Structuring your personal statement


Student working at a laptop

There’s a lot of hype around writing the perfect personal statement, but the clue’s in the name, it’s personal, which means you should write it with your interests in mind. But, as unique as your statement should be, it still needs a good structure to help it flow. 

The opening paragraph – 5%

Getting started can be a struggle, but don’t overthink it. Your opening paragraph should include interesting content but it doesn’t have to start with a snappy one-liner. Talk about what has inspired you to study your subject and explain where your interest stems from. If you can’t get off the mark though, move on and come back to the intro at the end.

Why do you love your subject? – 70%

The following paragraphs should focus on your course choice. This is where you need to get into the nitty-gritty detail about what gives you a buzz. For example, if you want to study Biology, what area? Is it gene expression or human physiology? If you want to study History, are you more interested in military history or American history? Your enthusiasm needs to jump off the page.

Next, mention but don’t list the subjects you’re currently studying and the skills you’ve gained from them. For example, if you’re studying English, you’re likely building great analytical and writing skills. Or, if you’re studying psychology then you’ll already have fantastic critical thinking and research abilities.

Finally, share any work experience you’ve completed. Avoid listing everything you’ve done, but expand on the qualities and skills you’ve gained, such as teamwork and good time management. And if you can, go one step further and explain how those skills are suited to the course you’re applying for.

The ABC model will help you to support and make the most of your statements:·

  • (A)ctivity (what have you done?): “I played an integral part in the school debating team for two years, debating in inter-school competitions…”
  • (B)enefit (what skills/experience has it given you?): “This has helped me to develop into a confident speaker…”
  • (C)ourse/Career (how does this relate to the course/your future career?) “…which will ensure that I positively contribute in mooting sessions at university.”

Aim to achieve A and B when writing your main points and keep referring to your subject of interest wherever possible.

What do you get involved with outside of school/college? – 20%

The final section of your statement should include your extracurricular activities.

You may have gained leadership skills from sports; problem-solving and communication techniques from part-time work; teamwork experience from Duke of Edinburgh; or time management skills from juggling your study and extracurricular commitments.

If you’re not involved in any extracurricular activities, use this section to mention wider reading. Reference any books, articles and journals that are specific to your subject of interest and explain why you’ve found them engaging.

Wrap it up – 5%

Tie up your personal statement with a small paragraph. Some students use their conclusion to share what they want to pursue in the future, while others use it to emphasise their motives for going to uni. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, just a sentence or two.

For more guidance and a helpful checklist, take a look at our other blog: Personal statements: the do’s and don’ts.

Good luck!


This is a guest post written by the Content Officer at the University of Kent.