10 Personal Statement Tips: Make Yours Amazing!




If you want to make sure that your personal statement is outstanding, then using some of my top tips will help you write an amazing application. It’s not an easy task, and there’s lots of detailed information available online, but some quick and effective personal statement tips can really help you refine and polish your writing.

But what are the best kinds of personal statement tips?

Personal statement tips fall into three categories. You need advice on what should be included, as well as how to write a really good personal statement. Lastly, you need to know how to stand out in a personal statement, so that the reader recognises your potential and makes you an offer.

I’ve broken these categories down in this post, and given you my top 10 personal statement tips, to help you make your personal statement amazing!

Don’t forget to check out my post on how to start your personal statement, or if you’re not sure why a personal statement is important, learn why you should take the time to get yours right here.

What Should be Included in a Personal Statement?

A successful personal statement will include details related to your motivation to study a specific subject whilst evidencing your academic suitability. It should also outline relevant experiences and achievements alongside key transferable skills that will add value to your application.

The personal statement is an important part of your UCAS application. It’s your chance to describe your ambitions, skills, and experience to university and college admissions staff.

UCAS

1 Your Motivation for the Course or Subject

This personal statement tip can often be the way to grab the attention of the reader at the start of your application. Outlining a compelling, dynamic reason for your continued interest in a field of study can help to convince the reader that you are dedicated to your passion, and ready to study at a higher level.

Whether it’s life-changing words from a figure you admire, a personal experience that transformed you or a member of your own family that has inspired a love of a particular subject, there’s no better way to show your commitment than by sharing its origins.

A word of caution… your personal statement must be about you, not about a figure you admire. So use your inspiration as a starting point, but keep your writing focused on your own achievements and ambitions.

Which of these examples do you think works best?

By the way, if you’re planning on using quotes to emphasise a point, you should read my detailed guide on how to use quotes in personal statements for the best way to include these.

2 Your Academic Knowledge and Experience

Very near the start of your personal statement, you need to give examples of the depth and relevance of your academic understanding. You can do this by offering examples of educational achievements and including the specifics that you’ve learned from those experiences.

You should make sure you focus on the aspects of your formal education that are most relevant to the demands or contents of the courses you are applying for, as admissions teams like to see evidence that your existing knowledge can be developed at university.

Don’t write these as a list. Instead, follow the ABC structure when it comes to every point you make…

You can read my useful post on how to write great opening paragraphs here.

3 Your Practical Experiences and Achievements

Don’t forget that practical work in your subject area is just as important to an admissions team as your theoretical academic studies. University is all about applying knowledge, so show that you’ve already developed skills in this area.

There’s a great table that gives you lots of examples of this in the following post…

Writing about achievements and experiences isn’t boastful. It’s actually an essential part of reflecting on your journey and reaffirming your suitability. Don’t be shy to write positively about how you applied practical skills to your area of expertise, and how this has added value to your application.

4 Your Relevant Transferable Skills

My last tip in this section is vital, and one that’s sometimes overlooked by applicants. This is often because they don’t recognise the importantance of transferable skills, or because they’ve received some outdated advice along the lines of ‘don’t write about being a keen swimmer, it’s a waste of space.’

In a way, that advice is right.

Just writing about your love of swimming doesn’t have a relevance. But in this scenario, swimming isn’t the skill in question. We’re really talking about self-discipline, motivation, physical stamina and determination. Those kinds of transferable skills can be relevant from everything from the study of Architecture to Zoology.

To help you, I’ve written a post on outstanding personal statement examples to inspire you, and there’s some valuable detail on the skills you must include here.

How do you Write a Really Good Personal Statement?

You write a really good personal statement through forward planning and preparation, organisation and discipline. You also need to ensure that your writing is concise and accurate, and give yourself time to share your personal statement with others before using feedback to improve it.

Explain what you can bring to a course and try not to just list experiences, but describe how they have given you skills that will help you at university.

James Seymour, University of Gloucestershire

5 Plan Your Personal Statement in Advance

In an ideal world, you’re going to begin planning your personal statement around 18 months before you plan to submit it.

I know, that sounds way too soon.

However, the reality is that you’ll want to have a wide range of relevant, high-quality content to include, from books you’ve read and lectures you’ve attended to internships and volunteering opportunities that add value to your application. These things take time to plan and complete, and if you don’t plan ahead, you’ll find that time has slipped by, and your personal statement is weaker as a result.

Taking the time to plan in advance not only takes the stress out of writing your personal statement, but it also gives you the space to fully research your choice of course, visit universities on open days, have important discussions with peers and advisors and, potentially, change your mind completely with time to spare.

Planning ahead, gathering material and making small choices over a period of time is one of the very best personal statement tips I can offer.

6 Ensure Your Writing is Concise and Accurate

A really good personal statement must not only evidence your suitability and potential, but do it in a concise, compelling and accurate manner. You might be a great candidate for a course, but if your personal statement is rambling and full of errors, you’re less likely to get an achievable offer compared to an applicant with a well-written document.

Take the time to proofread, edit and rewrite, or get someone else to help you check it over and offer feedback. Here you can find out how to check a personal statement, or you could use a tool like Grammarly to help you with spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as phrasing, flow and vocabulary. There’s a free version available here, or hit the banner below.

You can also check out my super-informative post on what to avoid in personal statements here.    

7 Make use of Help and Feedback

You can’t write a really good personal statement alone, so my last tip in this section is to make sure you get as much help and feedback as you can from a wide range of people who know about your strengths, weakness and ambitions, and who also have an understanding of what a college or university might be looking for.

Share your drafts with them regularly, talk through your campus and course choices, take them with you to open days and keep an open mind; if you pick the right people, they will all want to help.

Traditionally, great help comes from:

  • Peers
  • Teachers and tutors
  • Careers or HE advisors
  • Heads of academic departments
  • Heads of year
  • Guidance counsellors
  • Those in related industries
  • Alumni

You’re likely to get less expert (and possibly unhelpful) advice from friends and family, so listen to what they have to say, but balance it with more informed opinions.

Don’t forget that, having asked for advice and feedback, you should listen carefully to it and act upon it, especially if the same points are raised consistently.

For more free guidance, check out my helpful post on why having help is vital here.

How do you Stand out in a Personal Statement?

To successfully stand out in a personal statement, evidence your wider reading and independent research, use an effective structure and demonstrate how your ambitions match the course offer. Admissions tutors will take note of a polished, balanced and detail-rich personal statement.

Enthusiasm, motivation and focus about the subject you’re applying to. Mention extra- curricular activities, transferable skills and include what your future career plans are after your degree.

Maxine Charlton, the University of York.

8 Evidence Your Wider Reading and Research

Your personal statement doesn’t need gimmicks to stand out. You’d be surprised how few applicants include all the required elements, and how a well-written application stands out on its own merits. The key is to evidence the wider reading and research that you undertake as you pursue your interest in your subject.

Do write in a way that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding, but keep it personal. If you find you’re writing an essay on a topic rather than writing about your engagement with the subject, then you’ve probably got the balance wrong.

Here’s an example that demonstrates independent reading, thought and research, but doesn’t stray from the point…

9 Use a Structure That Tells Your Story

The order in which you write the contents of your personal statement can be key to engaging and maintaining the reader’s attention. Different structures work for different approaches, but a basic personal statement structure will always work as follows:

  • Inspirational moment or motivation for study
  • Academic knowledge and suitability
  • Further academic reading and research, extending your suitability
  • Practical engagement and achievements
  • Transferable skills
  • Wider interests
  • Ambition and value

You can get a free downloadable template for undergraduate UCAS applications here, or by clicking below. Equally, check out this post if you’re looking for original approaches to writing your personal statement or pick the perfect personal statement structure here.

10 Demonstrate Your Individuality and Ambition

My last top tip in this post is to encourage you to write your personal statement in your voice, and to let your individuality shine through. There are, of course, some words of caution that go with this advice and I’ve listed these below. You can also read my full guide to just how personal a personal statement should be.

Do…

  • Identify the personal experiences that have informed your interest in the subject
  • Celebrate your individual strengths
  • Refer to the contexts that have formed you as a person
  • Outline your ambitions in relation to the course and beyond
  • Write about yourself, not about others

Don’t…

  • Use slang, profanity, poor spelling, emojis or vocabulary from a specific dialect
  • Try to amuse, shock, entertain or be ‘unique’ by taking extreme views
  • Write about how good the university is at the expense of your own qualities
  • Attempt to manipulate or plead with the reader to make you an offer
  • Ask someone else to write your personal statement ‘better’ on your behalf

Ultimately, the reader wants to understand your journey, the motivation behind your application and the contributions you are likely to make to their academic and social community. If enough of your personality shines through to allow them to feel as though they’ve got to know you a little, then you’ve probably got the balance right.


Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support. You’ve got this! D

Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.

David Hallen

I've worked in the Further Education and University Admissions sector for nearly 20 years as a teacher, department head, Head of Sixth Form, UCAS Admissions Advisor, UK Centre Lead and freelance personal statement advisor, editor and writer. And now I'm here for you...

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