Applying to university is a stressful time. You have to think of all the things the admissions people might want to hear. You need to rack your brain for everything you’ve ever done of any importance. You’ve got to decide to study a subject which will determine much of the rest of your life.

And, on top of all that, all your mates are applying too. We feel for you – and we feel for your teachers too.

However, they have all done it before. They know what the application process involves and know what it is like to go through the fuss of having to submit your application. You, on the other hand, may not – so it is important that you listen up.

Here, we are going to give you some tips for writing your personal statement. We’ll tell you what you need to include and how to make your application as engaging and appealing as possible. From the role of extracurricular activities to the importance of work, we’ll cover the lot. Because no matter what you are told, it is not all about exam results or grades.

Let’s take a look. You’ll find links through to more detailed articles in each section. We hope you find it helpful – and that you all get into the university courses of your dreams!

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Want to get to the university of your dreams?

Find Relevant Work Experience

Let’s start with some things that you might not necessarily expect to consider for admission to university: relevant work experience – or just work at all.

Whilst you might not think that it is necessary to have work experience to go to university – you would be right – this is precisely what makes it so valuable if you have it, or if you can get it. This applies, particularly to relevant work experience.

So, if you want to study English at university, can you get yourself some work experience at a publisher? If you want to be a doctor, or you are aiming for medicine courses at university, could you try to work in a care home or something similar? Or if you’re a budding engineer, can you try a little placement at an engineering agency?

Whilst it is by no means a requirement for when you apply to university, it can add a lot to your application.

Why Do Universities Care about Relevant Experience?

Why might university and college admissions people care about relevant work experience? Because it shows that you have gone out of your way to go over and above in pursuit of your subject. This equates to a certain dedication and independence that few other applicants will be able to evidence.

You can find out more about why universities like this in our article on relevant work experience for university!

How to Get it?

Of course, there is the question of how exactly to get that work experience. With so much else on your plate, it is normal that you may feel you just don’t have the time to do it.

However, that’s just the start. Then you need to know where to look too.

Try out your career services at school – or, if you can identify a place where you would like to work, send a speculative letter. In most cases, they’ll be happy to have you.

extracurricular activities
Try extracurricular activities to help your uni application

Get a Job

If you cannot get yourself work that is strictly relevant, any employment at all can have an impact on the admission decision.

Weekend jobs are not just about the money – although that, of course, is wonderful. Rather, they give you an awful lot of skills, and say a lot about you as a person too.

So, if you have a weekend job, feel free to mention it. If you don’t but feel like you could handle one, then get one.

Why Professional Experience is Great for University Applications

A Saturday job doesn’t show just that you can stack shelves, sweep floors, or make cups of tea. Rather, it evidences many different skills that can be useful for university – as well as some valuable character traits too.

Firstly, weekend jobs give you life skills, the soft skills or transferable skills that come in handy in all different circumstances. We mean things like time management, problem-solving, and independence of thought – things that aren’t necessarily taught straight up in schools.

Then there is the thing about your character. Work makes you more mature, more independent, more experienced in the real world. Believe it or not, these are great virtues to bring to your studies.

How to Get Work?

Whilst the world of work can be a difficult one to navigate, there are many places you can look as a teenager after a Saturday job.

Talk to your careers advisor, or search jobs sites for the widest range of opportunities.

Find out more in out article, How a Job Can Help Your Uni Application.

Have Interests Outside of School

One of the most common application questions regards extracurricular activities, or those things that you do outside of your school or college. Think of that thing that interests you and that you actively pursue: the sport you play, the band you’re in, or the club you attend.

Of course, you are told that these make up a major part of writing a personal statement. And this is absolutely right – no matter what it is that you do.

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities show that you have an interest outside of school. They show that you are a properly well-rounded human being. They evidence that you are more than just your secondary school teaching or test scores.

Doing great at school is all well and good. But throwing yourself into all sorts of different interests, ideas, communities, and activities is even better. It shows that you are curious, proactive, and openminded – and that your personality has more to bring to your studies too.

Are there Any Extra-Curricular Activities that Matter More?

Whilst you can often be forced into Duke of Edinburgh or Young Enterprise, it is not really that there are more “valuable” extracurricular activities than others.

Because it is not so much what you do or like – as long as you do or like something. Rather, it is the way that you frame your experience of this particular thing. How does it add to your academic record? How could it help you in the subject you are going to study? Why did you decide to dedicate your time to that particular thing?

You can find out more about putting outside interests on your university application in our article!

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You'll get there one day!

Be Involved in School Activities and Competitions

In the same way, activities and competitions that are based in your school can look great on your application for admission to university. These can be anything from school council to a lunchtime chess club: they can all be helpful for you in your admissions process.

Why Contributing to Your School Community Matters

Why? Because you will be contributing to your school community – in exactly the same way as universities will hope that you contribute to student life during your degree.

Universities don’t just want to take in students who will perform well academically. They also want to have students who create a positive, exciting vibe for the institution. If you can show that you have committed in the past to create this, then great!


As with extracurricular activities in general, there is no end to possible examples of productive school activities you could involve yourself in. Take part in an essay-writing competition, or start a science club – anything!

Find out more about school activities and competitions here!

Advice for Writing Your University Application

Once you have finished brainstorming all of the clubs and things in which you participate, you need to sit down and write a personal statement. How are you going to do that?

You can find out more in our piece on advice for writing your university application, but here are some things to get you started.

Before Writing Your Personal Statement, Plan it

Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm – and then plan what you are going to include. What activities make the best examples? What are you sure you can talk about during interview?

Planning your personal statement is crucial to your admissions success.

Sell Yourself Well, Don’t Just List Life Experiences

Your experiences are great, but don’t go too heavy on the lists. You need to think best about how you frame the things you include. What skills do they show you have?

Your UCAS Personal Statement is Personal, Remember

Finally, remember that your personal statement should be personal. Write much less about your subject than you think. Write actually just about you.

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