statement, we recommend following these top tips:
- This is your opportunity to sell yourself - so use it! Talk about your strengths, abilities, achievements, personal traits, hobbies, extracurricular activities and anything else relevant that makes you an amazing candidate for this course.
- Start writing your personal statement early - ideally over the summer holidays, which give you plenty of time to get a perfect statement in place by the autumn (this advice especially applies if you are applying to Oxbridge , or for medicine , veterinary science , or dentistry ).
- Make sure you back up everything you say with solid examples, using your initial notes to help you.
- Talk about your motivations for choosing this particular course, and showcase all strengths using your own voice.
- Don’t embellish the truth or lie outright (you’ll get caught out at the interview!), and don’t use humour or tell jokes (this isn’t the time or place).
- Use positive language and let your enthusiasm shine through - tutors only want students on their course that are passionate about their subject!
- Don't get someone else to write your statement for you, or buy/plagiarise a statement online. UCAS check statements for similarity, and your chances of being offered a place at university could be affected if they find you have cheated on your statement.
- Ask those you know and trust to provide you with feedback, and incorporate their comments and suggestions accordingly.
- Go through at least several rounds of feedback before polishing your statement into a final draft.
- Don't just rely on a Spellchecker to check your statement for errors - read it through carefully three or four times to make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Use an reputable personal statement editing service if you're struggling with your final draft, or just want to try and give it some extra shine!
These tips and advice apply to all personal statements, whether you’re applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate course. If you follow them, you will have a better chance of securing a place at your chosen universities.
Best of luck with your UCAS application!
- How to write a personal statement
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- Personal Statement Tips From A Teacher
- Analysis Of A Personal Statement
- The 15th January UCAS Deadline: 4 Ways To Avoid Missing It
- Personal Statement FAQs
- Personal Statement Timeline
- 10 Top Personal Statement Writing Tips
- What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline.
- UCAS personal statement advice
- Complete University Guide
- The Uni Guide
- Study In UK
University personal statement resources
- University of Sussex personal statement tips
- UCLan personal statement tips
- Portsmouth University - How to write a UCAS Personal Statement
- Birmingham City University - how to start a personal statement
- Durham University - writing a personal statement
- Loughborough University - personal statements
- University of Hull - making your personal statement stand out
- London School of Economics - personal statement advice
- Bangor University personal statement advice
- Falmouth University - how to write your personal statement
- University of Salford - writing your personal statement
- Imperial College personal statements
- University of Lincoln - writing a personal statement
- University of Southampton - how to strengthen your personal statement
- Solent University personal statement hub
- University of Liverpool - top tips for personal statements
- Sheffield University - 5 top tips on how to write a personal statement
- Aberystwyth University - writing a personal statement
- Nottingham University - how to write a stand out personal statement
- Brunel University - how to write a personal statement
- University of Leeds - writing your personal statement
- University of Warwick - writing your personal statement