Personal Statment – The Structure

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

1 comment
  1. Too many personal statements are handed in with evidence of plagiarism. A personal statement should be exactly what it says on the tin! Really it’s a chance for the applicant to shine and every thought should be given to it’s structure and purpose, especially when applying to oxbridge.

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