Writing a psychology personal statement: expert advice from universities  - The Uni Guide (2023)

Writing your psychology personal statement can feel like a daunting task – it’s a popular subject with plenty of applicants, so how can you stand out from the crowd?

We’ve spoken to psychology admissions experts at four UK universities to get the lowdown on exactly what they want to see in your personal statement.

Take a look atthe psychology forum on our sister site The Student Roomto see what other students and applicants are saying about their experiences.

Research the course and make it clear that you understand what it’s all about

Before you sit down to write your personal statement, do a bit of research to make sure you know exactly what the course entails, and that you have a realistic idea of what you’ll be doing on it.

“For me, understanding the subject is key,” says Dr Ebony Murray, academic course leader for Psychology and lecturer in Psychology at the University of Gloucestershire.

“Students who have grasped the subject and what psychology looks like as a university degree present strong personal statements; they show their enthusiasm for accurate material (for example, the importance of research and research methods) and realistic achievements of the next three or four years (for example, students will not finish an undergraduate degree and be a clinical psychologist).

“Some students mis-interpret what they’ll learn on the course and that doesn’t bode well for the personal statement,” Ebony finishes.

Ruth Boyce, schools and colleges development officer at the University of Winchester advises applicants to “open up the websites of the universities you want to apply to and go to the specific course pages.

“Go through each course’s information page and jot down a handful of phrases about the course that interest you, or seem to be the main focus. You might notice similarities in what the courses will offer and can then choose a handful of topics, ideas or aspects of the course that you can pinpoint in your statement.”

  • Read more:how to write an excellent personal statement in ten steps

Keep it focused on you

The whole point of a personal statement is that it’s all about you – don’t lose sight of that when writing yours.

“We want to see why YOU want to study psychology. What is it about psychology that interests you? Show that you understand what a psychology degree involves,” says Andrew Martin, Psychology lecturer at the University of Kent.

(Video) Personal Statements - Standing Out | Psychology Grad School Tips Series

“We have all had personal experiences that make us interested in mental health, cognition, forensic psychology etc, but try to weave these experiences with books you have read or scientific papers that have caught your eye,” comments Andrew.

… but make sure you understand what the course is all about and keep it academic

Ebony at the University of Gloucestershire highlights a common pitfall in psychology personal statements.

“Given the topic, it’s not unusual to see personal statements where students have given too much personal information in terms of speaking about their own life events, mental health challenges, learning difficulties, or similar.

“This loops back around to my above point about students mis-interpreting the degree and what they will realistically learn and achieve whilst on the course; in many instances, studying psychology as an undergraduate degree won’t help them fully understand their own experiences, and for others, some of the topics on the course may even be a trigger. Personal touches are usually a nice addition, but know when to not go too far,” Ebony shares.

“Many students are drawn to psychology because of their own personal experiences, but just think carefully about how you share,” says Ruth at the University of Winchester.

“For example, if you want to mention the mental health of a friend as a reason for your interest, this is fine providing you keep your writing academic and subject focused rather than an emotional narrative.

“If it’s your own experiences and you want to add more detail, use the additional support section of your Ucas application and speak to your referee to see if they can add any specific details from their perspective so your personal statement stays academically focused,” says Ruth.

  • Read more:how to write your university application

Answer the question of why you want to study psychology

The admissions tutor should have a clear idea of exactly why you want to study psychology after reading your personal statement.

“Psychologists know better than most that motivation is the key to success, so admissions tutors will be looking for you to provide evidence of your motivation to study psychology,” says Dr Adam Jowett, Associate Head of School (Recruitment and Marketing) at Coventry University's School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences.

“What is it about psychology that interests you? You don't have to have previously studied psychology to demonstrate this. Original examples can often better demonstrate your interest. For instance, perhaps you have read a recent article in The Psychologist magazine or visited the Freud Museum in London. Use examples to convince the admissions tutor that you really want to study psychology,” Adam advises.

  • Read more:teacher secrets for writing a great personal statement

Show the range of your interest

Psychology is a wide-ranging subject, and admissions tutors want to see that you understand that.

(Video) How to write a personal statement ||with example psychology personal statement!

Ruth at the University of Winchester says, “during the degree you will have the opportunity to examine all aspects of human experience and behaviour, employing different perspectives within psychology, such as biological, cognitive, social, developmental, and individual differences.

“If you have studied psychology, try to demonstrate your knowledge across the range of psychological study in your statement. If you have not studied the subject before, try to find out a little more about one or two aspects so you can provide some detail.”

  • Read more:personal statement FAQs

Highlight any relevant work experience

“Psychology is a broad subject and showing evidence of engaging with any of the areas of psychology is valuable, “ says Ebony at the University of Gloucestershire.

“For example, some students have worked as teaching assistants and worked with children with developmental disorders; some students have volunteered or worked within prison-based services, or within the NHS, or for mental health charities,” Ebony continues.

“I would want to hear about that in personal statements, especially in a context of how that’s helped you choose to do a psychology degree. We will encourage students to complete suitable work experience/volunteering during their degree, so showing us that you’re already doing that means we’ll know you’re keen, and will likely continue to engage with extracurricular activity when you join us,” Ebony comments.

  • Read more:the ten biggest mistakes to avoid when writing your personal statement

And work experience outside of the healthcare sector could still be relevant, too

Don’t worry if you haven’t had clinical work experience – it’s well worth thinking of other stuff you’ve done, and ways it might be relevant to a psychology degree.

“Psychology is such a broad subject that you can link almost any kind of work experience or extracurricular activity to the subject,” says Adam from Coventry University's School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences.

“For instance, if you play a sport, you could use this to demonstrate an interest in sport psychology or use retail work experience to demonstrate skills and interest in understanding consumer behaviour. The key to an excellent personal statement is to link your experience to psychology and demonstrate transferrable skills,” Adam comments.

Ruth from the University of Winchester elaborates on some of the skills that could be particularly relevant for a psychology degree: “In addition to subject knowledge, psychology students also develop skills in communication; numeracy; analysis; teamwork; critical thinking; computing; independent learning; and many others.

“So, you can be confident to use your hobbies or extra-curricular interests to highlight these skills in your statement so universities can see you will have the necessary skills to thrive on the course.”

"Any experience is valuable," says Andrew from the University of Kent. "We want to see that you are a well-rounded person and can bring your experiences to the psychology degree. Perhaps you have grown up in a different country, different culture, maybe you are a musician or sports star! Whatever it is, we want to know what you can bring to our department."

  • Read more:universities reveal all about personal statements

Reflect on your relevant experience

Rather than just listing out everything you’ve done, it’s much better to reflect on what you learned from those experiences.

Ruth at the University of Winchester has some advice on how best to do this: “Many students will share work experience, or volunteering, but rather than what you did, try to reflect on your experiences.

“Choose the elements most relevant that highlight how you are connecting your experiences to psychology. For example, if you did a placement in a primary school, you might say ‘I supported pupils when they were playing’. If applying for psychology this might be phrased as ‘whilst supporting pupils, I was able to see how those of a similar age have developed their emotional engagement with their peers at quite differing rates’ (linking to developmental psychology),” the Ruth finishes.

(Video) How to Write a Personal Statement | Clinical Psychology

  • Read more:universities explain how to end your personal statement with a bang

Avoid cliches

The best personal statements avoid sweeping generalisations, and keep things both personal and detailed.

“Don’t start with a big psychology question or overarching quotes such as “I am keen to embark on a journey of the human mind” or “I am fascinated by human behaviour.” These statements are not wrong, but more detail would be needed and universities see them a lot in applicants’ introductions,” says Ruth at the University of Winchester.

  • Read more:how to write your personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say

Let it all flow out in your first draft

When you sit down to write the first draft of your personal statement, don’t worry about editing yourself – that will come later with subsequent drafts once you’ve honed exactly what you want to say.

“Don’t edit yourself as you write. Own the fact that you are not producing the best thing ever as you write it for the first time, just write,” says Ruth from the University of Winchester.

“The power of the personal statement is in the editing, polishing, editing and polishing and you’re likely to do that a lot before you’re happy with it. When editing, you can’t include everything you have ever studied and depending on your qualifications you might have an EPQ or A-level that feels less relevant to your application, but try to focus on any transferable skills you have gained.

“Within psychology, courses can ask for specific scientific and mathematical skills so think about where you have gained these across your academic study,” says Ruth.

  • Read more:how long does it take for universities to reply to your application?

Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly where you want your career to take you yet

A psychology degree has loads of transferable skills, and admissions tutors won’t necessarily expect you to have a clearly defined career path at this stage.

“Due to the wide range of skills, and the rigour with which you are taught, training in psychology is widely accepted as providing an excellent preparation for many careers” says Ruth at the University of Winchester.

“If you want to be a clinical psychologist then you can tell us in your conclusion, but don’t worry if you are not sure what you want to do yet, just don’t put a career because you think it will look good.”

And a few final tips from universities…

Try to be honest and original. It is also a good idea to proofread and get someone else to read to make sure it is error free and written well. Andrew Martin (Psychology Lecturer at the University of Kent),

(Video) How To Write A University Personal Statement in 10 MINUTES | Pen & Paper Needed

A psychology degree, and a career after a psychology degree, will always result in the person needing to communicate via writing.

Whether they’re writing research reports, clinical reports, other essays, or just writing emails day-to-day, their written communication skills will be under scrutiny. As such, proof-read; ask a friend or a family member to proof-read; write clearly and concisely; use paragraphs suitably.

If you’re submitting a personal statement with more than a couple of grammatical errors and/or typos (etc), that’s not a great sign for the next three years and beyond. Dr Ebony Murray (Academic Course Leader for Psychology and Lecturer in Psychology, University of Gloucestershire),

We can use psychology to our advantage here. Psychological research suggests that admissions tutors perceive poorly written statements, misuse of humour and being negative about previous education unfavourably when assessing personal statements. So avoid those things.

(Video) how to write the best personal statement || uk ucas university

Remember that a personal statement should be written to persuade the admissions tutor that you're a good fit for the course and have the skills to succeed. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what would convince you.

Be honest but avoid false modesty. Sell yourself as a future psychologist in the making. Dr Adam Jowett (Associate Head of School (Recruitment and Marketing) at Coventry University's School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences),


How do you write a personal statement for university psychology? ›

Tips to follow
  1. Show passion. ...
  2. Research the profession. ...
  3. Show you are up to date with the subject: perhaps you could analyse a recent article or news event, or write a short blog post. ...
  4. It's good to have an idea of what you want to gain from the psychology degree and from your University experience.

What should be avoided in a personal statement for psychology? ›

Psychological research suggests that admissions tutors perceive poorly written statements, misuse of humour and being negative about previous education unfavourably when assessing personal statements. So avoid those things.

What should I write in my psychology personal statement? ›

Give details of any specific interests or ambitions you have that relate to the content of the course. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for psychological research as a focus for academic study. Provide evidence of when you have pursued your interest in psychology outside the classroom (see above!)

What is a good opening sentence for a personal statement? ›

For as long as I can remember… I am applying for this course because… I have always been interested in… Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…

What should you not do in a personal statement for University? ›

The ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement
  • Telling a story. ...
  • Repeating information already contained in your application. ...
  • Spending too long discussing personal issues. ...
  • Making simple grammatical errors. ...
  • Failing to demonstrate capability of university-level study. ...
  • Using clichés.
Sep 15, 2022

What are the 5 ethical issues in psychology? ›

In Psychology, several matters relating to ethical issues are informed consent, debrief, protection of participants, deception, confidentiality, and withdrawal from an investigation.

What are the 4 main ethical concerns for psychologists? ›

The four ethical principles in psychological research are beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice. Beneficence means that the researcher is working for the benefit of the person or the field of psychology. Nonmaleficence refers to "do no harm" and making sure to minimize the risks to the participant.

Do universities actually read personal statements? ›

Admissions Tutors will be reading a lot of personal statements so it's important to grab their attention right from the start. Remember, it can only be 4,000 characters, which is about two sides of A4. So, you'll need to use your words wisely to fit everything in.

What is an example of a psychology statement of purpose? ›

Essentially I am interested in ways in which we can make growing up less difficult, particularly for high-risk kids. I see myself spending my career primarily in research and teaching. I see it as crucial to have research that is well informed by clinical practice, and clinical practice well grounded in research.

Which statement describes psychology best? ›

The correct answer to this question is provided by option A: the scientific study of overt behavior and mental processes. To elaborate, the field of psychology scientifically investigates various topics related to the human mind and behavior.

How do you write a good introduction for a psychology essay? ›

Ideally the introduction should; Identify the subject of the essay and define the key terms. Highlight the major issues which “lie behind” the question. Let the reader know how you will focus your essay by identifying the main themes to be discussed.

How do you write a powerful personal statement? ›

10 Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement
  1. Read the instructions carefully. ...
  2. Focus on yourself. ...
  3. Demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm. ...
  4. Start early. ...
  5. Explain any discrepancies in your application in your personal statement. ...
  6. Review good sentence and paragraph structure. ...
  7. Use the active voice.

How do you start a strong personal statement? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

How do you start a 500 word personal statement? ›

Tips on writing a 500-word personal statement essay

Start by brainstorming different themes in your life (volunteering, arts, interest in storytelling, etc) Choose 1 or 2 themes you want to focus on. It should be personal. It can feel a little risky to write, and reveal yourself. Remember, we want to get to know you!

How do you start an introduction for a personal statement? ›

The best way to make an opening statement catchy is to make it personal. Do not try to use cliches and write something that an admissions committee expects to read. For instance, you can start with a statement declaring your strong passion for studying a particular program with clear and persuading argumentation.

What should the last sentence of a personal statement be? ›

A good ending can link back to what you claim at the beginning or be a short summary as to what you're looking forward to at university, new challenges etc… or even your commitment as to why you would be an ideal candidate (without bragging).

What characters are not allowed in a personal statement? ›

Common symbols that aren't allowed are € and the special quote characters “ ' ' ” which will simply be removed from your statement, so remember to replace quotes with " and '. Backslashes (\) are also not allowed, but will be replaced with forward slashes (/) and curly brackets will be replaced with normal ones.

Should I mention mental health in personal statement? ›

You can absolutely tell the admissions committee about your mental health issue or concerns if you want to, but with the exception of some specific circumstances, you do not have to. Sometimes a mental health issue or concern will come up in your personal statement.

What are the 3 key issues in psychology? ›

While physical processes, such as brain activity, are important to psychologists, the three key components are science, behavior, and mental processes.

What are the most common ethical violations in clinical psychology? ›

The Monitor spoke with ethics experts about three of the most common ethical risks for psychology practitioners—and steps practitioners can take to avoid these pitfalls.
  1. Working outside your scope of practice. ...
  2. Not documenting suicidality or violence. ...
  3. Failing to protect patient privacy.
Mar 1, 2020

What are the 7 principles of ethics in psychology? ›

This approach – focusing on the application of seven mid-level principles to cases (non-maleficence, beneficence, health maximisation, efficiency, respect for autonomy, justice, proportionality) – is presented in this paper.

What is an example of an ethical violation in psychology? ›

According to statistics, the most frequent complaints about ethical issues in counseling involve dual relationships, incompetence, practicing without a license or misrepresenting one's qualifications, sexual relationships with clients, and breach of confidentiality.

What is the most common ethical issue faced by therapists? ›

The most common ethical issue faced by mental health professionals is maintaining boundaries. At times it can be difficult to ensure that you are not developing a personal relationship with a client. Sometimes clients may blur or attempt to blur the lines because of how the therapist-client relationship develops.

What are 4 ethical behaviors? ›

Ethical behavior includes honesty, fairness, integrity and understanding.

Do universities care more about grades or personal statements? ›

You may think that your personal statement won't matter as much to unis as your grades and experience but a great personal statement could make all the difference between you and a candidate with the same grades. Sure, your application might not reach that deal breaker stage.

What do colleges look for in a personal statement? ›

1. What Should a College Personal Statement Include? Your college personal statement should include a unique story about you and how it has shaped you into who you are today. Important lessons you've learned, qualities you've developed over time, and your future goals are all excellent things to include.

What do admissions officers look for in a personal statement? ›

As part of the college application process, colleges ask prospective students for a personal essay in order to learn more about them. They want to see context on each student's background, positive traits that the student could bring to campus, and examples of the student demonstrating those qualities.

How do you write a catchy statement of purpose? ›

Additional tips on how to write a good Statement of Purpose
  1. Mention your achievements, professional and academic, in the form of a story rather than statements.
  2. An SOP is a reflection of your personality; make sure it is clear and understandable.
  3. Mention strong reasons as to why you want to pursue a particular course.

What are the 5 main goals of psychology define each? ›

Psychology, as science has basically the following main aims or goals: understand, predict, describe, influence, and control behavior, and improve the quality of life.

How to write a statement of purpose for Masters in psychology? ›

5 Effective Tips to Follow While Writing SOP for MS Psychology
  1. Be Unique. No one knows your story better than yourself, so make sure you stand out amongst all the candidates. ...
  2. Mind Your Tone. ...
  3. Highlight Your Achievements. ...
  4. Plagiarism is to be Avoided. ...
  5. Be Careful with Grammar.
Feb 26, 2022

What are the four goals of psychology? ›

To sum up, psychology is centered on four major goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change or control behaviors. These goals are the foundation of most theories and studies in an attempt to understand the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes that people face in their daily lives.

What is a real life example of psychology? ›

Psychology also impacts how we think and act about our diet and exercise. For example, a study in Psychological Science demonstrates that people under stress tend to eat high-calorie foods. Individuals who think in a “live for today” mindset ate 40 percent more calories than the control group.

Who is the father of psychology? ›

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (1832–1920) is known to posterity as the “father of experimental psychology” and the founder of the first psychology laboratory (Boring 1950: 317, 322, 344–5), whence he exerted enormous influence on the development of psychology as a discipline, especially in the United States.

What is the best introduction to psychology? ›

  • Introduction to Psychology 10th Edition. ...
  • Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews. ...
  • Psychology – 10th Edition. ...
  • Psychology: A Concise Introduction. ...
  • Psychology: An Introduction. ...
  • Psychology: Themes and Variations, 9th Edition. ...
  • Understanding Psychology.
Feb 5, 2022

What are some examples of good introductions for essays? ›

Posing a question, defining the key term, giving a brief anecdote, using a playful joke or emotional appeal, or pulling out an interesting fact are just a few approaches you can take. Use imagery, details, and sensory information to connect with the reader if you can.

What is the best introduction in writing an essay? ›

What an introduction should include: A little basic background about the key subject area (just enough to put your essay into context, no more or you'll bore the reader). Explanation of how you are defining any key terms. Confusion on this could be your undoing.

What makes an amazing personal statement? ›

Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future. Give examples of any related academic or work experience. Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you're interested in.

What makes an impactful personal statement? ›

Your personal statement should explain what makes you suitable for the role or program and why it is the next step in your career or academic journey. Use this opportunity to highlight specific aspects that interest you and how those opportunities will empower you to become a better person for your field.

How do you write a passionate personal statement? ›

8 Things You Can Do to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out
  1. Plan before you write. ...
  2. Format correctly. ...
  3. Make your introduction clear and direct. ...
  4. Include examples (but make sure they're relevant) ...
  5. Put the 'personal' in 'personal statement' ...
  6. If you've done your research – brag about it!

Do you introduce yourself in a personal statement? ›

A personal statement should include an introduction, your relevant skills/experiences, and your goals. You want to keep your personal statement relevant for the program or job in question. Make sure to show your passion and indicate what you'd like to do with the degree or opportunity.

What is the best opening sentence for a personal statement? ›

Try to avoid cliches and the most obvious opening sentences so you stand out from the very first line.
  • From a young age…
  • For as long as I can remember…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • I have always been interested in…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…

What is Max words for personal statement? ›

Your personal statement length can be up to 4,000 characters long. This may sound a lot, but it's a word limit of around 550–1000 words with spaces and only about 1 side of typed A4 paper.

Do you write your name on a personal statement? ›

In the absence of any guidelines provided by the graduate school, your heading should include the name of the document you are submitting (e.g., “Personal Statement”), the school and department for whom you are writing it (e.g., “Ohio University College of Education”), and your name.

How long should a psychology personal statement be? ›

In general, personal statements are one to two pages long. They follow a standard essay format, which includes an introduction paragraph, several body paragraphs and a conclusion. Some topics you might write about include: Your achievements and experiences.

What is a personal statement in psychology? ›

A Personal Statement is a professional essay that outlines your interest for the field, relevant experiences, career goals, and fit to the program and or faculty member in which you are applying. Psychology and Psychological Sciences majors apply for a myriad of applied-masters, doctoral, and professional programs.

How do you start a personal statement for University? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

Do you indent paragraphs in a personal statement? ›

Margins of at least one inch are standard. Single space your text, skipping a line between paragraphs. You can indent paragraph beginnings or not, as long as you're consistent.

Do you put your name in a personal statement? ›

In the absence of any guidelines provided by the graduate school, your heading should include the name of the document you are submitting (e.g., “Personal Statement”), the school and department for whom you are writing it (e.g., “Ohio University College of Education”), and your name.

How do you structure a personal statement? ›

What to include in a personal statement
  1. Reasons for choosing this subject(s)
  2. Current studies and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  3. Experiences and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  4. Interests and responsibilities and how these relate to your chosen subject(s)
  5. Your future after university.

What makes a good personal statement? ›

Your work experience and future plans are important to include. You should share details of jobs, placements, work experience, or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your course. Try to link any experience to skills or qualities that'll make you successful.

How would you describe yourself in a personal statement? ›

Your personal statement should include a brief overview of who you are, your strengths and any work experience and/or education you've got. Be sure to include skills you've gained, such as time management, customer service, teamwork, computer skills etc.

What makes a good personal statement for university application? ›

While writing your personal statement, admission officers look for the following:
  • An insight into your background and how it has shaped your personality.
  • Your formative experiences.
  • Important events/ significant achievements that have led to changes in your life.
  • Your interest in your course choice.

What does a personal statement for uni look like? ›

It involves writing about your skills, experience, and ambitions – in order to persuade your chosen university that you're a suitable applicant for their course. Essentially, it shows how your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and other relevant experience has made you interested in taking the course.

What are the 3 goals of psychology? ›

The four goals of psychology are to describe, explain, predict, and control behavior and mental processes.


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