Personal Statement Skills: What You MUST Include!

When you write your personal statement, you’re frequently told to include ‘skills’. But what skills should you include, how should you write about them and why are they important?

The skills to include in your personal statement are the ones which best illustrate your suitability for academic study and your knowledge of your intended subject. You should include skills gained from relevant practical experience and those which are suited to further progression in the subject.

I’ve explained each of these four skills areas in detail below, so that you can create a compelling, successful and skills-rich personal statement in no time at all…

Evidence Your Suitability with Academic Skills

If you’re planning to study at degree level or beyond, the institution you are applying to needs to see evidence of your academic suitability in your personal statement. Yes, you’ll predicted grades to support you, but that’s not enough. What’s key is to evidence your broader academic ability, not just your subject knowledge.

You can click here to read my post on exactly how to make your personal statement outstanding!

Academic abilities break down into three sections, and you need to include examples of each of these in your application:

These are skills that allow you to efficiently and accurately make use of existing sources of information. Key components are:These are skills that allow you to draw conclusions from research and apply those conclusions comparatively or in context:These are the language skills that will allow you to communicate your research and arguments in a logical and effective way:
Online research
Library research
Persuasive writing
Data handling
Essay structure
Formal tone
Academic Skills for Personal Statements

The logical way to approach these three elements is to combine them into a single point. Each point should show that you have successfully made use of research skills, analysed the relevant data and presented it well, regardless of your subject focus.

You can discover resources that will help you develop your research and analytical skills here, and find out how to strengthen your study skills here.

Take a look at the following extract. It covers all three elements in a concise and compelling way, and it is the kind of approach you need to aim for in your own personal statement:

If you’re not sure about the best way to structure your work, or want some extra support with your spelling, punctuation and grammar, then I often steer students towards using Grammarly. It’s a free piece of software that can really lift your writing; it’s highly intuitive and allows you to phrase content in a concise and compelling way. If you want to find out more about how to make Grammarly work for you, check out this link.

Show the Skills that Prove Your Subject Knowledge

As well as being an appropriately academic candidate, admissions teams will want to see strong evidence of skills related to your subject. They will expect a range of relevant, tangible skills, built up over time and related to both academic and practical study.

They will also want to see evidence that you have acquired skills based on practical experience and engagement with your chosen subject outside of the formal curriculum.

The table below lists the kinds of opportunities that might equip you with the subject-specific skills you should include in your personal statement:

Practical experience volunteering in a relevant contextField trips or research trips where you developed skillsWork experience or internship opportunities undertaken
Additional subject related courses/qualifications, IRL or onlineWider reading and research that you have then appliedPublications, performances, research or presentations
Creating your own products, companies, performances or workMentoring others who are developing an interest in your subjectClosely related hobbies, or clubs/organisations you engage with
Subject Skills Sources

Just like your academic skills, it is important to put these into context using the following formula:

Explain the relevant skill you have, identify how this skill was developed and indicate how it will be of value on the course you are applying for

Your Personal Statement Support

Here’s an example that follows this formula, so that you can see how you might write it down effectively:

Shine by Including Transferable ‘Soft’ Skills

For a long time, transferable or ‘soft’ skills we considered less important in academic applications. You would often hear of students who had been told to ‘add a sentence about their hobbies’. This is not the case today, and admissions officers and employers want to be reassured that applicants have the interpersonal and social skills to succeed in a pressurised and often stressful environment.

In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.

Daniel Goleman

What kinds of transferable skills are universities looking for?

  • Punctuality and preparedness
  • Resilience
  • Ability to study independently and effectively
  • Creativity
  • Motivation and dedication
  • Physical stamina and engagement
  • Teamwork and cooperative skills
  • Organisation
  • Pressure management and well-being strategies
  • Awareness of personal finance
  • Awareness of multi-form diversity
  • Effective use of technology (personal and professional)
  • Community contribution and volunteering

As before, the important thing is to make sure you put these transferable skills into context. Don’t write them like the list above but indicate why and how they are of value to you and those around you.

For more powerful personal statement strategies, check out my post here.

Prove you have the Skills to Succeed in the Future

Last of all, your personal statement should indicate that you’ve got the potential to develop the skills you’ll need after you graduate, whether that’s in the workplace or in further study.

Common examples include:

Ability to work successfully and flexibly from a variety of locationsVerbal, physical and written communication skillsDecision-making and accountability strengths and experienceUnderstanding and application of appropriate technology
Ability to balance work and personal time to maintain wellbeingAppropriate use of social media and an understanding of reputational lossAbility to cultivate multiple income streams and cross platform contactsUnderstanding of the challenges and opportunities within the sector
Futureproof Skills for Personal Statements

By illustrating your existing use of these skills, you are reassuring an employer or course leader that you are not only likely to complete the course, but will be ready to move forwards with strategy and purpose once you graduate.

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...

Recent Posts