How To Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out

Admissions Tutors read through hundreds of Personal Statements each year. This means they will read the same "from a young age" opener over and over again. There are some positives from this, if you are able to make your Personal Statement stand out, it will create a much larger impact on the Tutor that is reading it. Here's how to do it.

Author: Rob Needleman

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Writing a Personal Statement that Oxbridge will remember is a goal that all students should strive to achieve.

Universities require a Personal Statement from every applicant and it can be one of the major determinants of a successful application. It always helps to stand out from the pack, especially when the degree is incredibly competitive.

 

To help you, we put together some ideas of how you can make your Personal Statement more memorable. 

Write a strong introduction for your personal statement

The introduction is an important part of the Personal Statement and it is likely that your Personal Statement will be remembered by the opening sentence. 

 

This is your opportunity to grab the reader’s attention. This could be through describing an anecdote from your own personal life that brought you into the subject you want to study and the reason why you are motivated to pursue a career in this field. 

Stories from childhood are often valuable to include as they demonstrate early signs of curiosity, any projects you have done at a young age, or even at primary school that, although small in their scale, reveal genuine and authentic motivation and passion. Also, some major events that occurred in the family, good or bad, that could have had a powerful motivating influence on you to start the pursuit of the subject.

For example, the opening to this successful Personal Statement for Cambridge Medicine.

Personal Statement Introduction Example

I realise that medicine may not always have positive outcomes, having witnessed two deaths at a young age. However, the inevitable fallibility of the human body has driven my desire to acquire a better understanding of the complicated processes and mechanisms of our body. I am captivated by the prospect of lifelong learning; the rapid and ceaseless pace of change in medicine means that there is a vast amount of knowledge in an astonishing number of fields.

Chat with your friends and family to help remind you of the stories that you may have forgotten. Doing this will pinpoint the events in life that are the foundation of the curiosity to study the chosen subject. Universities will look for topics that will spark a conversation in an interview.

Enrolling on our Oxbridge Premium Programmes will give you access to Personal Statement redrafts. 

Your tutor will give you actionable feedback with insider tips on how to improve and make your Personal Statement Oxbridge quality for the best chances of success.  

Personal Statement Work Experience and voluntary experience

Work experience is the best way to demonstrate your commitment and passion to your subject. Make a list of your interests and goals and be creative with finding relevant work experience that you will find beneficial, think outside the box.

 

It is not about finding as much work experience as possible, universities do not look for the quantity of work experience but quality. It is about finding relevant and useful experience that will give you an insight into the field you are pursuing and demonstratable evidence of taking on responsibility. 

 

For many degrees like Medicine or Dentistry, work experience is a mandatory component of the Personal Statement.

UCAS suggests that the following university degrees require work experience: 

 

Degree:
Work Experience:
NHS-funded healthcare coursesUniversities require work experience or voluntary work in a health or social care setting for courses including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Healthcare Science, Midwifery and Nursing.
MedicineUniversities look for work experience that demonstrates resilience, learning from life experience, communication and interpersonal skills and understanding of the values of the NHS Constitution.
TeachingUniversities frequently require over 10 days of work experience in a school. Experience working with children and young people outside of school is also valuable. This can be gained from volunteering with a scout group or youth club.
Social workUniversities commonly require students to have experience of working with social care. Remember you will likely need a DBS and make sure you leave enough time to arrange this before starting if the work experience requires it. Experience is not limited to local authority social services, it can be gained from youth clubs, advice service and voluntary agencies.

Also, there are degrees where work experience is more expected and favoured than required. These degrees usually lead to being qualified for a profession such as:

  • Accountancy
  • Architecture
  • Civil Engineering
  • Media Production
  • Town and Country Planning

Universities favour work experience because it shows passion and a real interest in the subject. It is a fantastic opportunity for you to back up your interest with real evidence in your Personal Statement. They also like work experience because it demonstrates the following skills: 

Here is an example of a student incorporating their work experience into their Personal Statement, this comes from the same example used earlier:

Personal Statement Work Experience Example

Work experience and volunteering have intensified my desire to pursue the profession; it gave me the chance to observe doctors diagnosing problems and establishing possible routes of treatment; I found the use of monoclonal antibodies in kidney transplantation fascinating. A doctor needs to be skilled, dexterous and creative. Medicine is a scientific discipline that requires a profound understanding of the physiology of the body, but the application of medicine can be an art, especially when communications between the doctor and the patient can influence the outcome of the treatment. I admire the flexibility of doctors; an inpatient needs to be approached with sensitivity and reassurance, whereas an acute admission patient would benefit more from hands-on assessments.

Personal Statement Wider reading

Similarly to work experience, including wider reading in your Personal Statement is another key opportunity to demonstrate your initiative and academic interest. 

 

The difference between a good applicant and a great applicant can be shown by actually using the reading and research you do. You should be able to demonstrate that you have opinions and can evaluate your arguments. Make sure you leave space in your Personal Statement to write about how the reading affected you. 

Here is an example of someone who is hoping to study Chinese Studies. They could write a paragraph in their Oxbridge Personal Statement about their interest in learning a language:

Whilst this is an example, there is no harm in thinking about how your reading material can complement your Personal Statement structure and demonstrate your own skills and interests.

Keep it relevant

A lot of students make the mistake of writing a Personal Statement that is perhaps too personal or they focus on the ‘personal’ part in the wrong way.

 

It doesn’t particularly matter to your university if you’ve done your Bronze Duke of Edinburgh or if you like playing tennis on the weekend. Universities mainly want to know how you’ll be an asset to them academically.

Identify which of your hobbies and leisure activities could be relevant to the degree. For instance, for a Zoology degree, you could include conservation work at a local nature reserve and going to lectures or talks on reintroducing beavers into the UK, but enjoying doing exercise in the outdoors and walking through woods is not as relevant or strong on your Personal Statement.  

 

Other extracurricular activities may be useful to add to your Personal Statement to demonstrate your skills. For example, if you’ve been working while still getting good grades, this might be an impressive demonstration of your ability to multitask, prioritise, and take responsibility – essential skills for a university degree.

Here is an example of a student incorporating relevant information into their Personal Statement, this comes from the same example used earlier:

Incorporating Relevant Information Example

My Nuffield Bursary project was based on finding potential medical treatments for sepsis by working on the molecular genetics of bacteria-infected cells. Using theory to interpret laboratory experiments allowed me to show how an enzyme was involved in the inflammatory response mechanism. My skills of organisation and time management were recognised by the Individual Achievement Award for my role as Finance Director in the Young Enterprise team. I used my leadership skills to assign team members to tasks to which their talents were best suited and demonstrated effective communication and teamwork to meet the deadlines. 

Ask for advice and feedback

It is so important to ask the experts around you for advice. Show your Personal Statement to your teachers at school and ask them for their feedback, especially from those who teach the subject you are applying for. They will have likely gone through a similar process when they applied to university so will have a good idea of what to include in terms of subject content. 

 

Asking for teachers opinions and thoughts on your writing will give you an idea if your Personal Statement is clear enough and includes the necessary relevant information.  

For more inspiration, take a look through our other successful Personal Statement analysis articles:

Looking for Personal Statement support to strengthen your application?

Students enrolled on our comprehensive application support Programmes will get access to Personal Statement redrafts.

 

Your tutor will give you actionable feedback with insider tips on how to improve your statement for the best chances of success. With UniAdmissions, you can triple your chances of success. Want to find out how?

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