Personal Statement Planner

Making the Right Impression

In this section we cover:

  • Why is your Personal Statement so important?
  • Less popular courses
  • Who reads it?
  • When to begin
  • What to include in the 70%
  • What to include in the rest

Why is your Personal Statement so important?

The personal statement can be absolutely crucial if you are applying for the most popular/competitive courses. There is a common myth that universities do not read personal statements and your grades are all that count. Please ignore this myth. Universities will read your personal statement and it might be the difference between you receiving an offer or not..

You need a carefully considered and crafted personal statement to help you stand out from the crowd because: 

  • The competition for the top university places is becoming more competitive each year.
  • Most applicants will have top academic results and predictions, so your personal statement, and your reference from your tutor, are what will make your application stand out. 
  • Most applicants will have strong references.

Who reads it?

Admissions tutors (or admissions officers) in the department to which you have applied will read them as they search to identify applicants who will have a genuine interest and a real ability in the subject area. 

The important thing here is that it is departmental staff that will read your personal statement. Make sure you read the full course description and link your personal statement to the course you want to study. This is also a good way to see if you really want to study the course. It's three to four years of your life, so do your research.

When to begin

At Stowe, we formally start discussions about personal statements at the beginning of Lent term. Planning early is essential as you will be able to identify gaps in your ideal personal statement early and plan accordingly. 

For example:

  • Essay competitions
  • MOOC's
  • Join a society (you could even start one)
  • Volunteer
  • Plan to improve your attainment through attening academic clinics
  • Read books that will give you insight into a subject

Start early and apply before the official deadlines (October 15th for Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science, January 15th for almost all other courses, and March 24th for some Art and Design courses) because:

  • Admissions tutors start sorting through applications and making offers before the deadlines, so it is in your best interest to apply while there is still a full complement of places.
  • Applications that are received before the deadline have more time to be considered carefully.
  • Early application suggests you have good organisation and enthusiasm - an excellent impression to make. (see the UCAS timeline for how we will help you achieve this)
  • Early application means that you are lessening the admissions tutor's load, which is heaviest during the mad rush just before the deadline. Your work will be appreciated and your application will enjoy the 'halo effect'.
  • When you apply early, you normally receive early offers. This gives you something to work towards... your predicted grades. This is a huge motivator for students during revision over the Christmas period (for your January mock exams) and thereafter until your summer exams. 

What to include in the first 70% of your personal statement

Your reasons for choosing this particular course, and your knowledge and experience of, as well as interest and ability in, the subject applied for. 

The first section of the statement can take up to 95% of your personal statement in applications to competitive courses. (e.g. not much room for discussions about sports etc. Even then, you will link sports into the essential characteristics of an outstanding academic)

Include relevant: 

  • Books
  • Journals, periodicals, newspapers or magazines 
  • Talks, public meetings (this can include you leading and organising careers talks)
  • Courses and trips
  • A project (e.g. EPQ) or coursework piece that you particularly enjoyed
  • People, experts or professionals 
  • Science documentaries or arts programmes 
  • Visits to (universities, businesses)
  • Guest speaker, workshops, conferences 
  • Placements, work experience, volunteering  
  • Summer school
  • Clubs, societies, MOOCs

What to include in the rest of your personal statement

Activities and positions (see A below) that have developed the general skills and qualities (see B) that are valuable to all students who study any subject. These differ from the skills specifically required for your subject that you read about in the previous section. 

10 Minute Activity - Read the table below of how a Stoic might evidence some of the qualities in A & B.