The personal statements is where you should describe the ambitions, skills, and experience that will make you suitable for the course.
Where to start
Firstly, leave plenty of time to write it. You’ll have up to 4,000 characters of text to show why you’d make a great student – so it might take a few redrafts until you’re happy.
- Course descriptions mention the qualities, skills and experience the conservatoire would like you to have – take note of these to help you decide what to write about.
- Remember it’s the same personal statement for all the courses and conservatoires you apply to. They’ll be able to see where else you’ve applied, so explain why you’ve chosen those courses.
- Have a look at our personal statement mind map for more ideas, or use our personal statement worksheet to write down answers to these questions and more.
What to write about
- Why you are applying – your ambitions and what interests you about the subject, conservatoires and higher education.
- Your reasons for choosing the courses you have listed. Remember that each conservatoire will be able to see the other conservatoires and courses you've applied to.
- What interests you about your chosen study area (playing an instrument, acting, singing, conducting, stage design or another specialist area).
- Your experience within your chosen specialist area and in any other activity related to the course(s) for which you have applied.
- What makes you suitable – membership of national/international orchestras, choirs or chamber groups (such as NYO, EUYO or National Youth Theatre) and any other relevant skills and achievements gained from education, work or other activities.
These are great ways to prepare for higher education. If you do or have done any of these before, they could be ideal things to mention in your personal statement. You might be able to organise or start a new activity before you send your application.
International and EU students
As an international student there are a few extra things you should mention.
- Why you want to study in the UK.
- Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken.
- Why you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country.
Here’s where you can mention any alternative entry requirements you’ve used – like an Access course or APL – demonstrating the skills and knowledge you’ve gained through your previous experiences.
How to write it
- Structure your info to reflect the skills and experience the conservatoires value most.
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise and natural style – nothing too complex.
- Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes or anything unusual – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
- Proofread aloud and get your teachers, advisers and family to check – then redraft until you’re happy with it and the grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct.
We recommend you write your personal statement in a word processor first, and then copy and paste it into your online application when you’re done. Check the 4,000 character and 47 line limits though – some word processors get different values if they don’t count tabs and paragraph spacing as individual characters.
When you do add it to your application, make sure you save it regularly, as it times out after 35 minutes of inactivity.
International and EU students
It’s not possible to apply in an alternative language, but you can use some European characters in your personal details, personal statement, employment and referee details.
What happens to personal statements that have been copied?
We screen all personal statements across Copycatch our Similarity Detection system – so make sure your personal statement is all your own work. Don’t copy from anyone else or from the internet and don't share your personal statement with other applicants.
If we find any similarity in your personal statement, your application will be flagged. Then we’ll email an alert to you and your conservatoire choices and this could have serious consequences for your application.
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However, as Williams says, don’t go overboard. “The mistake people make is to mention too many clubs,” he says, “it makes us question how dedicated you’ll be to your study or work. Pick some key extra-curricular activities and think about the skills they give you and feed that into what you are doing.
“Avoid the vacuous statement,” he adds, “the statement that seems to say a lot, but actually says nothing at all, for example ‘I am a people person; committed to doing my best at every opportunity’.”
Stock phrases should be avoided at all costs, and applicants should also be careful not to exaggerate their achievements. Be warned; if you are invited to interview, you should expect to be quizzed on what you have said in your statement. White lies won’t impress anyone and can become pretty obvious pretty quickly under pressure.
Applicants should also avoid copying anyone else’s statement or taking inspiration from the internet, says Balnaves. Ucas uses a program called Copycatch to identify similarities in statements and notifies the universities if it picks up anything suspicious.
Balnaves also urges students to review their statements for spelling and grammar and to apply in good time. “We probably get about 10 per cent of our applications in the last week,” he says, “but it’s best to give yourself some breathing space. The best advice you can get is from a family member or a teacher, read it aloud to them so you haven't missed any crucial bits.
“Write about what makes you unique," he continues, "only you know your unique selling points. Ask yourself ‘what makes me different, what will I bring to the university and what will I get out of it?’”
It’s important to remember that not only will your personal statement be used in the initial process of making an offer, it could also be used at the end of the application cycle if you miss the grade requirements.
As Hunt says: “The personal statement is something tutors will use to remind themselves why they made you the offer in the first place if things don’t go to plan - they might give you the benefit of the doubt.”
With this in mind, it’s worth putting in the extra effort now, to give yourself every chance of success.
Dos and Don’ts of personal statement writing
DO check for spelling and grammar - get your parents to double check and then check again
DO link your extra-curricular pursuits with your course choice
DO show your teachers a draft first – so you will know what to change in plenty of time
DON’T leave it until the last minute – try to submit the application before Christmas
DON’T use suggested synonyms unless you’re sure what they mean
DON’T be tempted to exaggerate what you’ve done
DON’T talk about specific universities, only talk about the subject