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Advice on personal statements

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Emma Kirby is a member of the University of Essex Online Admissions team, and a large part of her role involves helping people to apply for our courses. A key part of the application process is writing a personal statement, and over the years Emma has developed some tips and tricks that are guaranteed to help students submit their best possible entry. And now she’s decided to share them with you…


Where to start

Writing a personal statement for a university is probably one of the most difficult parts of the application form, especially if you don’t often write large pieces of text in your day-to-day life. And even if you do, it’s still very hard to write about yourself!

Remember, your personal statement is your opportunity to impress both the Admissions Adviser and the course leader. Before you start, you should have a good idea of what course you would like to study and your future career aspirations. Here at University of Essex Online, we ask for a piece of text that is written in English and is around 300-500 words long. This strict limit means that you need to plan your content carefully. You can only submit one personal statement so give yourself plenty of time to plan, write, redraft and proofread.

Your personal statement will really enhance your application if you convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject as well as demonstrate your suitability for the course. Before you start, remember this is a personal statement, i.e. it’s about YOU.


What to focus on

Before you start writing, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why have you chosen this course?
  • Why would you like to study online?
  • How do you plan to use this qualification in the future?
  • What relevant experience and skills do you have?

Your enthusiasm for the subject should shine through and be immediately obvious to the academic staff reviewing your statement. Explaining why you’ve chosen the course, why you want to study online and discussing your future aspirations will show that you’ve done your research and that you’re serious about studying for a degree. Highlighting your experiences, achievements and employment will help the reader understand who you are.

There isn’t a set formula you should follow. Everyone’s statement will be different depending on their own circumstances and experience. And don’t worry if you haven’t got any relevant work experience, you can still explain why you want to learn something new.


Quick tips

  • Write a killer opening sentence to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Show your personality, but avoid using jokes/humour.
  • Be concise. You’ve only got a few paragraphs so it’s better to highlight a few key achievements rather than listing everything you have ever done.
  • Make sure that everything you include is relevant. A personal statement is not a biography or CV, everything you include should relate to the course or your potential as a student.
  • Avoid clichéd words like ‘passionate’ and ‘team player’.
  • Don’t copy – Your statement will be checked for plagiarism and if this is discovered it could damage your application.
  • Ask a colleague or friend to proofread your personal statement.
  • Use spellcheck! Punctuation and spelling mistakes create an impression of carelessness.
  • Honesty is the best policy. Tell us, in your own words, why you deserve a place on the course.


Good luck!