Writing Personal Statements

Writing personal statements is a long process, but it is truly an essential part of applying to university in the UK. Personal statements are a place to show how you are a unique applicant, and help universities distinguish you from simply your academic scores. However, it must be said that personal statements are written differently for the top ranked universities as compared to less competitive universities.

Universities like Oxford and Cambridge are not very concerned with extracurricular activities (like sports, hobbies...) but rather are much more interested with super-curricular pursuits (like internships, research…). This is a large difference! While a personal statement for another university may have a balance of 60% academic to 40% extracurricular, Oxbridge requires a ratio of approximately 90% academic to 10% extracurricular. It is then important to try to find a good equilibrium between these two positions if you are applying to a range of universities.

Nevertheless, personal statements still have a structure to follow as a guide for students. This is a structure we suggest, but of course there are many other ways to write a successful essay.

  1. Hook -- a small paragraph (3-4 lines) in which you explain your interest in the subject and how it is uniquely suited to you.

  2. Subject description -- a larger paragraph in which you explain how you enjoyed that subject in a school setting, including details such as your favourite topic and the skills you obtained.

  3. Similar subject description -- a smaller paragraph in which you explain how another subject you studied supported your interest (such as maths & physics, english & history, economics & math…).

  4. Super-curricular pursuits -- a larger paragraph in which you write in detail on books you have read, internships you have taken part in, independent research you have conducted and any other relevant activities that directly relate to your interest.

  5. Extracurricular activities -- a smaller paragraph in which you take note of some of your hobbies and how you have helped your community.

  6. Conclusion -- a small paragraph (2-3 lines) in which you state how your interest will be developed in the future, through higher education and in your career.

University counsellors, teachers, and parents are crucial guides to helping you write these difficult essays, and once you have made a draft it is best to let others review your work before trying to edit it yourself. If you can write a draft in the summer of Y12, that is ideal -- good luck!