Writing an economics personal statement: expert advice from universities
Get your economics personal statement in top shape with these insider tips
We’ve spoken to the experts at five UK universities to get their thoughts on exactly what they want to see in an economics personal statement.
Are you looking for inspiration?
Over on The Student Room, we have more than 40 examples of real economics personal statements. Among them you will find some that were part of successful applications to the likes of Oxford, LSE and Manchester.
Read around the subjectChoosing to read about economics outside of the classroom will help demonstrate the depth of your interest in the subject.
Luke Buchanan Hodgeman, director of undergraduate recruitment at the University of Kent’s School of Economics says that what he wants to see in a personal statement is: “in one word, reading. Not the type of reading you’re instructed to do to improve your personal statement, but rather the kind you have chosen because you are interested in it.
“Make sure this comes across! Don’t briefly mention five or six different unrelated books, but create a theme that evidences a consistent interest in one or two areas of economics."
Let your passion for economics shine through in your personal statementUniversities want keen, motivated students on their courses. Dr Maria Plotnikova, economics admissions tutor at Aberystwyth University has advice on how you can let your enthusiasm shine through.
“I want to hear from applicants who have a genuine passion for the subject and who can articulate succinctly the importance of economics,” she says.
“For example, how economics can be used to address contemporary global issues which is a focus of our research here at Aberystwyth. Why not include a comment on a piece of economic research or work of a major economics thinker that you found interesting and motivating?
“Applicants who have a view on the role of economic perspectives in shaping current policy debates, or influencing world economy, for example, clearly have something to offer."
Make sure you really understand what economics is all aboutDon’t fall into the trap of just assuming you know what an economics degree will cover without doing any research into the subject.
“A good personal statement will get across why the student is interested and motivated to study economics," says Edward Cartwright, professor of economics at De Montfort University. "Unfortunately, economics is often misunderstood and so it is encouraged to spend the time to learn what economics is really about before applying and writing the statement.”
Do your research into the courseDifferent economics courses will cover different topics – take the time to fully research the ones you’re applying to so admissions tutors can feel confident that you know exactly what your degree will involve.
“For economics, a strong personal statement will make clear why you are interested in the subject, why you have chosen a particular programme, and why you believe you have the potential to do well in it,” says Dr Vivien Burrows, director of recruitment and admissions at the University of Reading.
“It’s important to give specific examples to support your points. For example, when explaining why you want to study economics, can you relate this to a particular topic you have learned about in school, or something you have read about, or your future career aspirations?
“You also want to show that you have done some research on the programme you are applying for – are there any particular modules that are offered that you found interesting?"
- Read more: personal statement FAQs
Keep your personal statement personalDon’t forget the purpose of your personal statement: to explain who you are, what inspires you and why you’d be a good fit for the course.
“Be yourself," says Luke at the University of Kent. "Tell us what has motivated you to apply for economics. Your rationale can be as grand or as humble as you like, but it should align with the readings you discuss in the application.”
“I’m not looking for an essay on economic theories," adds Maria at Aberystwyth University. "Rather I am looking to learn from your statement what it is in the subject of economics that interests and inspires you to spend the next three years studying it.”
Talk about how you engage with the world around youEconomics is all about analysing real-world issues, so demonstrating the ways that you engage with the world around you can give your personal statement a big boost.
Dr Steve Trotter, economics lecturer at the University of Hull says: “At Hull we see economics as something to be used to explain and improve the real world, and we want you to use it that way too.
“Our teaching starts from the facts and the issues that we see around us and then asks how economics can help us to analyse them. So any evidence you can include that demonstrates a lively and inquisitive interest in the world around you would be good.
"The word ‘world’ can be taken literally here: our degree programmes are not just concerned with the UK. So if you have visited other countries at all and learned something about how their economies work (or don’t work), tell us."
Show your interest in collecting and analysing dataSimilarly to the above, linking your interest in the world to analysis of data will show a strong understanding of what economics is all about.
Edward at De Montfort University says: “Economics is a very applied subject which tries to tackle and inform societal problems, including; raising living standards, raising productivity, enabling sustainable economic development.
“A student will stand out if their statement shows a genuine interest in studying applied economics topics, possibly drawing on their lived experience. For example, reflecting on the challenges of low wages and deprivation, and ways that the governments can act.
“Economics is also an empirical subject in which our understanding is informed by analysis of data. Again, a student will stand out if their statement shows an interest in collecting and analysing data."
Don’t only focus on financeEconomics admissions tutors will be more impressed if you show your interest in the subject goes beyond wanting to just learn about money and finance.
"Economics is commonly perceived as about money and finance and a gateway to a career in financial markets," says Edward. "While economics will equip students with an understanding of money and finance, the subject is far broader and covers a whole range of topics such as tackling poverty and managing climate change.
“Students would, therefore, be advised to avoid focusing exclusively on a desire to learn about finance."
Include extracurricular activities with relevant skillsThink about the kind of skills you’ve picked up from your activities outside of school, and how they could be relevant to an economics degree.
"It is great to teach students with a variety of interests and skills," says Maria from Aberystwyth University. "Reviewing applications from students who have something to contribute to university life is a pleasure.
“More specifically, you should try to relate your extracurricular activities, hobbies and experiences to your interest in economics and thus demonstrate your commitment to studying the subject."
“The main thing is to reflect on any experiences the student has had and think about how that inspires or motivates an interest in economics,” says Edward at De Montfort University.
“For example, an interest in environmental issues could motivate a desire to study environmental economics or, experience working in the voluntary sector may inspire an interest in studying more around public services."
“There are no specific extracurricular activities that we rate as higher or more important than others," says Luke from the University of Kent. "Anything applicants have done or plan to do outside of their studies is interesting, and we want to hear about it. You could be on target to obtain a Gold DoE award, but equally you could be working 12 hours a week in a small local shop. Both evidence positive attributes that we look for in applicants.”
You could talk about your plans for your future, but don’t worry if you don’t have a definite career trajectory all mapped outIt’s fine to include your plans if you do already have an idea of where you’d like your economics degree to take you, but it’s also normal for applicants to not have their futures all figured out yet.
“You may want to add how you see your career and your future evolving after obtaining your economics degree," says Maria from Aberystwyth University. "While your direction may change during your time at university, it will demonstrate that you have carefully thought about the choice of your subject.”
“If you know where you want your career to take you then include that, but don’t worry if you aren’t sure yet (most students aren’t!)" says Steve at the University of Hull. "Just tell us in your own words why you want to study economics.”
It shouldn’t matter if you haven’t studied economics beforeThere’s no need to panic if you’re not taking an A-level in economics: you can still write a great personal statement that shows your passion for the subject.
“Don’t worry if you’ve never studied economics before," says Vivien at the University of Reading. "It’s more important that you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject and highlight the skills you have that will help you succeed in the programme.”
Proofread your personal statement before you send it outDon’t get tripped up by spelling mistakes or a misplaced apostrophe.
“Remember that from a reader’s point of view, it is always better to review a carefully written piece without grammatical mistakes or txt speak!” says Maria from Aberystwyth University.