Top 3 tips for writing an authentic personal statement for UK university admissions

Sara's take:

Applications for the UK, typically made through UCAS, officially opened last week, and we're excited to provide you with a guest blog post from Ashley Monaghan, the Senior International Officer in North America for King’s College London, one of the world's top universities and an American/Canadian-student favorite.

Ashley shares her top tips on writing the UK personal statement/essay, which is definitely worth a read if you're planning to apply for college in the UK.

And if you're looking for more insights into the college admissions process abroad, check out this course!

Written by guest blogger Ashley Monaghan

“Finished is better than perfect,” says University of Mississippi professor Elisa Modolo, discussing dissertation pointers in an article for Inside Higher Ed. And while you are not (yet) researching and composing a dissertation, the art of writing a successful personal statement to land you an acceptance letter from one of your top choice universities follows a similar, proactive model.

Different from the essay you write for a U.S. college admissions application, for which you would follow a prompt from the university or The Common App, there are more distinct expectations for a UK university.

Specifically, you will focus on your academics way more than a lesson you learned or who your role model is and why—all in 4,000 characters or less (including spaces).

Assume any university you apply to is highly competitive, so you therefore need to prove your academic motivation and back your claims.

King’s College London, for example, received 52,000 applications in 2019 and accepted about 10 percent of those, so admissions representatives expect you to go above and beyond just running a spell check before submitting.

King's College London
King's College London

“While the 'U.S. college essay versus UK personal statement' consideration does throw U.S. students for a loop, it is often their first experience in navigating a new educational system and the cultural differences within that realm,” notes Meghan Godding, Senior International Officer for London Metropolitan University.

But I am here to tell you that finishing your UK university personal statement, while seemingly impossible now, is in sight.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive checklist for a personal statement that guarantees acceptance; that would make writing your personal statement so much easier! You wouldn’t even be reading this. I wouldn’t even be writing this!

But, since the approach is more abstract, here are my ideas to help you stand out favorably to UK admissions officers.

Start Now

Thinking about completing a component of your application that bears the decisional weight of a personal statement is nothing short of daunting.

Where to begin? Just begin!

Start by putting words to paper (or screen) in a Word document so you can easily copy and paste into UCAS later.

If writing with pen and paper gets the creative juices flowing, go with that. Either way, make a list of examples unique to your academic background and then use these experiences to formulate sentence after sentence.

When you break up the work, it makes the overall process more manageable.

Planning ahead isn’t just for you; it also applies to whomever you ask to read and review your personal statement. Ask for feedback from people you trust, like teachers, advisors, and coaches or club leaders, and allow them ample notice. </