Are Personal Statements Important? What You Need To Know

So much time, effort and energy goes into writing a personal statement that it can sometimes be tempting to wonder if they are really as vital as everyone tells you they are.

After all, your qualifications and other academic achievements speak for themselves, right?

So, with all the other elements that go into an application, are personal statements important?

Personal statements are important for three reasons. The process of researching, writing and editing a personal statement helps to clarify the attitude and intention of the applicant. They also evidence academic writing skills in a tangible way and communicate skills, potential and ambition.

Why Do I Need A Personal Statement Anyway?

You need a personal statement because UCAS and most institutions that work through the Common App want to see evidence of your individuality, experience and engagement in your specialist subject in a personal way.

This is what will set you apart from applicants with a similar academic profile.

You can find out how to create an original personal statement here.

The Personal Statement Process Helps You Reflect

In many ways, the process of researching, writing and editing your personal statement has a significant intrinsic value, even before you submit your application.

When you prepare it in depth and detail, you are also evaluating your ambitions, ideas, preferences, strengths and connection with your subject. That’s an extremely positive process to go through.

You’ll need to carry out some detailed research into subject courses, and as a result, you are likely to make new discoveries and be inspired to follow academic pathways you may not have considered.

You can get some advice on making the right degree choices here, or check out some of my outstanding personal statement examples.

By discussing your application with peers, family, teachers and relevant figures in industry, you’ll be forming a clearer picture of your own interests, strengths and suitability in a way that, without the requirement to write a personal statement, it’s unlikely you would have achieved.

By bringing all these elements together, you’re far more likely to make the right choice of subject, course and campus.

If you hadn’t had to challenge yourself to justify your thoughts in writing, the chances are you would have submitted a much weaker application.

Personal Statements Evidence Academic Suitability

Even though you will be including evidence of your achieved and pending qualifications in your application, it is worth realising that it is your personal statement that provides universities and employers with tangible evidence that you are capable of writing in a suitably academic style.

Think of your personal statement as being like a ‘mini essay’ or a taster of the way in which you might be expected to write in higher education, and try to achieve the appropriate balance between your ideas and the views of others.

How do universities and employers use a personal statement to judge your strengths?

Your academic suitability is evidenced through your style of writing (persuasive, concise, balanced, objective), your ability to combine relevant research with informed opinion, your use of subject-appropriate vocabulary and the accuracy of your spelling, punctuation and grammar. 

If you can achieve this combination of quality and content, an admissions team is far more likely to offer you a place, especially if your predicted qualifications endorse that same level of quality.

If your achieved or predicted grades are not as strong as you would like, or are likely to make it a challenge to achieve an offer at a particular university, then your personal statement becomes all the more valuable, as it offers the reader proof of the standard of writing of which you are capable.

As a result, your personal statement is an exceptionally important part of the process.

When it comes to powerful personal statement strategies, you can check out my post on the kinds of mistakes to avoid here and also discover some outstanding personal statement examples.

To make sure that your use of spelling, punctuation and grammar is perfect, I often recommend Grammarly to the students I work with. It’s a free piece of software that is far more powerful and intuitive than most of the options built into word-processing packages, and worth exploring if you’re planning on writing extensively at university.

You can check out the free version of Grammarly here or hit the banner.

Showing Skills, Potential and Ambition is Vital

The final reason why personal statements are so important to your application is that they communicate your skills, potential and ambitions in a way that qualifications alone can’t achieve.

Imagine that your personal statement is a kind of interview, but instead of sitting across the desk from an interviewer, you’re having that same conversation in advance.

Think of all the things you’d want to tell someone about yourself and the wonderful aspects of your journey that not only relate to the study of your subject but make you who you are.

That’s a much more vivid picture than qualifications alone could ever paint.

By showing that you have the skills to engage with your subject outside of the classroom, your personal statement acts as an advertisement for your experience and potential.

Writing about your transferable skills, as well as the subject-specific skills you have developed, helps the reader to understand your level of commitment and drive, which is hard to judge without a personal statement for context.

By using the final paragraph of your personal statement to write about your ambitions, both for the course of study and beyond into the workplace, you are giving the reader the opportunity to visualise you as a successful graduate and subsequently make you an achievable offer.

What better function could a personal statement have than that?

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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