What to include

It is time to move on to the final phase of your UCAS personal statement, the section where you will list your personal and extra-curricular achievements, your cultural interests and social activities. Many students find this one of the most difficult sections to write, as it can seem the most ambiguous in terms of both content and tone. Should you list every single cello exam you have taken since the age of 5? Should you mention your passion for Italian cinema or focus on your sporting success and charity work?

The key is to remember that this part of your personal statement isn’t a trap or a test- you won’t be disregarded for playing too many instruments, or too little sport. This is simply your opportunity to give the reader a strong feeling of who you are as a person, what drives you and how you like to spend your free time.

It is of course beneficial if you can indicate a healthy interest in a variation of social and cultural activities, but what they are is much less important than how you describe yourself and your passion for them.

Making it relevant

The most common mistake I see students making in this section of the personal statement is to forget that they are trying to project an image of themselves as people who are well suited to university life and academic study. So often I see statements including long, uninspiring lists of grades, awards and teams played for, with no sense of how they have contributed to the writer’s life, development, or character.

So, whatever your interests and activities, make sure that for every one you list you discuss the ways in which it has shaped or developed you as a person, the skills you have learned from it and the ways in which you feel it has prepared you for the pressures and lifestyle of a university student.

For example:

My position as captain of the school debating team has allowed me to appreciate the importance of lively discussion and of recognising the importance of others’ opinions


I was proud of my achievement of the Duke of Edinburgh Award gold medal, not only because it hugely developed my sense of teamwork and my leadership skills, but also because it proved that I was able to juggle my academic commitments with my enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits (not to mention my need to let off steam now and again!)

Final steps

Once you have put together all the sections of your statement, read it through several times and try to determine whether it feels cohesive and flows well. Above all strive for a sense of continuity; the idea that it is your individual passions, both academic and personal, that have led to your choice of, and your suitability for, this particular course over any other.

If you follow this top tip, you should be well on the way to a personal statement that stands head and shoulders above the rest and speeds you towards a successful university application.