Tackling your personal statement

7 December 2020
Two Falmouth University students sitting on the floor with a laptop and pieces of paper

Being from Germany and only having heard of what we call "Motivational Statement", I did not know what a personal statement was, let alone how to start writing one for my Uni application.

We'd never even discussed writing any kind of essay about yourself in school. So when UCAS told me that there were 4000 characters and 47 lines to fill in, paired with zero ideas on how to achieve that, research was needed! I spent a lot of time googling and reading examples and finding out that basically, it is about realistically selling yourself. Meaning, don't overdo it and come across as arrogant, but also don't end up doing the opposite and come across as shy or not ready. It sounded like quite an intimidating thing to write. But, this is your one chance to apply and you probably really, really want to get into at least one of these Unis - so you better go for it!

Getting started and getting it down

I started with just writing down everything that came to mind that might be helpful, not even necessarily study or course-related, just everything I could think of that might be relevant. But if just noting down whatever comes to you doesn’t tend to work for you, doing a mindmap or outline can be very helpful too.

Since I hadn’t been sure where to begin, I had asked a few of my friends and family to tell me what they thought I should put into my statement. I'm not saying this is a necessary step, but it gave me starting points to work with. After that, I started sorting it into categories and putting paragraphs in there to get some structure and flow into it. I wrote it similar to an essay: I don’t know if this is the “official” way to proceed, but I put the quality I found most important about my course and interesting about myself at the very end.

Include whatever genuinely makes you want to be studying whatever it is that you are applying for, and what you think you can bring to that, and maybe even how you would like your future with this subject to look like.


One of the most valuable tips about writing in general that I have ever received is to never edit on the same day that you’re doing the writing. You’ve juggled these words around so many times that you’re probably not going to notice any typos or weird changes in flow or really anything odd anymore. So, write it, give yourself time, let it become something that you like. Then, let it rest. And look at it again a day later, and maybe try reading it as if you’ve never seen it before.

I think it’s normal to not necessarily want other people to read your personal statement as it is you praising yourself - of course, rightfully so - but I was quite uncomfortable with having anyone else take a peek. But, if you can, do try and get yourself a proofreader, or include someone in the planning process who knows you and your abilities and can add something beneficial. You don’t have to use all of the 4000 characters and if you feel like you are rambling, you probably are. Better to have it be short and snappy with the important bits clear and visible, rather than dragged out in complicated sentences trying to prove your eloquence or filling space.

There’s a lot of info on the UCAS site and specific information about how to apply in Falmouth's Application Toolkit. Good luck!

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