Whenever you are writing a letter of application, or making any statement about yourself, you should understand your target audience and know what they are looking for. When admissions tutors and subject tutors look at your personal statement, they are likely to ask two main questions:
Do we want this student on this course?
Do we want this student at this university?
In order to answer this, they are likely to be asking themselves:
Does the student have the necessary qualifications and predicted grades for this course?
Do they have a genuine, evidence-based interest in the subject and a desire to learn more about it?
Is the student conscientious and unlikely to drop out?
Will the student cope with the demands of the course (Can they cope with pressure? Do they have self-discipline?).
Does the student understand the nature and content of the course? Have they researched it well?
What are their communication skills like?
Is the student likely to adapt to university life?
Russell Group universities, Oxford and Cambridge particularly, stress the need to see evidence of reading. An analysis of read material is more important than quantity. Evidence of visits to galleries, museums, of travel etc. must be linked to the subject but show evidence of self-supported study beyond the classroom. Critical thinking skills are essential, so for example, respond to news items by thinking about counter arguments to develop flexible thinking.
All students are given a copy of the booklet below to help them complete their personal statement.