Think carefully about how you want to structure your personal statement. If your argument flows naturally and follows a logical order, this will impress admissions tutors and show them that you will do well on their course. After all, it’s a skill that will come in very handy when it’s time to write your essays and sit your exams over the next three or four years.
Basic personal statement structure tips
- Use paragraphs. This can be tricky as it will eat into the 47 lines available to you so don’t use lots of paragraphs but try to have a few. This will make your personal statement easier for the admissions tutor to read than one large block of writing.
- Have a clear beginning, middle and end. This will make help your personal statement flow naturally. For help with how to begin your personal statement, read our article on writing your opening sentence and, for help with the rest of your personal statement, read our article on what to include in your personal statement.
- Use the ABC method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, what skills and qualities have come from it and how does it relate to the course?
- Keep it short and sweet. You’re limited to 4,000 characters (47 lines) so use short, concise sentences and delete any unnecessary words.
Structure your personal statement to best show off your examples
There is no one set way to structure your personal statement. However, consider putting the most relevant and unique examples of your skills and experience towards the start of your personal statement. This can be more effective than working through all your examples in chronological or reverse chronological order.
For example, if you’re applying to study history you’ll probably want to make sure the school trip you went on to Auschwitz in year 12 has centre stage, rather than feeling you need to start with examples from year 13 or from when you were doing your GCSEs.
Read our article on what to include in your personal statement for more help on what to write about.
The three section approach to your personal statement
If you’re still not sure how you want to structure your personal statement, you might find it helpful to loosely split your personal statement into three sections. Jonathan Hardwick is a former head of sixth form and now a professional development manager at Inspiring Futures, a provider of careers information, advice and guidance to young people. He explains: ‘Your personal statement should cover three things. These are:
- why do you want to study the course?
- what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
- what else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university?’
Section one: why do you want to study the course?
You need to explain to the admissions tutor your reasons for wanting to study this subject. If it’s a vocational course, such as nursing, think about what you like about this profession and why you think it’s the right career for you. If it’s an academic degree, such as geography or chemistry, why do you want to spend a long time studying this subject in detail? Think about what you’ve enjoyed so far and what you want to learn more about.
Section two: what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
This is the biggest part of your personal statement. You’ll need to draw on your experiences to explain why you think you’d be a good student on the course and how you’ve developed the skills and knowledge needed.
If it’s a vocational course, think about what you’ve done that shows you’re engaging with the profession. Now is the time to mention any relevant work experience or voluntary work that you’ve done.
If it’s an academic subject, show that you’re going beyond what your teacher is telling you to do. If you’re doing an EPQ (an extended project) or you’ve done lots of extra reading, for example, tell the admissions tutor what you’ve done and how this has prepared you for the course. Or if you’re applying for a creative course, such as drama or music, write about what you’ve done outside the classroom. For example, for a creative writing course you could mention your blog or the poetry competition in which you were shortlisted for a prize.
Section three: what else have you done?
‘As a rule of thumb, 75% of your personal statement should be about your studies and your justifications for applying and 25% should be about your extracurricular activities,’ says Emma-Marie Fry, an area director at Inspiring Futures. Emma manages the careers guidance team in London and the south-east and goes into schools to deliver support to students.
A quarter of a personal statement is 1,000 characters (around 11–12 lines), so aim to roughly devote this amount of space to what else you’ve done. This is your chance to write about what you’ve done that perhaps isn’t so related to the course but makes you an interesting and well-rounded person. This could include any hobbies you enjoy in your spare time, paid employment or volunteering.
‘It’s important that you demonstrate why these interests and experiences are relevant to your application (for example, to show that you are able to balance your studies with your commitments) rather than just listing them,’ says Dr Helen Moggridge, a lecturer in geography at the University of Sheffield. Use your examples to show that you’ve developed important skills that will help you thrive at university. Good skills to highlight include independence, time management and organisation. So, for example, a Saturday job as a waitress may have improved your communication skills as well as your ability to work under pressure and prioritise urgent tasks. These skills will help you communicate with your lecturers and peers on your course, as well as juggling your coursework and exams.
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More professionally written personal examples will be added in the near future. YOU ARE ADVISED NOT TO COPY THE SAMPLES BELOW WORD FOR WORD, INSTEAD USE THEM AS GUIDES.
Engineering personal statement example 1
"I believe this is an incredibly exciting and empowering subject that will allow me to make a difference to the world and change it in a positive way. I feel that I have always been an engineer at heart, as a youngster I was regularly taking mechanical things apart and trying to find out how they were built and worked. I was constantly looking to satisfy my curiosity of the physical world around me.
To me engineers have helped to shape the world that we live in and for centuries have been instrumental in building structures that have served communities. Their work goes on around us every day and continues to make a huge difference to the quality of people’s lives and the environment. In my opinion being a successful engineer is all about using imagination, creativity and tenacity to tackle unique problems. These are qualities that I believe I posses along with the required discipline, enthusiasm and the willpower not to give up.
At school I studied hard to understand and master related subjects and had the opportunity to take part in several interesting projects that allowed me to see at first hand what engineering was all about. Throughout my college years I have also been fortunate enough to have family and tutors around me who have been there to support me in my career goals. They have assisted me to make decisions that I am sure will have a positive and great effect on the rest of my life. All things considered I am confident that the education and personal experiences I have had to date have prepared me fully for a degree course at your university.
Over the summer months I held a part time administrative job at a engineering firm, my work colleagues there have served as exceptional role models and provided me with invaluable advice. The experience also gave me an insight into other aspects of engineering which can only benefit me in the future.
Currently I’m looking for a course that will teach the entire core programme and give me a head start when looking for a job. I am aware of your universities very good reputation and its strong industrial links that attracts many top companies to employ your graduates. All of these factors have convinced me that your institution is where I need to study to become a successful engineer."
Engineering personal statement example 2
"Engineers belong to one of the greatest professions in the world, and are responsible for many of the human races greatest technological achievements. Well that’s my view anyway and it’s partly for this reason that I aspire to become a qualified, professional and successful engineer. In constantly changing environments ranging from space travel to automobile manufacture, the role of the engineer is crucial. I have a strong desire to be involved in these exciting industries and to help come up with practical solutions to the challenges that communities, businesses and individuals face.
To me engineering is a interesting and absorbing subject where there is always something new to learn. I’m attracted by its dynamic environment in which new materials, technologies and processes are being developed all the time. As a hands on person I am driven to work in an industry where I will be able to come up with ideas and then be involved in developing and implementing them. For me personally there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from challenging yourself and then achieving.
Demand for good engineers is always high with unemployment amongst experienced professionals lower than many other professions. There are a vast number of career opportunities available, with graduates in demand in almost every sector of the economy. Looking at all the facts there is no doubt in my mind that the world of engineering offers superb opportunities to ambitious graduates.
At college I studied Civil Engineering and excelled in the subject. My time there helped me to gain more confidence in my academic ability, with my teachers constantly challenging me to achieve more and set my goals high. I learnt the correct procedures to analyse problems, evaluate findings and develop solutions to determine the best course of action.
After college and during the summer months I got a part time job as a junior assistant with a engineering company. This experience helped to give my academic studies an industrial perspective. I got to work alongside some superb people and had the opportunity to gain first hand experience of putting into practice some of the theory learnt in my college lectures. I worked as part of a team that had to produce drawings for a wide range of civil and structural engineering projects to tight deadlines. The team encouraged me to put across my own views and suggestions on the projects we were working on in industries that included Automation, Power Generation, Communications and Manufacturing.
I really enjoyed my time at the company and am happy to say that whilst there I learnt something new every day. I now fully understand the importance of listening to and understanding the requirements of clients, as well as appreciating how vital it is for engineers, technicians and project mangers to work together as part of a group.
All my work experience and academic achievements to date now make me feel fully prepared to start a degree course. I believe that I can easily fit into any engineering programme as I already posses substantial knowledge of the subject, am able to handle a intensive amount of coursework and can manage my study time effectively.
Having researched multiple Universities, it was your institutions very good reputation for engineering and strong industrial links that sealed the decision for me. I am also greatly impressed when I found out that many leading engineering companies look to employ your graduates. I feel your course is ideally suited to the field that I want to study in.
I very much look forward to the challenge of university and to a varied and exciting career in engineering."
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