Personal Statements are, by definition, personal. There is no one 'perfect' Personal Statement and for a subject like Design Engineering, which covers a wide range of topics and skills, we are looking for a wide range of experiences and interests in our applicants. However, there are some common ​pitfalls, and ​we have created these tips to help you avoid them and use your Personal Statement to show off your best self.

Please note these tips are specifically for applicants applying to study Design Engineering at Imperial College London. Some of them might be useful for other Personal Statements but some of them are very specific to our course.

5 Things to do:

1. Start with your proudest achievement

Many people view Personal Statements as the story of their lives and tell that story in chronological order. This means their first paragraph is about a Year 6 project using lollipop sticks and they wait until the last paragraph to mention the two-headed animatronic dragon that they're building in their spare time. We assess more than 600 Personal Statements each year - putting your most impressive achievements in the first paragraph means that your application stands out straight away.  If you're not sure how to start your Personal Statement, just complete this sentence - 'The thing I am most proud to have created is...' 

2. Provide specific examples with details

It is always better to provide specific examples and go into enough detail to demonstrate that you understand what you are talking about. For instance, just saying 'I'm interested in coding', doesn't tell us anything other than that you know coding will be on the course. Citing the specific coding languages you have been learning and how you have used them will tell us that you're interested in coding and that you've applied that interest to learn and build with your new skills.

3. Sometimes, less is more

Don't worry about listing everything you've ever created. You have limited space and sometimes it's better to show depth and understanding of one project than list everything you've ever tinkered with. If you've been working on lots of things, pick the one that's most interesting to you, or that you're proudest of, and dedicate a few paragraphs to exploring that project. You can always add a short sentence explaining that this is one of many projects you've worked on.

4. Create!

You will have probably noticed in the first three tips that we talk a lot about building, creating and projects. That's because we are a very hands-on course. From the very first term, you will be designing, drawing, and building. Every year you will work in teams or on your own to develop multiple projects from brief to prototype. Creating things now helps prepare you for this course. Writing about the things you have created in your personal statement shows us that you have done this preparation work.

5. Include your hobbies

Design Engineering looks for people with technical knowledge and creativity. Quite often creative activities are less formally regulated than the technical side of things.  Tell us about your web comics, your indie bands, and your handbag designs. Creativity comes in many forms and just because you haven't been tested on something in a school environment, that doesn't mean you don't learn a lot from it.


5 Things to avoid:

1. Don't worry about formal work experience

Both Design and Engineering are areas where it can be very hard to get work experience when you are under 18. Often you need to know someone who already works in the field or at the very least, you need to live near one of the companies that offer placements. Obviously if you get the chance to get some work experience, grab it with both hands, but if you don’t get that chance, don’t worry! We do not expect our applicants to have had design or engineering work experience. Making something in your own bedroom out of whatever you have available is just as useful, if not more so.

2. Leave out your family history   tell us about yourself, not the people around you

If your parents or wider family work in engineering or design, it can be tempting to tell us about it in your Personal Statement. Afterall, they are probably strong influences on your choice of course so it’s easy to think that this might be relevant. However, every word you spend writing about your family’s history and experiences is a word that you’re not using to tell us about your own achievements​, plans and passions. We want to know what makes you a suitable candidate for the programme, so use this opportunity to tell us as much as you can about yourself.

3. Look beyond the classroom - we know what’s on your school curriculum

If you are taking an ‘obviously relevant’ school subject (see our FAQs here for a list), we have already taken into account your chosen subjects and predicted grades. What we are looking for in your Personal Statement is interest and application of technical and creative skills beyond your school syllabus. Don’t waste too much of the precious word count telling us how good the chair you’re building in A Level Design Technology is - that’s what your A Level assessments are for. Instead, use this space to tell us about your designs, builds and experiments outside of school hours.

Of course, ​if you have created something particularly outstanding in school that demonstrates skills and techniques that you have learned in your own time, we want to hear about it. Likewise, if you are studying ‘non-obvious’ subjects but still using creative or technical skills in those subjects, please tell us everything. Perhaps for your History coursework, you data modelled birth and death rates in England after the Black Death, or maybe you designed and 3D printed props for your Media Studies A Level - if so, your Personal Statement is absolutely the place to tell us about it.

4. Keep it relevant 

Your Personal Statement ​should focus specifically on two key points:

1. Why you want to do the course you’ve applied to

2. Why you will succeed on the course you’ve applied to

We are assessing you not on your whole life experience, but specifically on your interest and readiness to study Design Engineering at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. 

5. Don’t fear failure

If you have a project or experiment that you ran and it all went wrong (the wheels literally fell off or the resulting data was both unexpected and unexplainable), that is totally ok!  You can still write about the project in your Personal Statement because failure is a very valuable data point. You learn by failing. When discussing a project, you don’t need to focus only on what went well; embrace what went wrong and demonstrate what you learned from the experience. Failure is a very normal part of any process - do not fear it.