8 Things You Can Do to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out

8 Things You Can Do to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out

Chloe Lane

Updated July 8, 2024 Updated July 08

Your personal statement is a great way to show your passion for your chosen subject and let the institution you’re applying to know you are the perfect match for their course. You can show off what’s great about you, and the skills and experience you have that you will bring to the course and the university.

However, it can be hard to know where to start, and how to frame your skills and experience so you don’t sound arrogant, but while also ensuring you stand out from other applicants!

We know this sounds like a lot for a maximum 4000 characters, but don’t worry! As well as the eight tips below to help make your personal statement stand out, you can also use QS Leap to make writing your personal statement a whole lot easier!

QS Leap application builder provides a 15-page personalized report which outlines your personal and transferrable skills, and provides you with content and recommendations that inform you how to present this information effectively to make your application shine and increase your chances of getting selected.

Without further ado, read on for eight things you can do to make your personal statement stand out! 

1. Plan before you write

We know you’re eager to jump in and start writing, but as the old phrase goes; ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Before you start, briefly outline the points you want to make in your personal statement, and make sure you’re answering the questions; what, why and how. What do you want to study? Why do you want to study it? How do your skills and past experiences prove this?

A good way to do this is to come up with several key skills you have that you think will be relevant to studying your chosen subject and come up with examples of how you demonstrated these skills.

If you’re struggling to decide, try using QS Leap application builder. It will suggest key skills based on your personality type and suggest ways to embed these into your personal statement.

2. Format correctly

Careful formatting will make your personal statement appear neat and professional. To do this, separate it into paragraphs, making sure to include an introduction and conclusion. Each paragraph should discuss a different topic, so that, as a whole, your personal statement reads in a clear and fluid way.

For example:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Academics

Paragraph 3: Why you’re interested and how you’ve demonstrated this

Paragraph 4: Hobbies and interests (including relevant work experience)

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

It’s important that each paragraph flows nicely into the next. QS Leap application builder will tailor personal advice as to what you should include in each paragraph of your personal statement to make each section sharp  and unforgettable to admissions officers.

3. Make your introduction clear and direct

Grab the attention of your reader from the start, with a strong opening sentence highlighting your main skills, as well as outlining why you are applying to this course.

It’s imperative that you are specific and get to the point quickly. Don’t spend time thinking up a catchy gimmick for your first line, and definitely don’t use the cliché ‘this is what I’ve wanted to do since I was little’. These things won’t impress admissions officers and are often extremely overused. But if you’re really struggling on how to start off an admissions application, QS Leap application builder gives excellent advice on how to go about it.

Lots of people find it easier to write the other paragraphs first and write the introduction and conclusion at the end. One trick to make your personal statement flow better is to link the introduction to the conclusion.

4. Include examples (but make sure they’re relevant)

Of course, it’s great if you’ve done lots of extracurricular activities, but remember to relate them back to the course – if they aren’t relevant, don’t include them.

For every statement you make, follow it up with a ‘so what?’. Ok, so you were on your school debating team. So what? Admission tutors reactions to this are likely to echo the lyrics of Shania Twain’s “that don’t impress me much.”

Follow up this statement by talking about the skills you therefore developed, as well as what you learnt from this experience. Perhaps this taught you how to develop a structured argument, which will be useful in an essay-based subject where you will need to approach a question critically and argue your point.

It can be tempting to try and jam in everything you’ve ever done but being selective is much more effective. You can always talk about all these other things in an interview, or when you’re applying for a job in the future. They will come in handy, just not right now!

5. Put the ‘personal’ in ‘personal statement’

Making your application personal, ensuring it doesn’t sound insincere or generic, is the winning ticket for your personal statement. What makes you unique? Don’t be afraid to think a little outside of the box. Admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements, so saying something a little different will see your application dazzle from the masses.

Avoid including quotes from other people – admissions tutors want to hear what you have to say, not what Bill Gates once said.

6. If you’ve done your research – brag about it!

This sounds obvious but when writing a personal statement, it’s important to show your passion for the subject. If you’ve read any related books, talk briefly about what you learnt from them, and why they have developed your interest in the subject. If you’ve taken the time to read up on the subject, it shows admissions tutors you’re eager to expand your knowledge.

Although you should demonstrate your knowledge of the course – and how you’ve already started relevant research and reading – there’s no need for you to talk about everything you’ve ever read that may be slightly relatable. As ever, selectiveness is key. 4000 characters really isn’t very much, and it’s important not to waste them by rambling (or by showing off). 

7. Make your conclusion brief but informative

The conclusion is your final chance to make an impression on the admissions tutor. Use it to sum up and explore themes you have mentioned previously and apply them in a wider context. Decide what your main message is in your personal statement and reaffirm this in your conclusion.

As mentioned before, it’s quite nice to link your conclusion to your introduction paragraph. Refer back to something you said in your first paragraph and demonstrate how you’ve shown this throughout your personal statement.

Remember – the conclusion doesn’t need to be long – a sentence or two will be fine.

8. Proofread when you’re done

We can’t stress this enough. Check through your personal statement, then send it to a friend or family member to check through. It’s extremely easy to miss out mistakes in your own work, which is why it’s vital to have someone else read through it before you send it off.

The worst thing you can have in a personal statement is spelling mistakes. This is what will remain in the forefront of the reader’s mind while reading your personal statement, so don’t rely solely on spell check!

This article was originally published in October 2019 . It was last updated in July 2024

Written by

A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK.