Examples of personal statements

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Personal statement examples

The personal statement is a 400 word story about why you want to study at university. This is your opportunity to prove your understanding of your subject area and directly relate it to experiences outside of the classroom.

Start out with a broad structure. 80% of your writing should be academically focused, whereas the other 20% should be extra-curricular.

Introduction

How not to write an introduction:

Visiting a building site from the age of ten every weekend for nearly two years to see how the construction of my parents’ house was evolving, has meant I have always been very interested in the property and construction industry.

This is your opening statement. It should be academically focused and avoid OTT language and extreme statements, such as “I have always been very interested”.  It’s unlikely that you have “always” been interested in your subject area. It’s better to focus on examples that show how engaged you are currently.

One of my first memories was watching my father build my tree house in the back garden and me trying to help him as much as possible, I have always been a very practical person with the goal of working in the construction industry.

The academic tutor considering your application has roughly a couple of minutes to get a sense of why you are suitable for the course.  Avoid back-story and get straight to your experience.  A better, more concise version of this introduction could have read:

In 2006 I worked for 6 weeks on a building site in *Town Name*, where I learned how a large and complex operation is run efficiently.

A better example of an introduction:

To me business is not just about buying and selling: it is about the interaction between people, the innovation, the knowledge and determination to be a success. I believe I am a hardworking, driven individual with natural flair and…

The opening line is original, interesting and it captures the student’s engagement with the subject. The writer then introduces themselves with their key qualities, which go's on to flow naturally into the opening paragraph of their statement.

Academic focus

The bulk of your statement will be academically focus. This is a place you can demonstrate:

  • Your research and understanding of the course
  • How what are you currently studying that relates to the course
  • Any additional reading you have done around your subject
  • What skills do you have/are you developing that would make you a great student to teach
  • What knowledge you may have that makes you ideal for the course 

An example of good academic focus:

Chemistry has enabled me to relate Mathematics to several theories, such as titrations. My statistical skills have been further enhanced whilst studying Biology through the use of equations such as standard deviation.

This student, applying for Mathematics, directly relates work in other subjects with the course they are applying for. This demonstrates an interdisciplinary approach and highlights a wide understanding of the subject.

Attending *School Name* until the age of 16 meant I had to be highly self-motivated in my studies - achieving 4A*at GCSE - which was the highest number in my year group. I am particularly proud of the fact that I achieved 100% in each of my modular GCSE mathematics exams. I was the only student in my year 9 group to achieve a level 8 in the maths SATs exam.

The student outlines their achievements in relation to others, while demonstrating their dedication to academia. They also show how they stand out from the crowd academically, making them an attractive prospect to the reader.

I was put forward for the UKMT junior, intermediate and senior achieving a bronze or silver each year. This enabled me to apply my Mathematics skills to solve vigorous problems. I was previously involved in Young Enterprise as Finance Manager. This has taught me a range of skills including…

Finally, the student closely associates their extra curricular activity with their interests in Mathematics. This links nicely with how other extra curricular activities, those perhaps not related academically, can develop useful skills.

Extra curricular activities

Think about your work experiences/interests and hobbies and the skills you've gained from them. 

  • What are you involved in outside of school that has given you the opportunity to develop new skills?
  • What has impacted on your decision to study your chosen course?
  • Have you been employed? How have you coped with balancing your workload? 

Good example:

Outside of school, I have used my skills in Graphic Design to create various concert flyers, along with a poster for the East/North Birmingham NHS Urgent Care Centre, which was used across Birmingham, and presented at the 'National Conference on Urgent Care.

The student uses their extra curricular activities to demonstrate their graphic design skills on a professional level, citing examples.

Bad example:

My hobbies and interests range from football, learning the piano and writing poetry. I currently play for SMALL TOWN FC, which is a semi-professional football club located in SMALL TOWN in the Black Country. My position for the club is centre midfield and I can also play as a left/right midfielder.

The student has only provided a list of hobbies. Also, far too many words are given to describing his/her place on the football field, none of which contributes to explaining why the student is suitable for the course or demonstrating the development of key skills.

Conclusion

End your piece with a positive statement - it could highlight your interest in the subject or explain how you think you will benefit from higher education.  However you choose to end your personal statement, it is your final chance to impress and stand out from the crowd.

In preparation for university, I intend to gain some experience by volunteering at a local hospital and shadowing audiologists. I believe this will further my knowledge and understanding in the subject. My personal experiences and attributes have led me to believe that I would be well suited to a career in Audiology and all that it entails. Furthermore I look forward to expanding my knowledge at a top university, and preparing for an eventual career within the health sector and the possibility of further training as I know that gaining a degree is only the first step.

This student speaks about their plans for university, as well as aspirations for the future. This is a great way of showing your reader that you have direction, and that the skills / experience you have demonstrated are directly related to your subject area.

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