How to write a personal statement: 10+ ways to a winning essay

how to write a personal statement

Your personal statement is possibly the most important essay you'll ever write so with that in mind, here's how to pen a killer University application.

Start with a plan

Don't just jump right in else you'll only end up with a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts that will never flow. Draw up a rough outline for your statement, which will generally start with an introduction about yourself.

Go on to detail your academic achievements, work experience and career prospects as well as your social activities, linking them all to your University course.

Support your claims with EVIDENCE

Personal statements are an easy place for people to claim all sorts without having to actually back it up. Avoid falling into the trap of making weak assertions by backing up what you say, whether it be from what qualifications you're studying, what work experience you've undergone, what your hobbies are or just what books you've read.

how to write a personal statement 2

Be positive and enthusiastic

Your personal statement is about selling yourself so be positive about your abilities and personality and avoid negatives. Don't lie, of course, but that doesn't mean you have to mention that dropped A level. Instead, highlight your strong points and tell them why they should want you on their course.

Read examples

There are plenty of resources online (for example, here) which have free examples of Personal Statements for various subjects. Take some time to read them for some inspiration and ideas for your own.

Avoid cliches

Openings such as 'Ever since I was young' and 'For as long as I can remember' are used in literally hundreds of personal statements every year so try to avoid them, the same goes with certain words like 'passion'.

Phrases to definitely avoid are those that might sound impressive but just don't make sense: "Since I was born I've been fascinated by particle physics" is going to set off anyone's bulls**t alarm.

Make it interesting

While your personal statement should follow a good structure at the same time you don’t want it to come across as just another bland by-the-numbers piece of writing.

Whip out your thesaurus and vary your vocabulary - make sure you don't repeat yourself – just don’t do a Joey!


A statement full of facts and figures about qualifications and work experience could be from anyone so be sure to add some personality to your essay. Mention your extra curricular activities, hobbies and so on, but be sure to try and relate them either to the course you're applying for or your potential career.

But don't include everything

You shouldn't use your personal statement to write your autobiography: You won't have room, for a start! Keep it relevant to your course and application and even then you'll probably have to make some selective edits.

One good way to decide what goes in is to make a list of all that you consider relevant - from your qualifications, work experience, extra curricular activities and personal attributes - and prioritize them.

how to write a personal statement

Don't try too hard

Quotes and humour can work but are risky - they can also come across as pretentious, try hard and may just fall flat. Jokes are very subjective while quoting others takes up valuable space and is generally irrelevant - it's your own words the Universities want to read!

Never lie or copy

Just don't do it. You may be quizzed about your personal statement in University interviews and being found to have plagiarised it in whole or part will put your University places at risk. Worst case scenario: Your whole application is kicked out from UCAS.

Check it over

Once you're finished, read it through and check it all makes sense, flows well and of course has all the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Get someone else to read it over and preferably an education related professional, such as a teacher or tutor.

But you may wish to avoid asking your own teachers who might give a biased view, after all the University admissions staff judging you based on your statement won't know anything else about you.

About the author: Thomas Brella

Thomas Brella is the founder of Student Hacks, starting the website in 2013 while studying at the University of Brighton to share tips and tricks on life as a cash-strapped student. He's now spent over 10 years scoping out the best ways to live on a budget

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