Monthly Archives: September 2012

This is a vital part of the personal statement. Besides content, the unis (and especially Oxbridge) will want to see that you can structure your ideas coherently and in an ordered manner. I was taught to structure my statement in the following way and, well, it worked for me!

BUT REMEMBER! You ONLY have 4000 characters inc. spaces in which to convince the uni that they want you!

Paragraph 1 (about the subject you have chosen to do & why) – Open with a punchy sentence. Often this can be very hard to think of without it being too cheesy etc, but once you get it right, it will be great! Write in this paragraph why you want to study the course & what extra things you have done to do with the course and related interest. I.e. extra reading, IB Extended Essay, visits, trips etc.


Para 2 (extracurricular activities relating TO YOUR COURSE) – I.e writing articles for a website on your subject, other reading & what you thought about what you read. You only want to include a max of 3 works in the statement though, as it can get boring for the reader.

Para 2 and/or 3 – here you can pick particular aspects of the course & write about why they in particular interest you. For example:

Politics – feminism / origins of political thought

Psychology – psychology of power

Biology – gene therapy

Law – the origins of state law

etc.  HOWEVER, BE WARNED – as you only get to write ONE personal statement which is then sent off to ALL 5 of your uni choices, don’t choose to focus on a couple of areas that are specific to the course at ONLY ONE of your unis. Make them fairly general so that the info in your statement can be applicable to all of your unis, NOT JUST ONE!

In my case, at Cambridge I applied to read Politics, Psychology & Sociology, but at Durham, Exeter, Leeds & Sheffield I only applied to read Politics. I did slip in some bits about psychology & sociology to my statement, but made sure not to overload it. THIS IS A FINE AND DIFFICULT BALANCING ACT!


Para 4 (the usefulness of your other subjects) – In this paragraph, talk about the other subjects you study and what skills in them may be applicable to your uni course. I.e. Economics/languages for politics, philosophy for Medicine/law, THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE FOR IB STUDENTS is a MUST as they love it when you talk about epistemology.


Para 5 (other activities) – Make sure you keep this brief, as unis will mostly want to hear about your academic achievements. Here, write about any prefect roles, jobs, sports, DofE achievements, prize giving achievements etc. AGAIN, END ON A PUNCHY SENTENCE.

AVOID CLICHES, MAKE YOUR STATEMENT MEMORABLE AND DIFFERENT FROM EVERYONE ELSE’S. Although it can be good to look at other people’s statements for inspiration, there really is not set format for them or “correct things to write”. Show yourself off in the best light & you will be fine 🙂


Emily xx


This can literally make or break the decisions regarding your uni, so take it seriously & do it properly! The personal statement is what you send via UCAS to your 5 unis & they then give you a conditional offer based upon whether they they that they want you as a candidate for their uni (grades providing).

REMEMBER: Via UCAS you can only have 4000 characters, and THIS INCLUDES SPACES. You CAN’T go over it! This is a real test, as you should have more than enough to write about yourself. You should initially be way over this limit, if not, I’d be a bit worried! Of course, you can get loads of help & expertise from teachers at school and do make the most of this, as I got loads of useful tips. 

Be patient with it & take your time. Do as many drafts as you want. It took me 13 drafts to get the perfect personal statement. In contrast, I know of a boy who got into Oxford having completed his personal statement in only 3 goes! It really does depend on each individual & how concise & precise they can be when talking about themselves. 

Each time I gave in a statement I was prepared for it to get torn to pieces – personally I’d rather that so that I could have millions of corrections than be told that it’s okay and subconsciously know that I could do better. Structure of the statement is also so important. My final draft was really a re-jigging of the sentence order, rather than making proper corrections to the material itself. 

Maybe for some people it’s best to make a list of bullet points you want to include in the statement – academic interests, why you want to do the subject, extra-curricular activities, extra reading etc. anything that you think makes you unique from all of the other candidates who will be fighting for your place. Open & close with punchy sentences but AVOID CLICHES! Think long & hard about what you want to say & how you are trying to say  it. 

The most impostant thing is that you show yourself in the best way possible. Show yourself off, but DON’T brag about yourself & your achievements. 

I’ll do another post about the structure in more depth very soon! Feel free to ask any questions!


Emily xx