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The Persuasive Personal Statement

The Persuasive Personal Statement

By Vikki Wilson, International Officer, University of York

The personal statement is vital to supporting a strong application. Applicants have approximately 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text or 500 words to express their suitability for the course and make themselves stand out against other applicants. The personal statement should show passion for the subject and demonstrate key skills and abilities.

It is important to remember that the personal statement may be the only piece of written work the admissions tutor gets to see, so it should be used as an example of what the applicant is capable of doing at university. Writing a personal statement can be very daunting. It requires research, preparation and careful construction.

Advice for applicants on writing a persuasive personal statement

Start writing your personal statement early – you will have to make several attempts before it is right. Make sure you research your chosen course(s) fully before you start writing your personal statement to ensure you can write a strong and relevant statement. 

Why are you applying to the course?

Give a clear indication of your motivation towards your chosen course and your relevant background in the subject you have applied for. This is especially important if you are applying for something you haven't studied before. Questions an admissions tutor will want to see answered include:

  • Why have you applied for this course?
  • Why do you want to study the subject?
  • How has your interest for the subject developed, or how have you pursued it?
  • What are your future career plans?

Provide evidence

It is important to provide evidence that you realise what the study of the subject is likely to entail, and for competitive courses this is vital. Ask yourself:

  • How do I stand out from the crowd?
  • Do I know the subject broadly enough?
  • Have I shown that I am prepared for the breadth and depth of a university degree?

Using relevant examples of work experience and/or extra-curricular activities is a good way to illustrate these points. Describe any work experience you have undertaken, especially if relevant to the course. You should highlight how this is relevant to the course and what skills you have gained. Your statement should also give information about extra-curricular involvements and activities such as sporting achievements or volunteer work. These can help to show that you are enthusiastic and have the ability to set priorities and manage your time. It is important to demonstrate the key skills you have developed that are relevant to the course you have applied for.

If you have a record of achievement or an up-to-date CV, it can remind you which activities to include. However, the key is being selective about what you write. Do not just put a list of your experience, skills or attributes. Make sure what you write is relevant to the courses and universities you are applying to.

Try and use achievement-orientated statements rather than information-orientated ones. An example would be ‘My involvement with football at a competitive level and its balance with education has prepared me for university in terms of time management, teamwork and taking into account the needs of others’. This directly highlights the skills and attributes of the applicant which is much more informative to the admission tutor than ‘I played football at high school’.


Admissions tutors will want to see a clear layout and development of ideas. It is important to have an organised and literate presentation, with no mistakes in paragraphing, punctuation, grammar or spelling.

Make sure you write your personal statement in word-processing software first. This will help you identify any spelling or grammatical mistakes. UCAS and some other university applications systems do not have this built in. Also, leave some white space by skipping a line between paragraphs; this will make it easier for admissions tutors to read.


Allow time for proofreading and editing and ask other people to read it; they may spot problems or opportunities to expand your ideas. Remember also to ensure that the statement is all your own work. UCAS uses the Similarity Detection Service, which means they will scan through your personal statement to spot anything which has been submitted before.

For more tips and advice on your UCAS application, please visit: www.educationuk.org/hongkong/articles/your-ucas-application-essential-advice/