How to write a great personal statement for university
Are you thinking of applying to university? If so, you might have heard about the Personal Statement, which is an important part of the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application process. Alongside your academic grades, the Personal Statement is used by universities to decide whether to offer you a place on your chosen course.
At Christ the King Sixth Forms, we are proud of our success in helping students from South East London and Kent achieve places at some of the top universities in the country. Currently, almost 90 per cent of CTK students go on to university, including “Oxbridge” (the universities of Oxford and Cambridge) and Russell Group institutions. Read on for our top six tips on writing a winning Personal Statement and give yourself the very best chance of achieving a place at your first-choice university.
1. Start with a plan
Writing your UCAS personal statement can seem like a daunting task, but if you prepare properly and plan out what you want to say before you get started, you’ll have it finished in no time. Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to briefly outline the points you want to make in your personal statement, and make sure you’re answering the questions; what, why and how…
- What do you want to study?
- Why do you want to study it?
- How do your skills and past experiences prove this?
The aim of a Personal Statement is to persuade your chosen university that you’re a suitable applicant for their course, so read the course description closely and identify the academic credentials, skills and experience it requires, which will help you to decide what to write about. It can help to write two lists: one detailing what you know about the course you would like to study and why you know it is the right degree choice for you, and the second focusing on why you are the ideal student for that course and university.
2. Do your research
Universities want to see from your Personal Statement that you have done a good amount of research, so make it clear that you have thoroughly researched the course (for example, we recommend attending Open Days, reviewing course literature and talking to current students) and explain why you have made the decision to study it at university. Highlight the subject knowledge you already have and emphasise why you are the kind of student the university is looking for.
At Christ the King Sixth Forms, our work starts to focus on university progression towards the end of Year 12 and our personal tutors and dedicated, in-house Careers team provide support on choosing a degree course and applying to university. Our highly experienced staff work with students on the particular challenges involved in making applications for Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, and other highly competitive Higher Education and employment opportunities.
3. Show how you are unique
The best thing about writing a Personal Statement is, it’s a chance to write about YOU! This is your opportunity to show off what’s great about you, your personality and the unique skills and experience you will bring to the course and the university. Go back to the course description and provide plenty of examples of how you fit what the university is looking for. University admissions tutors often read hundreds of Personal Statements every day so try and make yours stand out by providing a couple of anecdotes linked to your experience and interests. Make it personal and try to avoid any generic statements and cliches. If you were to anonymously give your Personal Statement to someone in your friendship group to look at, could they identify it as yours? If they couldn’t, you should take another look at how you could make it more personal.
4. Talk about your extracurricular activities
Whether you study at CTK Aquinas, CTK St. Mary’s or CTK Emmanuel, we offer lots of opportunities for you to build both your academic and extra-curricular credentials. While we put great emphasis on qualifications, hard work, effort, and academic success, we’re about far more than that. From debating to dance, filmmaking to music, you will have many chances to get involved. Our students also have the opportunity to take part in fantastic field trips and expeditions, which could include locations such as Kenya, Alaska and the Tien Shan Mountains, as well as retreats and pilgrimages. All of this can provide great experiences to add to your Personal Statement and help you stand out from other applicants, but remember to relate them back to the course – if they aren’t relevant, don’t include them. You can use the ABC test to see if you are making it relevant:
- A = Activity: This might be captaining a sports team, or being part of a drama club
- B = Benefit: This is the skill(s) you have gained from doing the activity
- C = Course: How the skill will help you to complete the course successfully
5. Be concise and keep it relevant
According to UCAS, a Personal Statement should be no more than 4,000 characters with spaces and needs to fit into 47 lines on the application, so don’t waste space on details that have no relevance to your chosen course. Be specific about why you want to study this degree and how it will aid your future career plans. Show genuine enthusiasm for the subject you want to study. For example, if you are applying for Veterinary Medicine, your passion for animals should be obvious from the outset. Ask yourself the question ‘so what?’ If you can’t think about a reason to talk about a particular skill, the reader will wonder why you’ve mentioned it at all.
6. Check for errors
Once you’ve drafted your Personal Statement, be sure to check it through carefully for mistakes, then send it to a friend or family member to read through. It’s extremely easy to miss spelling and grammatical errors in your own work, even using a spell-checker, which is why it’s vital to have someone else read through it before you send it off. Ask friends, family, or a teacher to read it and give their honest opinion and try to take their suggested changes on board. Try reading it aloud too – doing this will make it very clear if something isn’t quite right.
If you have any questions about applying to university or need a bit more help and advice, please get in touch with our friendly Careers team.
Ready to apply? We are delighted that you are considering making an application to Christ the King Sixth Forms. We welcome students of all faiths and of none who would like to pursue their sixth form education in a faith context and who support the ethos of this Catholic College. We are currently taking applications to join CTK in September 2021. If you, or someone you know, would like to apply, then you can do so online – just click the button below. Once we receive your application, we will contact you to arrange an interview. Good luck!
Trevor AQUINAS Progressed to: University of Lancaster Course: A Level Business, ICT and English Language and Literature
“My tutors at CTK were fundamental in my academic success. They were always approachable and willing to go the extra mile. I enjoyed taking part in extracurricular activities, including leading the sixth form band and being Director of the Business Enterprise Group, Student Governor and Student Head of Hall. ”
Bradley AQUINAS Progressed to: University of Nottingham Course: A Levels Maths A*, Physics A* and Chemistry A*
“At Christ the King I discovered I was resilient. My teachers really pushed me to be my best, I am in their debt, thank you for believing in me.”
Rose AQUINAS Progressed to: The University of Warwick Course: A Level History A, Politics A, Sociology A*
“CTK was a great environment for me to learn in. I’ve really enjoyed the teaching – all my teachers have been encouraging and supportive. They put in the extra time to help with workshops and revision to ensure we did well.”
Owen AQUINAS Progressed to: Royal Holloway University Course: A Level Maths A, Psychology B and Biology A
“I would recommend coming to CTK as the level of support offered by the subject teachers is exceptionally good. The best thing about CTK is being part of the friendliest group of students I've ever met. I'm applying to Oxford to study Psychology. ”
Esosa AQUINAS Progressed to: De Montfort University Course: A Level Biology, Chemistry and Maths
“My form tutor at CTK was exceptionally supportive every day. I value the freedom and independence of controlling my own learning, staying motivated whilst also having fun. The and people and sense of community provide a great environment. I have enjoyed extra opportunities such as joining summer schools and widening participation programs and becoming a student governor. I received lots of help from the careers guidance counsellor to help me realise what I want to do after sixth form. ”