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Guide to the Personal Statement

University Guidance & Counselling

Personal Statement Guide

Personal Statement For The UCAS Application (A Guide)

Initial thoughts

The personal statement

    • is by far the most important part of your UCAS application.
    • must contain no more than 47 lines or 4,000 characters including spaces.
    • must convince the 5 universities that you are applying to that:
    • You are serious about wanting to study the course
    • You have researched the options available to you for the degree course and for your future career
    • You are suitable for the course
    • You are a well-rounded individual who can contribute to the life of the university
    • Ensure compatibility between your 5 choices.
    • Provide convincing evidence that you have thought seriously about studying business and management: write about books you have read, work experience you have done, news items about business or management that interest you.

The structure of the personal statement

The personal statement should cover 4 areas:

    1. Why you have chosen the course
    2. How you have investigated whether the course is suitable for you
    3. What makes you stand out from your peers
    4. Other information relevant to your application.

Why you have chosen the course

This could include:

    • What first interested you in Business or Management; for example, watching the news about the failure of a bank, an article in a newspaper about globalisation, or personal experience, such as work experience or the family business
    • A particular career plan
    • A combination of your particular interests and academic skills.

How you investigated whether the course is suitable for you

This could include:

    • Books, periodicals, or websites that you have read
    • Work experience
    • Lectures that you have attended
    • Skills that you have gained from your A levels

What makes you stand out from your peers

This could include:

    • Academic achievements; for example, prizes or awards
    • Extra-curricular activities or achievements
    • Responsibilities; for example, as a school prefect, head of house, captain of netball team, or voluntary or charity work
    • Experience of teamwork; for example, sports teams, Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions, or part-time jobs
    • Travel

Other information relevant to the application

This could include:

    • Plans yet to be completed; for example, work experience
    • Personal circumstances

Links and connections

A good way to show that you have thought about the subject and the course is to make links and connections between your different areas of research and preparation. You could think about linking:

    • Aspects of your A level subjects with things you will study on the course
    • Qualities necessary for success in this field with your own experiences; for example, captaining a school team or organising an event
    • An article that you read with something that you observed in your work experience

You could start this process by making lists, or diagrammatically, as shown here.

How to get started on the personal statement

How not to get started on the personal statement would be to……..

    • Plan how you are going to say all you want in exactly 47 lines
    • Write down your ideas in perfectly formed sentences, suitable for the final version
    • Download sample personal statements from the internet and try to adapt them

A better strategy is to start by making lists of anything that you think is relevant to your application, then begin organising them into sections. Your personal statement could include some of the following points.

‘My interest in the subject began because of . . .

    • A newspaper article I read
    • A book I read
    • A news item
    • My work experience
    • My parents’ work
    • My A level subjects’

‘I have researched this subject by . . .

    • Reading books
    • Reading The Financial Times
    • Reading The Economist
    • Reading Business Week
    • Work experience
    • Attending lectures
    • Talking to . . .
    • Downloading a podcast of a university lecture on iTunesU’

‘My work experience taught me . . .

    • That the qualities a good manager/business person needs are . . .
    • How to relate what I have been taught in A level Business Studies to real-life situations . . .
    • The importance of teamwork/accuracy/decision making . . .

Other relevant points are given below.

    • ‘My A level subjects are useful because . . .’
    • ‘My Saturday job is useful because . . .’
    • ‘My role as school prefect has taught me . . .’
    • ‘Being captain of . . . has taught me . . .’
    • ‘During my next summer vacation I have arranged to . . .
    • ‘I was awarded the . . . prize for . . .

Only when you have the ideas structured into some sort of logical order should you start to write full sentences and link the point. This leads to a very important rule.

Always use examples and evidence to illustrate the points you are making in the personal statement.


Given the limit on the number of characters ( 4,000 ) that make up the personal statement, it is important to make every sentence count, and not to waste space with passages that are at best too general and at worst meaningless. You should use clear, simple English and make sure that the content of what you are writing impresses the selectors, rather than trying to win them over with flowery, overcomplicated phrases.

‘I was privileged to be able to undertake some work experience with a well-known high-street bank where I was able to see the benefit of having the ability to be confident with information technology.’   – 199 characters

This could be rewritten as:

‘My three weeks work placement at HSBC showed me the importance of being proficient in using spreadsheets.’   – 106 characters


‘I was honoured to be able to captain my school Under-14, Under-15, Second XV and First XV rugby sides, and from this I learnt how to be an effective leader and an excellent communicator.’      – 186 characters

. . . could be rewritten as:

‘Captaining my school 1st XV taught me the importance of strong leadership and communication skills.   – 99 characters

Phrases to avoid include the following:

    • ‘I was privileged to . . .’
    • ‘I was honoured to be . . .’
    • ‘From an early age . . .’
    • ‘it has always been my dream to . . .’

Another important rule:

Every word counts, so do not waste space by using overcomplicated language or words that are designed to impress.

General Tips

    • Keep a copy of your personal statement so you can remind yourself of all the wonderful things you said about yourself, should you be called for interview!
    • Print off a copy of your application to remind yourself of what you have said. Before submitting it, also ensure you check your application through very carefully for careless errors that are harder to see on screen.


Remember these 7 rules for a successful application 

    1. Research the course content.
    2. Research the entrance requirements.
    3. Find out your grade predictions.
    4. Ensure your personal statement focuses on the course but remember to imagine how it will come across to each of the departments to which you are applying.
    5. Include sufficient detail in the personal statement to make it stand out,
    6. Illustrate your points with examples and evidence.
    7. Every word in a personal statement counts, so don’t use complicated language just to impress the admissions tutor.

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