Personal statements: the do’s and don’ts

Student at a laptop working

Whether it’s cliché lines, unrelated quotations or simply a lack of proofreading and editing, there are things that can really let your personal statement down.

So before you get going, or as you’re nearing your final draft, look over our checklist and get your writing gleaming.


  • Plan your statement before you write it. Use the structure on our personal statement blog and jot down your ideas under each paragraph before you get to work.
  • Think about things you’ve participated in where you’ve learned something. This could be school/college related such as working on a group project where you felt your communication skills improved, or activities you do outside of school or college (sports, volunteering, other activities) where you’ve developed transferable skills such as solving unexpected problems, time management, empathy, or learning to work as part of a team.
  • Ask friends, family and teachers to remind you of activities you’ve participated in. They might remember successes you’ve forgotten about.
  • Explain and evidence everything. It’s easy to say you have a skill, but it’s better to demonstrate it with an example of when and how you’ve used it.
  • Print off your statement and proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors by reading it aloud. It’s unlikely that you’ll identify mistakes if you proofread your statement on a screen, especially as you’ve been looking at it for such a long time.
  • Ask someone you trust to check it for you; a fresh pair of eyes always helps.
  • If you’re applying for a joint honours degree, give equal time to each subject and try to find similarities that pull your writing together.


  • Include lists in your application. Focus on one or two points and discuss them in depth to show their relevance to your application.
  • Use cliché lines such as, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a teacher’. They’re overused and say little about your motivations or experiences.
  • Use quotations unless they support your statements and have a real purpose.
  • Be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement. Plagiarism software is very sophisticated and if you’re caught out, you won’t be offered a place.
  • Use complicated language or make things up to sound impressive. Write in your natural style.
  • Use ‘I’ too often when starting a new sentence. Try to vary your sentence structure to avoid repetition.
  • Mention a particular university. Your statement will be sent to all five of your UCAS choice, so it must be unbiased. For example, if you’re referencing your attendance at a lecture or summer school, it’s best to keep the university anonymous.
  • Use your statement to explain any mitigating circumstances. Ask your tutor or teachers to include these in your reference.

Happy editing!


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