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Applying for Higher Education / 5. Personal Statement  


► What is a Personal Statement?

Personal Statement

Many admissions officers do not interview - so the personal statement is your way to sell yourself. Be truthful and accurate in what you write. The space should be organised in paragraphs with well spaced sentences. Try not to repeat information from other parts of the form or that your referee has put in the reference. You can use section headings if you wish. If you are using the online application form you have 4000 characters over 47 lines of text available and the system will tell you how many you have left.


► Your paragraphs could cover the following:

reasons for your choice of course

Your chosen institutions will see your personal statement so if you have chosen to apply for more than one subject area, you will have to tailor your personal statement to cover this.

what interests you about the subject

How you will contribute to the course for which you have applied. This is relatively simple if you are applying for a subject like English, after English ‘A’ level, but if you are applying for Physiotherapy, you may have to look at the skills you have gained -such as communication or information handling from your current studies.

long term career objectives

You may want to comment on your university/college selections if you are applying for only local universities or in a relatively limited geographical area. The universities do not know where else you have applied, so it’s not a good idea to say things like I only want to study in Edinburgh….if you have applied to 5 other places as each will read the same personal statement.

the sort of person that you are

If you have participated in any, even if it’s not certificated, such as widening participation schemes, summer schools, key skills and other forms of evidence of achievement e.g. Duke of Edinburgh Award, Millennium Volunteers, Diploma of Achievements etc – mention this and what you have gained from the experience.

If appropriate, plans for a year out. Even if these are not formalised, it is a good idea to give a sense of how you want to spend the year e.g. working to gain some life experience, charity or voluntary work, travelling to broaden your horizons etc. The amount of space you allocate to each of these topics depends on the subject applied for. For example, if you are applying for a traditional academic subject such as English, History or Maths most of the personal statement should be about your interests in these subjects and how your current studies relate to them. If you are applying for a vocational subject such as Physiotherapy or Teaching, you will need to say more about your work experience/work shadowing and what you have learned from it.


If it is a competitive course, you should make yourself stand out from the crowd. For example, if applying for veterinary science, your practical skills, extensive work experience and academic achievements should form the main part of your personal statement. Additional information such as references from work experience or shadowing may be sent to support the personal statement (see below). If you want to supply more evidence than is possible on the personal statement form, or if you feel you have missed an important piece of information that the university should know, you can send additional information direct to the university after you have applied and received your welcome letter. This will give you your personal ID/application number, which you should quote on any additional information or correspondence. Be aware that admissions tutors rely on the personal statement and do not expect to receive additional information except in special circumstances.


Make it all your own work!

Don’t exaggerate.

Remember to keep a copy of your application.


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Posted 9th September 2015
By John McGagh
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