What are Personal Statements? A beginner’s guide & FAQ

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

What are Personal Statements?

A personal statement is a written document that highlights a student’s achievements, skills, and experiences. It is a crucial component of a student’s university application as it gives the admission committee an insight into the student’s personality, motivation, and goals. In the UK, personal statements are used by universities to assess a student’s suitability for a specific course and help them to stand out from the crowd.

What is a Personal Statement’s Strength?

A personal statement’s strength lies in its ability to showcase a student’s unique qualities and strengths. This can include academic achievements, extracurricular activities, work experiences, and personal interests. A strong personal statement will demonstrate a student’s passion and motivation for their chosen field of study and demonstrate how they will contribute to the university community.

How Many Words is a Personal Statement?

Most UK universities have a word limit for personal statements, usually between 400 and 500 words. It is important to stick to the word limit, as exceeding it can indicate a lack of discipline and attention to detail, which are important qualities for university students.

What a Personal Statement Should Include

A personal statement should include information about the student’s academic background, including their qualifications and grades. It should also include details about any relevant work experience, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work. Additionally, a personal statement should demonstrate the student’s passion and motivation for their chosen field of study, and show how they will contribute to the university community.

What is Needed in a Personal Statement?

In a personal statement, it is important to include information that is relevant to the student’s chosen course and the university they are applying to. This includes demonstrating a good understanding of the course content, and explaining why the student is interested in studying it. A personal statement should also showcase the student’s achievements and skills, and demonstrate how they are a good fit for the university.

Is a Personal Statement 4000 Characters with Spaces?

Yes, a personal statement is typically 4000 characters with spaces. This equates to approximately 500-600 words, depending on the length of the words used. It is important to stick to the character limit, as exceeding it may result in the personal statement being cut off or not being read in full by the admission committee.

What is the Purpose of a Personal Statement?

The purpose of a personal statement is to give the admission committee an insight into the student’s personality, motivation, and goals. It helps them to assess the student’s suitability for a specific course and helps the student stand out from the crowd. A well-written personal statement can be the difference between being accepted or rejected for a course, so it is important to invest time and effort into writing a high-quality statement.

When are Personal Statements due?

In the UK, the main deadlines for submitting personal statements for university applications are usually in January for entry in the following academic year. Some universities and programs may have earlier deadlines, particularly for applicants who wish to be considered for early admission or scholarships, so it is important to check the specific requirements for the programs you are interested in.

It’s also worth noting that most universities in the UK use the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application system, which has a central deadline of January 15th for most courses. This means that personal statements for applications submitted through UCAS must be submitted by this deadline.

Applications for Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry courses, as well as courses at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, typically have an earlier deadline of October 15th in the UK. This allows these universities to start the interview process earlier, as they often have a limited number of places and a large number of applicants. It is important for applicants to these courses to take the time to carefully research the requirements and expectations of these universities, and to make sure that their personal statements are well-written, concise, and directly relevant to the courses and universities they are applying to.

According to UCAS, in the 2021 admissions cycle, over 95% of undergraduate courses in the UK were listed on the UCAS platform, and the majority of applicants submitted their applications through UCAS.

It is worth noting that UCAS is not the only way to apply to universities in the UK, and some universities may have their own separate application processes, particularly for postgraduate or international students. However, UCAS remains the main platform for undergraduate applications in the UK, and the majority of students will use UCAS to submit their applications, including their personal statements.

It is important to check with the specific university or program to confirm their deadline, as there may be some variation in deadlines and requirements. In general, it is a good idea to start working on your personal statement well in advance of the deadline to ensure that you have time to revise and perfect your statement.