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Writing a personal statement for an undergraduate course

A strong personal statement makes all the difference when you're applying for an undergraduate course. It's essential that you plan and write yours carefully.

hand on a computer keyboard. The image is very blue.
Writing a personal statement on a computer keyboard

Your personal statement

Your personal statement needs to create a strong impression for your university application. It's your opportunity to say why you want to study your chosen course, and what skills, experiences and qualifications you have that will make you a successful student.

A member of the Admissions team will read your personal statement and use it as part of the process to decide who they can offer a place to.

What to include

We are looking for you to explain why you have chosen your course of study and demonstrate a real understanding of what studying the course will involve.

You should include:

  • why you are applying for the course – show your enthusiasm
  • how your current skills, experience and qualifications will help your application
  • relevant engagement with your chosen degree subject, such as work experience (if you have it) or extracurricular activities
  • details of anything relevant you plan to do before starting your degree

If you're applying to Bath, your personal statement should focus on your enthusiasm, experience and suitability for the course.

When thinking about your relevant studies, skills and experiences, don’t forget to mention any relevant work experience, extracurricular activities or further reading. Remember that universities will see details of your qualifications so there’s no need to list them in your personal statement.

Your personal statement is supposed to be about you as an individual student, so try to avoid using common clichés or generic quotes. Make sure you only include relevant information –  if it isn’t about why you want to study the course or the skills you have gained to help you succeed, then don’t include it.

If you are applying for Pharmacy or Social Work

Your personal statement must show that you have the appropriate attitude to complete your studies and practise your profession responsibly. You also need to show that you have the relevant experience for your course.

Do your research

Talk to your teachers and tutors about what strengths you should highlight.

Go to university Open Days and UCAS fairs. Talk to admissions staff about what they look for in a personal statement, and to academics about the courses you are interested in.

Look at university prospectuses and websites to find out about the courses you’re applying for and pick out the key elements you need to give evidence for.

Think about:

  • your motivations for applying
  • what the courses you’re applying for include
  • your relevant passions or experience
  • how the course will help you get the career you want

Don’t worry if you don’t have relevant work experience – for most degrees work experience is not essential. In many courses, it is extremely rare for an applicant to have relevant work experience, especially for engineering, science or social science degrees.

Remember you only get to write one personal statement, even though you might apply for five different courses at more than one university.

Make sure your statement is relevant to all of the courses you’re applying for. Which? University offers some advice for specific subjects based on guidance from course admission tutors.

Personal statements in 2023

If you are applying through UCAS in 2023, you might be concerned about how Covid-19 has affected your opportunities and the impact on your personal statement.

The first thing to remember is everyone is in the same position as you, and universities will understand that some opportunities may have been more limited for you.

If you are concerned that you are missing relevant experiences you might want to consider alternatives you can do from the comfort of your own home – short online MOOCs, or engaging with online lectures, academically-orientated podcasts or relevant reading are all options to give you insights about your course that you can share.

You might have individual circumstances arising from the pandemic that you want universities to know about, such as greater disruption in your home or school life. Our advice is to not include too much about these in your personal statement – you should mention enough that universities will know to ask you for more if it is relevant to them, but save as much space as possible for your positive experiences relevant to your course.

We encourage you to let us know about relevant mitigating circumstances through our confidential mitigating circumstances form, rather than through your personal statement.

Write your first draft

It’s called a personal statement for a reason, so make it personal and show your character. We want to find out about you.

UCAS has a tool to help you write your first draft. It will keep you focused on the important questions you need to answer. It will help you structure your statement and keep to the character limit.

You can write a first draft longer than the word limit.

Tone and style

It's important to write in an active voice, using language that's easy to understand. You may find it helpful to talk out loud to someone about your interests and motivations and write in a similar style.

Do this by:

  • writing in short sentences
  • using paragraphs
  • writing in plain English
  • writing positively about yourself without boasting
  • checking your spelling and grammar

When writing about work experience, the most important points to cover are:

  • what were your duties, tasks and responsibilities during the placement
  • what did you gain or learn from the experience
  • what are your transferable skills, for example, problem-solving, teamwork, communication skills and self-motivation

What to avoid

  • irrelevant information – anything that happened too long ago
  • exaggeration or negativity – talk about your positive attributes and experiences
  • unsupported statements – give evidence for everything
  • your life story – keep your information relevant and current
  • common clichés and quotes
  • information from someone else’s statement
  • listing things that are included elsewhere in your UCAS application, such as the qualifications you have studied

Get your draft checked by someone else

Show your first draft to your teacher, parents or guardian, or to a friend who is also going through the process.

Ask them:

  • to question your evidence
  • evaluate whether your statement represents you, your skills and experiences
  • if it reads well and is clear and easy to understand
  • whether you’ve missed anything out
  • to check spelling and grammar

Levelling up your statement

The best personal statements don’t just show your enthusiasm for your course and your relevant skills and experiences – they give an insight into how you think.

Try and pick out two or three key items from your personal statement and consider how they evidence your thinking and engagement with your subject. Remember to show not just what you have done, but also how it has changed you:

  • how did your experience inspire you?
  • did the experience spur you on to further investigation?
  • what do you think about the ideas expressed during your experience
  • if you have read a book - what was thought-provoking? what did you disagree with? what do you want to know more?

These questions are examples of how you can show what kind of student you plan to become. Reflecting on experiences can enhance a personal statement, but don’t worry about doing it for every point – you only have so much space!

Writing a second and final draft

When writing your second and third drafts, edit your personal statement carefully to make it focused and concise. Write efficiently and compellingly and then edit it. Remove unnecessary words and make sure your statement is under 4,000 characters or 47 lines, whichever is shortest.

Get it checked again

Ask a teacher, parent or guardian to check your next draft. Ask them to check for punctuation, grammar and spelling, and if it represents you as well as it can.

Make any edits or adjustments that are suggested, then get it checked again.

Give yourself lots of time to work on your personal statement. Don’t leave it to the last few days to submit.

Some extra inspiration

If you are still looking for some advice, then you might like to:

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