Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Building experience for your personal statement

For a lot of people, the thought of having to write a personal statement doesn’t come until the end of year 12 – and for others it doesn’t come until 12 days before the deadline date. However, what some of the unsuccessful students miss is that it is important to be prepared for this deadline date and start looking for opportunities to build your personal statement even over a year in advance. This may terrify a lot of you just starting out at college, but many of these opportunities will allow for fantastic, unforgettable experiences (and maybe even a sneak peak into the excitement of university life).

Do I need to start stressing about my personal statement straight away?

Like life as a college student seems to be at times, the whole university application process is getting harder and harder. It isn’t like secondary school P.E teams: no one has to pick you. For university, you have to make them want to pick you and schemes like summer schools, specialist courses and access programmes can help you stand out through the selection process as an experienced and determined individual.

You may not need to be ready to apply for things over a year in advance, but it would be helpful to research what options are available to you and secure some placements to help build your personal statement as early on as possible. A lot of universities can close applications for their schemes anytime between February and May, meaning it is important to get organised, if not by Christmas then at least soon after. This includes getting a part time job or becoming a volunteer: universities love anything that shows a bit of commitment and dedication. Who wouldn’t want that on their team?

Will these schemes really benefit me?

You may be one of those people who have had to push themselves into these schemes for the benefit of the university admissions and something to brag about on your personal statement. But what may not be so obvious from the start is that many of these schemes can be a real confidence booster and will definitely help in securing your decision on what university course is (or isn’t) right for you.

What if I’m not successful for anything?

Like university, these schemes are extremely competitive. Not being accepted doesn’t mean you’re not good enough for university – a lot of these programmes can only select around 100-200 applicants. Yet, there are around 580,000 students applying to university each year! Sometimes being selected may only come down to how lucky you are, or it may be that they operate on a ‘first come first served’ basis. However, the sheer fact that (if you were one of the lucky ones) you were selected for a programme is something great to boast about on both your CV and your UCAS personal statement.

Still, working or volunteering part time, being a student ambassador or a charity representative are also fantastic roles that can bring amazing experiences, which help you stand out amongst the application crowds.

Links to some useful programmes

Sutton Trust Charity (all subject areas)

Villiers Park Charity (all subject areas)

In 2 Science Charity (STEM subject areas)

University of Bristol (all subject areas)

Russell Group Universities Access Schemes (all subject areas)

Key Points to remember

  • Do your research: don’t make it to the end of a dreadful and stressful year of AS Chemistry realising you didn’t even need it for the courses and universities you’re applying to (oops).
  • Plan early: many of the university schemes out there have deadlines early in the year, so don’t expect that opportunities will just come your way after first year exams are over whilst you have a whole summer to do absolutely nothing, otherwise you will end up just doing absolutely nothing!
  • It’s okay to be unsure: if you’re not sure what you want to do at university yet then experiment; most universities or charities provide schemes in all subject areas and they may be most helpful in making your final decision.
  • Have perseverance and passion: not only are these key qualities to express through your personal statement but they can be key in getting you accepted into the personal statement-boosting programmes.

Related links