Writing a Personal Statement in 2023

The journey to securing a place in a UK university is a momentous and thrilling endeavour for aspiring students. It’s also a brand-new experience that can easily leave you feeling lost. 

Amidst the multitude of application components, the personal statement emerges as a powerful tool that can significantly influence admissions decisions. 

It offers applicants an exclusive platform to convey their distinctiveness, fervour, and suitability for the chosen academic path. 

In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into the crucial elements to integrate within a UK university personal statement. 

Furthermore, we will delve into the intricate tapestry of attributes and qualities that admissions departments ardently seek when reviewing applications.

Academic Excellence and Qualifications

The cornerstone of any compelling personal statement lies in the depiction of the applicant's academic prowess and qualifications. 

Admissions departments are eager to glean insight into an applicant's academic background, proficiency, and potential to excel within higher education. 

Prospective students should conscientiously outline the subjects they studied during their A-levels or equivalent qualifications, along with a careful selection of coursework, projects, or research endeavours that accentuate their passion and proficiency in their chosen domain. 

If you feel your predicted grades aren’t going to be as high as you want, the personal statement is your shot at cherry-picking the highlights of your work in isolation and painting a more representative image of your potential. 

By substantiating their commitment to scholastic excellence, applicants can lay the foundation for a persuasive narrative.

Extracurricular Engagement and Leadership

Universities across the UK ardently value the holistic development of their students. 

Consequently, they seek candidates who are not only academically accomplished but are also engaged in a diverse array of extracurricular activities. 

Admissions departments yearn for individuals who can contribute vibrancy, leadership, and teamwork to the university community. 

Applicants should illuminate their involvement in clubs, societies, sports, volunteer work, or community initiatives. 

Furthermore, the demonstration of leadership roles and the proactive initiation of projects manifest qualities of initiative, perseverance, and collaboration, all of which are quintessential attributes of a well-rounded individual.

Demonstrating Passion and Purpose

A transformative personal statement transcends the mundane enumeration of achievements. 

It dives deep into the recesses of an applicant's heart to unravel their authentic passion and purpose for choosing their desired course. 

Admissions departments are intrigued by the narratives that illuminate the 'why' behind the academic pursuit. 

To captivate the readers, applicants should narrate the experiences, moments of epiphany, or personal connections that have indelibly shaped their career aspirations. 

Sharing a candid narrative of self-discovery and how it aligns with their chosen academic journey can imbue the personal statement with authenticity and resonance.

A great way to demonstrate this is by starting a student blog on subjects that inspire or interest you. 

This shows off your extracurricular skills and organisation as well as a passionate and inquisitive mind that is keen to absorb and draw their own opinion on the current state of the industry.

Check out Sherpa’s blog on 4 Tips On How To Create a Student Blog…and Why!

Embracing Lifelong Learning and Future Impact

In crafting a UK university personal statement, it's vital to showcase not only a commitment to academic excellence but also a thirst for lifelong learning. 

Admissions departments are interested in applicants who possess a genuine curiosity and a desire to continue growing even after completing their degree. 

Mentioning specific areas of the chosen field that intrigue the candidate and expressing an eagerness to explore emerging trends or technologies can highlight their forward-thinking mindset. 

Furthermore, discussing how they envision applying their acquired knowledge to address real-world challenges or make a positive impact in their chosen industry demonstrates a sense of purpose and ambition that universities highly value. 

By portraying themselves as both eager learners and future change-makers, applicants can leave a lasting impression on admissions committees.


Reflecting on Ethical Values and Social Responsibility

An often overlooked yet essential aspect of a compelling UK university personal statement is the discussion of ethical values and social responsibility. 

Admissions departments are interested in applicants who not only excel academically but also exhibit a strong sense of ethics and a commitment to societal betterment. 

Sharing experiences or examples that demonstrate a concern for ethical dilemmas, cultural sensitivity, or social justice can underline an applicant's conscientious character. 

Furthermore, expressing a desire to utilize their education for the betterment of society by addressing issues such as inequality, sustainability, or ethical innovation can resonate deeply with universities that value graduates who are not just adept professionals, but also compassionate global citizens.


Highlighting Global Perspective and Cultural Diversity

In an increasingly interconnected world, universities in the UK are seeking individuals who can bring a global perspective and cultural diversity to their campuses. 

Admissions departments value applicants who have engaged with diverse cultures, whether through travel, international experiences, or interactions with individuals from different backgrounds. 

Including anecdotes or experiences that showcase a candidate's ability to navigate and appreciate cultural differences can make a personal statement stand out. 

Moreover, emphasizing how their unique background and global outlook will enrich the university's community can further demonstrate an applicant's potential to contribute meaningfully to the institution's diverse fabric. 

By emphasizing a global perspective, applicants can underscore their readiness to thrive in an international academic environment and engage in cross-cultural dialogues.

Researching the University and Course

A personal statement that resonates profoundly with admissions departments is one that intricately weaves an applicant's aspirations with the offerings of the university. 

Thorough research about the university's programs, distinguished faculty, campus ethos, and distinctive opportunities can significantly enhance the personal statement. 

By highlighting specific aspects of the university that align with their academic goals, applicants can demonstrate an earnest commitment to becoming a part of that institution. 

The resonance between an applicant's ambitions and the university's provisions can be a compelling 

Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

Effective communication, critical thinking, and analytical prowess are quintessential attributes for thriving in the academic realm. Admissions departments keenly assess the personal statement's coherence, structure, and depth. 

The statement should cogently present ideas, arguments, and reflections in a manner that exhibits clarity and eloquence. 

Banishing generic phrases in favour of concrete examples that showcase the applicant's capacity for independent thought, analytical reasoning, and eloquent expression can substantiate their potential to succeed within a rigorous academic setting. 

Reflecting on Challenges and Growth

Universities are not merely seeking candidates with impressive accolades; they yearn for individuals who have demonstrated resilience and personal growth. 

The personal statement can provide a window into an applicant's life journey by exploring the challenges they have surmounted and the transformative growth they've undergone. 

Sharing anecdotes that portray resilience, adaptability, and self-awareness not only underscores an applicant's fortitude but also exhibits their potential to navigate the complexities of university life. 

This could be balancing a job while studying in school, helping care for family or siblings or perhaps some obstacles you have faced growing up that you have had to break through to get to where you are now and where you want to be.


You will usually have to upload the personal statement through your UCAS application portal. This means it won’t look and be formatted exactly how you planned, but there are some things to look out for.

As there is a limit of 4000 characters there is limited space available. This may seem like plenty of space, but it accounts for only 550-1000 words of writing or about 1 A4 page. Keep your information clear and concise to avoid wasting precious space.

For this same reason, it is imperative you get some feedback on the layout of the personal statement as well as its content. 

It’s vital for the sentences in the statement to flow naturally, be a digestible length and be easy to read and follow. It helps to not jump back and forth between time periods for example. 

You will find it likely to be rearranging or rewriting it several times to make it just right. Contact some of Sherpa’s qualified tutors that are experts in reviewing personal statements using this link here.


Crafting a compelling UK university personal statement is an endeavour that demands careful contemplation and introspection. 

Beyond being a repository of achievements, the personal statement unfurls an applicant's character, ambition, and potential. 

By integrating academic excellence, extracurricular engagement, passion, purpose, and a reflection on personal growth, applicants can create a narrative that resonates with admissions departments. 

Each element contributes to a mosaic that paints a vivid portrait of the applicant as a dynamic and capable student ready to contribute positively to the university community and embark on an enriching academic journey. 

These skills are also transferable to creating your first C.V. out of school which another blog has some great tips on here.

Personal Statement Example

Mahsia is a Sherpa tutor who recently went through the UCAS application process. She has kindly shared her personal statement as an example to draw from.

Be sure and use it to help you get started, but remember and create your own story that will be true to you and only you. 

I found through these last few months, life’s unpredictability and uncertainty have shown most prominent. It’s made me understand that everyday as a doctor will never be scripted and the decisions we make can create plot twists in the story we call - life.

My grandfather. A hardworking, intelligent man, gentle in nature, was diagnosed with dementia. Every day he would keep a small notebook in his pocket, and would constantly scribble numbers, ideas and lists. Witnessing him losing the ability to do something he loved and enjoyed was indeed, heartbreaking.

As I visited family in South Africa, I observed and aided the live-in carer, she taught me routine checks, but most importantly how a holistic approach was necessary in his aggressive states. In these moments is where I developed the deepest connection with him and could be empathetic to the idea that this highly academic and independent man was so suddenly stripped of these abilities.

The brains complexity and intimacy to the body to me was enough to be love at first sight. Minute discrepancies can lead to major consequences, fundamentally changing who you are. I am intrigued by the very idea that brain malfunctions can vary in severity and be completely blind to age.

Volunteering at our community leisure centre to train children with varying disabilities in water sports, I witnessed every child was exploding with individuality, undefined by their disability. It gave me the opportunity to further develop unique ways of communication that were personalised to each child, to build profound, personal relationships.

Eager to gain insight into the medical field, after cancellation of my work experience placement I endeavoured to online work experience. I was able to understand the demands of a doctor and the presence of teamwork in a multidisciplinary system, which aids in successful treatment and optimal patient care, as well as the values of the NHS and how they compare to global healthcare systems, like that I’ve seen from a personal level growing up in South Africa.

Biology and Chemistry have shown me how diverse and multiplex the body is, filling libraries with the characteristics and functions that keep us laughing, living and learning. Exploring beyond the ideas of the specification, I seek for understanding, in doing so I have only become increasingly curious, in not only our bodies, but our minds. Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh wrote, “The idea that my sucker is moving through thought itself, through emotion and reason”, was something that has resonated with me, leaving me astounded and edging to know more.

Choosing to do EPQ, researching a topic that endeavours into the unique aspects of neuroscience and psychology, will aid in expansion of research skills and analytical thinking, which I have come to find are key components to study in the medical field.

The world of medicine is no doubt stressful, and it is essential to find ways to relax and maintain your usual pass times. I exercise regularly, including road running and strength training, this has taught me diligence and dedication to self improvement, but has been applied to academia and general life skills. My artistic ability has improved my observational skills and subjective focus to a particular task.

Previous challenges in my life have provided me hurdles to overcome, every one brought an important lesson in being resilient, and allowed me understand the demands that a medical profession entails. It would be an honour to be part of a select group of individuals who are able explore our mechanisms and be privileged to create subsequent change in peoples lives.

I believe I have gained valuable insight into the demands of a becoming and doctor and can appreciate the longevity of a medical career. I have never been more enthusiastic to run the marathon that is medicine.

3837 characters

628 words

For context, my A-level Grades were:

  • Biology =
  • Chemistry = B
  • Psychology =
  • Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) = A 

I got an offer to study Neuroscience at Queen Mary University London. I am currently a 3rd-year student and planning to apply to medical school once I finish. 

Best of luck with your applications!

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Friendly, Experienced tutor! Student at the University of Birmingham:)

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