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Writing a geography personal statement: expert advice from universities

Make your geography personal statement stand out, with these tips from university admissions teams

When you’re going for a place on a geography degree course, your personal statement provides a strong way to make your application stand out.

We’ve spoken to experts at the University of Hull and Queen Mary University of London to find out exactly what they’re looking for in your geography personal statement. 

Are you looking for inspiration?
Over on The Student Room, we have more than 20 examples of real geography personal statements.

Explain why you’d be a good geography student

Universities want you to talk about yourself: tell them what sets you apart. 

Dr Jonathan Dean, director of admissions for geography at the University of Hull, says: “We want to know why you enjoy studying this subject and want to do a degree in it. What part of the subject interests you the most? Have you read a relevant book on it or travelled somewhere that brought the subject to life for you?

“Tell us why you think you’d excel at this course. Have you done a project where you have gained some statistical skills? Have you got some relevant work experience? We want to know!”

Show that your motivation goes beyond your predicted grades

Tell admissions tutors why you want to study geography: you can impress them more by demonstrating a genuine interest in the subject. 

Dr Andrew Russell, undergraduate admissions tutor for the school of geography at Queen Mary University of London, says: “I like to see students’ motivations and ambitions in personal statements. So, why are you interested in geography? What aspects of geography interest you most? Where do you want the degree to take you? 

“We can look at your qualifications and predicted grades to get a feel for what students are good at but that doesn’t tell me why students care about a particular subject. This can be particularly powerful if students are doing an EPQ in a relevant topic so make sure you give details on that if possible – this can be a great talking point if students attend an open day or offer-holder day as well.”

Highlight extracurricular activities with relevant skills

Even if your skills aren’t directly related to geography, you can still describe how you could apply them to your degree.

“Any activity can be relevant if you’ve gone to the trouble of thinking about why it is relevant and articulating that”, says Andrew. “That shows a certain level of analytical skills that we’re interested in.

“Anything that has given you skills that would be useful in your degree is worth mentioning,” agrees Jonathan. “Don’t just say you’ve had a job or have a certain hobby – go into detail and tell us what skills these have given you.”

Skills from your part-time job are relevant, but make sure you explain them and give specific examples.

“Some things might be directly relevant to your course - you might have worked or volunteered as a conservation officer - which would give you knowledge and skills that would be useful on a geography or environmental science degree,'' says Jonathan.

“But even in things like working as a barista or volunteering as a scout leader, you can still talk about the skills like time management and leadership that you have gained.”

Read around the subject

Researching geography in your spare time shows your desire to learn as well as a genuine interest in the subject.

“It’s good to hear about reading you’ve done around the topic - popular science books, National Geographic or New Scientist articles, peer reviewed papers,” says Andrew. “Contextualise why what you’ve read is relevant and why it inspired you. 

“There are also many relevant massive open online courses out there now and students can show that they’ve engaged with university level material by taking one of those.”

Mention you enjoy being outdoors

Your degree could include some fieldwork: include any experience that indicates you’re comfortable being in nature. 

“Any experience of the great outdoors is useful to mention too,” explains Andrew. 

“You’re quite likely to end up doing some fieldwork in a geography degree so it’s reassuring to know that students have some relevant experience. This could be a sport, a hobby, volunteering or Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, for example.”

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