For most application to do a degree at a university in the UK, you’ll need to write what’s called a ‘Personal Statement’. In your application, your personal statement will accompany things like your CV and your covering letter. While these three will overlap in terms of some central information, they all serve slightly different purposes.
The best departments get many, many applications from applicants who are very closely matched in terms of grades and prior experience. The personal statement therefore helps them get a better idea about the people behind these statistics. The main idea of the personal statement is to give the admissions committee of who you are: what you value and believe, what you think you’ll contribute to the department, why you’ve chosen to study at this specific place. As the name implies, it’s personal. It’s therefore a good idea to add some details about your life, values, and beliefs.
You can do so by explaining what has brought you to this point in your life. Why did you first want to study what you’re studying? Did an influential teacher inspire you, or perhaps you had some very meaningful experience that set you on your path? If so, you can explain this: it’s a good way to demonstrate what’s shaped you and your outlook.
Generally, a personal statement for a UK university can be structured around the following four sections.
Why do you want to study this degree?
Both personal and professional reasons are important. For example, in terms of personal reasons, it’s helpful to explain why you first became interested in the field, and what led you to the point you’re at now. This can also give some insight into your values and personality, which are also worth highlighting at this point.
For professional reasons, explain what you hope to do after completing the course. This could be the pursuit of a professional career, or further study. Try to explain what the broader social impact of your plans will be. Rather than just focusing on what you want to achieve, say what you want to achieve, and also how this will benefit society more broadly.
What past education, training and experience gives you relevant skills to complete this degree?
Include degrees, as well as any modules that are especially relevant. Internships can also be mentioned, and any independent study or interests. The idea of ‘transferable skills’ is also handy. If you’ve studied psychology in your under-grad, for example, and you’re planning to do a master’s in management, you’ll have some basis in statistics, as well as research methodologies and so on. These are all transferable skills, so don’t ignore things just because they were obtained in a different field or context.
Why do you want to study at this specific department and university?
It’s helpful to mention specific people on the staff whose work you admire, as well as things like reputation. If it’s the only, or one of the few places, where you can study this course, that’s also a good thing to say.
What personal qualities equip you to do well in this course, and to make a good contribution to the department?
Here you explain things like good ability to work with people, diligence, etc. If you’ve been part of societies, or sat on committees, use these as examples of your prior experience.
By including all such information in your Personal statement for your application to study for a degree at a UK university, you’ll ensure the application committee has all the information necessary to consider your case.