How to structure the perfect personal statement 

Teachers may tell you there’s no set structure for the perfect personal statement…but that’s not quite true. 

Oxford University and many other top institutions explicitly recommend you focus 80% of your statement on academic interests, abilities and achievements…and just the 20% leftover on extracurriculars, that aren’t directly related to the subject you’re applying for.

So if we split your personal statement into 5 paragraphs, 80% of those paragraphs should be “academic” – which means 4 paragraphs talking about your subject interest and achievements relevant to your subject… 

Leaving just your last paragraph for extra-curriculars & conclusion.

Why? Because a history lecturer doesn’t care whether you’re a prefect, or a juggler, or good at football – the history lecturer cares if you’re good at history.

According to Jane Marshall, from admissions at Imperial, your first paragraph should be an introductory paragraph (obvious enough!) – explaining your personal motivation to study your chosen subject at university. 

That leaves us with 3 empty academic paragraphs in the middle. 

These will become your topic paragraphs – each of these paragraphs will cover a different topic area within your chosen subject. 

For example, if you’re applying for economics – you might discuss behavioural economics, then monetary policy and econometrics. Three topics you personally find interesting – one for each paragraph. 

If instead, you’re applying for medicine, you might start with your work experience shadowing doctors at your local ward, then a recent breakthrough in cancer treatment you found particularly interesting, and then that rotation you did in a Tanzanian surgery.

So, overall, we’ve got your introduction paragraph…three middle paragraphs on three different topics you find super interesting…and finally your last paragraph – on extracurriculars! We’ll also squeeze in a short conclusion sentence here…right at the end of your extracurriculars paragraph. 

Make sure to leave a line between each paragraph! Otherwise your statement will look like one huge unreadable block of text. 

And that’s it – that’s the perfect personal statement structure. Done. Sorted.

For more hands-on personal statement support, check out our courses!