College application processes

What do UK universities look for in the Personal Statement?

Clarity about academic choices and participation in activities that enhance knowledge of the chosen field, add value to the Personal Statement for UK universities. Know how to write a standout statement.

Devika Bhattacharya
September 6, 2022
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3 min

Students aspiring to study in the UK should have a Personal Statement that tells about their academic achievements and how they will contribute to the program. While applicants can get creative and quirky when writing the essay for US universities, they must stick to being factual and straightforward for the UK recruiting teams.

Maintaining the structure of the Personal Statement by balancing academic and super-curricular elements is important. As one application is meant for several universities, it is advisable not to customize the essay for a particular one.

A clear, concise essay on curricular skills

When it comes to the UK, students should focus on their academic journey. The personal statement is a great chance to emphasize what students can contribute to the classroom and the specific program to which they are applying. 

The personal statement for UK universities can have a maximum of 4000 characters or 47 lines of text. Hence, students must be wary of including frivolous information or mentioning a list of their achievements. Rather, they must aim to dive deep into their academic interest and prove that it is the right choice for their undergraduate program.

“The thing you have the most control over is the personal statement. It’s your chance to bring your application to life. We will have lots of students on the same entry requirements, so your personal statement is your chance to stand out.”

Catherine Eames, International Student Recruitment Manager at Imperial College London

Structure of the UK Personal Statement

Since the essay asks students to mention precisely which course they are interested in, one has to be sure of the academic choice. Also, as the same application may go to multiple recruiting teams, the choice of subject has to be clear. Apart from having an impactful opening paragraph about the reason for wanting to take up the course, the statement must say things in the order that is relevant to recruiters. A memorable conclusion that connects to the opening thought and looks optimistically at the university experience is highly desirable.

Here’s how the essay should be structured:

  • 75-90% of the essay should be around academic interest and preparedness. Students must state the reason for choosing the particular subject for specialization since UK universities incorporate majors from the first year. 
  • 25-10% of the content will be focused on co-curricular activities that students have engaged in within or outside the school. Students can include sports, performing arts, or even volunteering work for this section. However, recruiting teams try to understand the accomplishments and skills gained from those activities. Students must also mention relevant work experience.

To demonstrate their confidence in the chosen knowledge area, students can answer the following questions:

  • How did they become interested in the particular subject? Was it because of a class they took at school, an activity they engaged in, interaction with a specific faculty, or an external influencer? 
  • Do they possess any work experience related to the subject area?
  • What are their career goals, and how does the subject support them in attaining the goal?
  • Are they aware of the latest developments in this area of knowledge, and noteworthy people in the related domain?
  • What contribution can they make to the specific department at the university?

Relevant experiences in the area of knowledge can be showcased by mentioning what they have done to explore the subject outside the classroom. The university will want to know whether students have attended conferences, conducted research, created capstone projects, listened to podcasts, watched videos, or attended extra classes related to the chosen subject. The recruiters want to make sure that the applicant will be a right-fit for the university.

To get more information about how to write about their skills and achievements, students must refer to our Personal Statement Worksheet at the end of the article.

Do’s and Don'ts for the Personal Statement

Before we conclude, let us have a look at the general rules that students should follow when drafting the personal statement:

  • Be specific - Only relevant and unique information ought to be included.
  • Be reflective - Students should deep dive into the aspects mentioned and highlight their potential to add value to the university.
  • Personalize the essay - The statement must have the students at the core and help the recruiters assess them. 
  • Avoid customization - Though students will write about a specific subject, they should not mention a particular university as they will submit the essay to multiple institutions.
  • Be concise - Since most universities limit the number of words for the personal statement, students must avoid excessive quotations or verbose content.

The foundation work for writing the personal statement must start early, preferably towards the end of Grade 11, so that students have a milestone achieved before the summer break. This will also give ample time for feedback and revisions. The questions mentioned in this blog can be used as a reference point for preparing the initial draft. 

Students should follow zero plagiarism as a thumb rule. Since recruiting teams place a high weightage on the personal statement, it is a unique opportunity to boost the chances of getting an offer, and the key here is to be original, positive, and enthusiastic about their writing. Student Education Advisors at Cialfo offer guidance on all aspects of writing essays and completing applications for undergraduate courses. Get in touch with our team to understand the process of applying to universities in the UK.

Download the Personal Statement worksheet suggested by UK educators by filling out the form below.

We are thankful to Catherine Eames, International Recruitment Manager, Imperial College London for explaining the requirements of the Personal Statement and sharing the worksheet for students.

Get our detailed worksheet for writing a unique Personal Statement for UK universities.

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