UCAS Personal Statements

How to structure your personal statement

For Cambridge applications, the most important part of your personal statement is the subject-focused content. Admissions tutors and interviewers are interested solely in your academic ability, commitment and potential. It is agreed amongst tutors at top universities that around two thirds of the space available should be used to convey your interest in the subject you are applying for and how you have pursued this within your school/college studies and beyond, particularly in wider academic reading beyond the school syllabus.

If you are planning to take a Gap Year (remember that for some courses this may be discouraged, so check the prospectus or course entry online), it is a good idea to outline your plans briefly. If you know what career you hope your degree will lead you to or have plans for your future beyond your degree, include these details, but you will not be penalised if you don’t.

What to include

The personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate to admissions tutors, in your own words, why you would be an asset to their university. Aim to convey enthusiasm for and commitment to your chosen course. You should use the opening (two thirds) section to provide detailed examples of what you enjoy and are interested in. It is usually better to develop a couple of these examples at length, demonstrating insight and personal interest, rather than creating a long list. Remember that if you are interviewed, the interviewer may use material from your personal statement as a springboard for discussion. It is therefore a good idea write about things you are interested in talking about.

What not to include

Avoid using the limited space to mention anything which is already stated elsewhere on your UCAS form. It is better not to include anything vague, such as what you ‘might’ do before you start your course or once you have finished it. Don’t use words you would not normally be comfortable using.

What about extra-curricular activities?

If these are relevant to the degree course you hope to pursue, write about them, including what you have learned, what you found most interesting etc. Admissions tutors at Cambridge will not take less relevant extra-curricular activities (e.g. sport) into account when they are making a judgement on your application. If you do take part in such activities outside of school hours, explain what they show or what you have gained from them (e.g. self-motivation or good time management) and how these skills will make you a good student. If you don’t, you are in no way disadvantaged. You should remember however that some other universities are interested in your wider contribution to their university and that your personal statement is something which should appeal to all of your choices.

And finally…

A personal statement is exactly that: personal. There is no winning formula or template. Following the guidelines above should help you to include the sort of material a Cambridge admissions tutor would hope to read about when assessing prospective students.