Personal statements, portfolios and interviews

A personal statement is an essential element of the UCAS application form whereas only selected courses at some universities ask for a portfolio and invite applicants to interview.

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Personal statements

The personal statement has a limit of 4,000 characters – so it counts every letter, space and punctuation mark. In it, you need to address three key areas:

  • Why do you want to study your chosen subject?
  • What relevant skills/knowledge/experience do you have?
  • What do you do when you’re not studying (eg play a sport, part-time job, volunteering etc)

This is a formal piece of writing, so no text speak or emojis, but your writing style should be conversational. This needs to be a persuasive piece of writing as you want the admissions tutor who reads it to make you an offer for a course or invite you to interview. The statement should focus on your subject interest – do not mention any courses or universities.

Writing the statement is a creative piece of work. Start by thinking of all the things you could include, then edit these ideas down to focus on the key things you want to say. Focus on your strongest examples that show you in the best light.

Watch the videos below for information and advice about how to write an effective personal statement.


Providing a portfolio of your creative work is often compulsory for applications to art, design and architecture courses. Some courses, such as journalism, may ask to see examples of your work.

Portfolio requirements vary from course to course, and from university to university so always check what you need to do. If you are applying to Goldsmiths for Fine Art or Design, you can read our portfolio advice.

You need to consider how your portfolio complements what you’ve said in your personal statement, and how it demonstrates the influences on your work and creative expression. Be aware that the portfolio might be photographs of your work rather than the work itself. If this is the case, make time to get some good images of your work.

Interviews and auditions  

If you are invited to an interview or audition, always see this as a positive – the university wants to meet you and find out more about you. Always confirm your attendance or if you cannot make the date/time allocated to you, ask if it can be re-scheduled. The content and duration of an interview or audition varies from course to course, and from university to university. Always check the following:

  • Location: both the address of the campus, and the building and room where the interview or audition are taking place. Allow plenty of time to get to the university.
  • Contact details: ask for a name and their number/email so that you have a contact if anything happens on the day or you’re running late.
  • Format: is it part of an applicant day and will you meet other applicants and see campus? How long will the interview or audition take? How many interviewers or panel members will you meet? Is it an individual or group interview with other applicants? Will there be any individual or group tasks?
  • Dress code: what is the dress code? Be mindful that nerves may make you hot or cold.
  • Question preparation: consider the questions that are likely to be asked by the interviewer(s) and prepare your answers (eg Why have you chosen fine art? Why do you want to study on this course at this university? What skills or experience do you have that are relevant to this subject?). Also, write down three to five questions that you would like to ask the panel about the course or the university.
  • Re-read your personal statement: Is there anything you’d like to add to the examples you’ve used? Is there anything you want to talk about that is not in your personal statement?
  • Portfolio/audition: do you need to take a portfolio of work to the interview? If so, what do you want to say when you’re presenting it to the panel? Do you have to give an audition? If so, what are the requirements and why have you chosen your audition piece(s)?
  • Interview essentials: ensure your mobile is fully charged and you have data or wifi access. Switch your phone to silent before you go into the interview room. Have some tissues and a bottle of water with you. 

Find out about writing your personal statement

Selecting examples for your personal statement

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