How to write a personal statement: 11 ways to a winning essay

Posted February 1, 2015 by Hacks Staff

Your personal statement is possibly the most important essay you’ll ever write so with that in mind, here are 11 ways to get you on your way to a killer University application.

Start with a plan

Don’t just jump right in else you’ll only end up with a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts that will never flow. Draw up a rough outline for your statement, which will generally start with an introduction about yourself, before going on to detail your academic achievements, work experience and career prospects as well as your social activities, linking them all to your University course.


Support your claims with EVIDENCE

Personal statements are an easy place for people to claim all sorts without having to actually back it up. Avoid falling into the trap of making weak assertions by backing up what you say, whether it be from what qualifications you’re studying, what work experience you’ve undergone, what your hobbies are or just what books you’ve read.

Be positive and enthusiastic

Your personal statement is about selling yourself so be positive about your abilities and personality and avoid negatives. Don’t lie, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to mention that dropped A level. Instead, highlight your strong points and tell them why they should want you on their course.

Read examples

There are plenty of resources online (for example, here) which have free examples of Personal Statements for various subjects. Take some time to read them for some inspiration and ideas for your own.

Avoid cliches

Openings such as ‘Ever since I was young’ and ‘For as long as I can remember’ are used in literally hundreds of personal statements every year so try to avoid them, the same goes with certain words like ‘passion’.

Phrases to definitely avoid are those that might sound impressive but just don’t make sense: “Since I was born I’ve been fascinated by particle physics” is going to set off anyone’s bulls**t alarm.

Make it interesting

While your personal statement should follow a good structure at the same time you don’t want to come across as just another bland by-the-numbers piece of writing.

Whip out your thesaurus and vary your vocabulary – make sure you don’t repeat yourself – just don’t do a Joey!


A statement full of facts and figures about qualifications and work experience could be from anyone so be sure to add some personality to your essay. Mention your extra circular activities, hobbies and so on, but be sure to try and relate them either to the course you’re applying for or your potential career.

Don’t include everything

You shouldn’t use your personal statement to write your autobiography: You won’t have room, for a start! Keep it relevant to your course and application and even then you’ll probably have to make some selective edits. One good way to decide what goes in is to make a list of all that you consider relevant – from your qualifications, work experience, extra circular activities and personal attributes – and prioritize them.

Don’t try too hard

Quotes and humour can work but are risky – they can also come across as pretentious, try hard and may just fall flat. Jokes are very subjective while quoting others takes up valuable space and is generally irrelevant – it’s your own words the Universities want to read!

Never lie or copy

Just don’t do it. You may be quizzed about your personal statement in University interviews and being found to have plagiarised it in whole or part will put your University places at risk. Worst case scenario: Your whole application is kicked out from UCAS.

Check it over

Once you’re finished, read it through and check it all makes sense, flows well and of course has all the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Get someone else to read it over and preferably a education related professional, such as a teacher or tutor.

You may wish to avoid asking your own teachers who may give a biased view, after all the University admissions staff will be judging you based on your statement won’t know anything else about you.

Follow us for more awesome stuff

Now read this »

revision app