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Writing the Personal Statement has become an artform - universities know that students approach this element of their application in a formulaic way and there are various key areas that they expect to see. Here are our top tips:

Academic focus

Universities in the UK are interested primarily in your Academic focus. This depends a little on the calibre of the university – Oxford and Cambridge are interested purely in your brain, whereas others might be more interested in transferrable skills that you have developed in your Extra-Curricular Activities. Regardless, your Personal Statement should explain why you have decided to study your subject and what you have done to learn more about it.

Going beyond the syllabus

It is important, when showing your interest in your subject, to demonstrate how you have gone beyond the syllabus to learn more about it. This could be reading academic books or journals, going to lectures outside of school or attending a relevant Summer School.

Support your points with evidence

It is not enough to say ‘I love Chemistry’; you need to prove it. Give details of your interest and include real examples of the activities mentioned in Tip 2. These details – particularly inspiring lectures, particularly gripping journal articles – will give your Personal Statement precision and legitimacy.

Bring everything back to the target course

You may include a short section on your Extra-Curricular Activities towards the end of your Personal Statement. Make sure you highlight the relevant skills that you have developed, and link it back to the target course. Captaining the Football team develops time management and leadership skills; Debating competitions encourage you to communicate effectively and think on your feet.

Be enthusiastic but not sycophantic!

Admissions tutors are looking for a genuine and lively interest in their subject. Choose your words carefully. Do not tell the tutors about your ‘burning passion’ for your subject unless you are sure that this accurately describes your feelings. Do not tell them that you have known you wanted to read Biochemical Engineering since you were a toddler – again, unless that’s true. Admissions tutors can see straight through clichés and assertions like this so keep your language honest and precise; your energy for your subject will show in the variety of ways in which you have pursued it beyond the classroom.


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