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How to write a university personal statement

International and EU students (Source: UCAS)

As an international student there are a few extra things that you need to include in your personal statement:


  • Why do you want to study in the UK?

  • Your English language skills and any courses you have taken or qualifications that you have.

  • Why you are choosing to be an international student rather than studying in your own country. 


What not to include in your personal statement

These are some of the things that are best avoided in your personal statement, according to Which? University:


  • Quotes from other people – it’s your words they want to read, not those of Shakespeare, Einstein or Muhammed Al

  • Pure lists – for example, of all the books you have read, work experience placements you’ve done or positions you have held. It’s much better to write about what you have learned from these things.

  • Clichés – these are generic expressions that are over-used and don’t really say very much. Try your best to avoid things such as: “I’ve always been fascinated by”, “I have a thirst for knowledge”, “I was born to be a vet” or “it has always been my dream”.

  • The words ‘passion’ and ‘passionate’ are hugely over-used – try to avoid them. If you demonstrate your passions well enough, you don’t need to tell people what they are.

  • Unnatural-sounding vocabulary – if you wouldn’t say it in day-to-day discussion, don’t write it down. There is a risk you will sound fake.

  • Plagiarism, lies or exaggeration – UCAS utilises very sophisticated plagiarism-detecting software and will pick up anything you have copied from a published source. Similarly, don’t claim to have done something (e.g. a job, read a book) when you haven’t – it might just catch you out!

  • Negative comments or excuses – it can be difficult to ‘sell yourself’ through a personal statement (and universities know this) but avoid going into detail about why haven’t done something or why you might have dropped something. Focus on the positives and on what you have done.

  • Irrelevant facts – when you are considering writing about something, consider if it is really relevant to what are saying. Does the fact that you went on a school trip aged 9 make a useful contribution, for example? Is this something that a university tutor is likely to want to read about? If not, leave it out.


Don’t feel that you have to stick to a formula and don’t try to write about everything you have ever done. When you are done, read it back as if you are the admissions tutor – would you want to have a conversation with this person, would you want them in your seminar group?


There’s lots more helpful advice and resources, including a personal statement worksheet and a personal statement mind map, on the UCAS website.

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