How to write a personal statement for university

In and ever more competitive world, your personal statement remains a key opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other applicants. With that in mind, I’ve put together this article to give a qualified opinion on how to write a personal statement that will get you noticed.

This isn’t the traditional overview of wordcount and proofreading. This is simply from me to you, in an effort to help you get where you wish to go, with a focus on what really matters.

I believe an effective personal statement should be about WHO you are and not what you’ve done. As challenging or rewarding as they may be, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the trip to build the orphanage in Africa are extremely commonplace. One could even say that they’re expected and therefore little more than a box ticked now.

That isn’t to be disparaging or insensitive. Many of these activities come from a great place, however they just aren’t going to set you apart from your competition.

Far more impressive is being able to demonstrate what you’ve accomplished independent of an organised effort. Have you completed an expedition alone or with friends? Have you backpacked across a continent, or achieved a feat of stamina and endurance?

Can you play an instrument to a high standard or speak several languages fluently? Oh, and don’t say yes to these things if you can’t as you may well be tested. In which case, “Bottom of Form

¿Dónde están los aseos por favor?” just isn’t going to cut it!*

Let’s break it down:

1 – Don’t be boring

You’re a living, breathing, intelligent being. So please don’t sound like a robot with boring, staccato sentences. One doesn’t need the flowery language of a poet, but don’t be afraid to use your huge vocabulary!

2 – Be honest

We can all use poetic licence or be prone to exaggeration from time to time, but be honest in your statement. Being found to be lying is a sure-fire way to find yourself on the rejected pile.

3 – Be authentically you

You’re unique, so don’t try to be something you’re not. Speak as yourself, not as you may think anyone wishes you to be. That isn’t to say write in street slang!
Imagine having a strong regional accent, yet you attempt to sound like a 1960’s newsreader and how ridiculous that would sound. Unless you actually do sound like a 1960’s newsreader, in which case, go for it!

If in doubt, read your personal statement aloud and to others and ask them if you sound like you!
If you like to use humour, then be humorous! If you’re eloquent in your use of language, you must ensure that comes across in your personal statement.

4 – Highlight your achievements and differentiators

As mentioned above, certain achievements are par for the course these days. So, highlight the things you have done and are proud of, and be descriptive and specific. Drive home the points you wish to make and try to strike a chord with the reader. Remember, what you take for granted may be exceptional to the reader. This is especially true when told descriptively, highlighting challenges, impacts and outcomes, for example.

5 – Imagine you’re the one having to review hundreds of statements and applications

You’re going to be one of many applicants, so you need to grab attention from the earliest point possible. Take your reader on a journey. Be descriptive and make them want to know more. You know what it’s like to read a real page-turner of a book? That!


Understand that you’re attempting to turn several sheets of A4 into a living, breathing, representation of yourself, while conveying as many relevant and interesting facts and memorable moments as possible.

Finally, write with confidence and gusto. If you can’t be enthusiastic about you, who will be?

*Where are the toilets please?