How to write a Personal Statement
Your Personal Statement is often your only way to ‘sell yourself’ to a university so it is very important that you take the time to make it the best that it possibly can be. Students are advised to start on their first drafts in the summer between years 12 and 13. That way, you can return to school after the break with most of the work done and then seek advice from your teachers or personal tutors to edit it ready for sending off.
This article is broken into the following sections:
A good way to start is by introducing your passion for your chosen course and briefly outlining your reasons for wanting to study it at undergraduate level. Try to avoid clichés like “For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by Chemistry” or “From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor”. Admissions Tutors read that sort of thing very frequently and are probably quite bored with it. Also, deciding to be a doctor when you were 10 is quite different to knowing you want to be one now; focus on the now.
Here are some examples of different ways students have opened their Personal Statements.
The prospect of reading English at university excites me a great deal.
For Computer Science:
The logical approach to solving complicated problems is the main force behind my enjoyment of computing and programming.
I have observed rapid economic growth in my home town of XX, such as a noticeable improvement in the quality of commodities. Exploring the main forces behind this development has inspired me to continue to study Economics.
These reveal something about each student to the Admissions Tutor and hopefully finding your first few sentences interesting will encourage them to read on, looking forward to learning more about you. Try and keep it quite short if you can as there will be plenty of opportunity to elaborate fully in the main body of your Personal Statement.
This is your real chance to convince Admissions Tutors that you are deserving of a place. A logical structure to this would be something like:
1. Start by explaining why you have chosen the course, for example describing the first time you really realised you were passionate about your subject and the things you already know about it that you are looking forward to learning about in more depth.
2. Discuss your existing experience of the subject, which will likely be through your A levels (or equivalent). They do not have to align perfectly but you do need to make sure that you indicate how what you have done already is relevant for the future. Perhaps the discipline of writing essays in your English Literature A level combined with your deep interest in what you have learned in Sociology have prepared you for the research and assignment writing that you know will be part of the Anthropology course you are applying for.
3. Elaborate on what you already know about the subject – for example any wider reading you have done that you found interesting (and why) and any trips you might have been on, for example to art galleries or museum exhibitions which allowed you to widen your knowledge. If you can go beyond the syllabus here, that will look more impressive.
4. If there is a particular area of the subject that has interested you, mention it as an extension of point 3. For example, a student applying to read Art History might have already mentioned the subject in general but go on to say:
I particularly enjoy Renaissance art but also find modern art very refreshing: visiting Kazimir Malevich’s Tate Modern exhibition lead me to an article about Malevich’s Red House by Tom Lubbock; it enabled me to look beyond the abstract and the ordinary, changing the way I perceived suprematism and contemporary art as a whole.
This is a very strong Personal Statement extract: the student explains some wider research that she has done but also how this has led her to learn more about an area of art she enjoys, indicating why she found that interesting.
5. Finally, give the Admissions Tutors some more information about what you are like as a person as well as an academic. Use a final paragraph to explain your extra-curricular activities and be sure to relate these back to your application. Will you get involved in university life as demonstrated by your helping to organise a college ball? Do you play football every week, showing your determination, dedication to training and your commitment to being a team player? Maybe you are about to go on a gap year and plan to volunteer abroad to see first-hand the impact of deforestation in the Amazon, which is very relevant to your application to read Geography.
The conclusion of your Personal Statement can be very short – just a sentence or two. Admissions Tutors know that your character count restricts you and they will not expect more than a brief summing-up of what you have just told them and a reminder of why you are a strong candidate. For example.
The study of History will not only be exciting, it will also provide me with a great foundation for a successful career in teaching so that I may one day be able to share my enthusiasm and knowledge with others
I relish new theories and methods and enjoy the satisfaction obtained from solving complex problems. A hard-working attitude and determination will equip me to face the challenges of university.
With my insight and enthusiasm for science as well as my motivation for a career in this field, I look forward to the challenges and hard work that lie ahead.
Once you have completed the first draft of your Personal Statement, leave it a day or two and then come back to it and edit it. Make sure that each point is relevant to your application and that you haven’t wasted any characters ‘waffling’. When you feel happy that you have done your best, show your Personal Statement to other people and ask for their opinions. MPW students will share theirs with their Director of Studies; at other schools it might be a form tutor or Head of Year who will oversee it for you. Listen to their feedback and try to incorporate it into your work. This process can take a while with quite a bit of back and forth as you do your best to make it perfect.
Personal Statement review is free to MPW students but a service also exists for external students who would like their statement to be critiqued by our experts. Your Personal Statement will be shared with the relevant Head of Department and a Director of Studies. Our first critique will be concerned with content and, having read your first draft, we will respond with suggestions on what else to include or how to expand your points and make them as strong as possible. Once you have responded to our feedback and re-drafted your personal statement, we will read it a second time. The second read-through will be to ensure strength of written expression, including checking spelling, punctuation and grammar. The fee for this service is £105. If you would like to arrange for MPW to review your Personal Statement, please contact our Admissions Officer on 020 7835 1355.