Personal Statements – Top 10 Tips

Your personal statement is your chance to show what makes you unique, besides your name and UCAS ID.

You have 4,000 characters to persuade your chosen university that you are the best applicant, and that they should make you an offer.

Our team have put their heads together and come up with tips to help you write a winning statement

1. Do not worry about a character count on the first draft.

A first draft, rough notes, a mind map – whatever your first attempt is; do not look at the character count.

On your first attempt the most important thing is to commit to paper all of the things you want to include.  Not all of these make make it into your final draft, but if you don’t include them on the first draft, they are more likely to be forgotten in future drafts.

As you begin to focus on the courses or universities you wish to idea you can continue to craft your statement to get closer to the 4,000 character limit.

2. Do not leave it to the last minute.

Applying to UCAS should not be like that piece of homework that you leave until late on Sunday night, when it is due early on Monday.

A good personal statement will likely take close to a month end to end.  This is everything from drafts, having it reviewed by teachers/family/others and proof reading.

Like any piece of written work, having enough time to set it aside for a few days and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes is also very beneficial.


3. Language matters.

In many cases, your personal statement is the only formal written communication between the candidate and the university.  It is imperative that this is of the highest standard.  If you are an international candidate and English is not your native langauage then this may be an additional challenge.

With only 4,000 characters ensuring that your are precise with the sentence constructions and the phrases used in the statement.  Repetition of the same phrase is something to be avoided!

4. Concentrate on your strengths.

You should think of your personal statement as a a competition, as you are competing for an offer against all the other candidates that want a place on this course.  We all know it can be a little cringeworthy to write about your achievements, but your will have to put the false modesty aside and make sure your strengths are clearly highlighted in your statement.


Focus on the following areas – experiences, achievements, knowledge and future plans.  Use your statement to outline just why you want to study a discipline which can be as diverse as a childhood experience, to a podcast that kickstarted your interest.

5. Find the perfect opening sentence.

One of the tag lines for our service is “You do not get a second chance to make a first impression”.  Think about how many personal statements each university receives.  How can you give that good first impression?  It may something unusual or interesting, or something that surprises the reader.

We recommed leaving this until close to the end.  The perfect opening sentence will just hit you in a random moment, when you have already worked hours and hours on your personal statement.


6. It is YOUR personal statement.

A quick Google search will turn up lots of sample personal statements.  You may be very tempted to copy and paste from those.  You are an individual and your statement needs to reflect your experiences and your motivations.  Absolutely read statements to get idea of structure and guiding principles.   It is worthless to follow some set rules or patterns, or someone else’s ideas.


7. Honesty is the best policy.

We strongly recommend that you do not embellish your personal statement if you do not have the skills to back up the statement.  If you are called for interview and asked to talk about something you included which stretches credibility, what will you say then.  You will have more than enough experiences and skills which you can demonstrate in our statement, without needing to include ones which you cannot.


8. Get someone to proofread your statement.

The more people you show it to, the more feedback you will get, and the better the final version will be. As mentioned above, your statement is your only written communication with your chosen universities.  Proof reading offers the opportunity for others to catch the small spelling mistakes, or to help reword unwieldy sections.


9. Read it out loud many times.

It helped me a lot when I read my personal statement out to my family and friends. When you are writing it sentence by sentence, you might not realise that there is no cohesion between your paragraphs. But when you read it out, all the vague parts will magically appear, so you can correct them.


10. Once you submit your university application, stop reading it!

When your upload and submit your statement, forget about it.  You have enough other thingss to focus on; from A-levels, to things completely unrelated to UCAS.   

After all that….

If you still fell that you could use a little extra support and guidance with your personal statement, then our team at Pain Free Personal Statements would be delighed to help.