April 22

Why study social work (personal statement)


In applying for social work, you will need to write a social work personal statement that explains why you want to study social work

In this article, I have appended my own personal statement below. This was the personal statement I submitted that eventually helped me to get a place in the University of Nottingham (UK). I hope it gives you an example to learn from.

Also, I wanted to add some tips that helped me write a personal statement. 

1. Set a deadline for your personal statement. 

No work will ever be perfect. Yet we often fall into the fallacy of writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing. We think we can make the perfect personal statement that will land us in social work. 

We can’t make it perfect. Before you start writing, you need to know when you have to stop and submit. There is a saying in Chinese that goes, 画蛇添足 (painting legs onto a snake). It tells the story of an art competition. During that competition, an artist, in his quest for perfection, ended up adding legs to his painting of a snake. Naturally, he lost. 

The moral of the story is that there will never be a perfect picture, or perfect personal statement. What matters is that you have tried.  

social work personal statement

2. Start writing your personal statement. 

Often, our quest for perfection or plain procrastination stops us from writing. Frequently, we try planning in detail, without actually writing. In my experience, I was pushed for time. I had been awarded a scholarship, but no university place offered to me. Due to the urgency of the matter, I had to write quickly. I had to submit. 

There was no time to think. 

Similarly, rather than spending too much time thinking, simply start writing. Writing has a magical way of sorting out your thoughts. Later, you can always come back to edit it. 

social work personal statement

3. Include real-life examples of why you want to study social work. 

As you can see below, I included examples from my own experiences being helped by a social worker and helping others as a volunteer. The truth is: facts tell, stories sell. Stories give the applications panel another side to you. They make you real. 

In writing your stories, be clear about what your role was. What did you contribute? What did you do? What was your impact? Did anyone praise you?

why study social work personal statement

Secondly, link it to the wider motivation for social work. What did your experience teach you? How did it push you to decide on a career in social work? 

Lastly, you need to clarify. Why does social work matter to you?

4. Edit your personal statement. 

Grammatical and spelling mistakes are a no-no. They show that you have not spent as much effort as you should have on your personal statement. When editing, print out a copy of your personal statement, and then read it out loud. 

Secondly, reading it out aloud helps you to hear the arguments. It lets you see if the arguments make sense, flow well, and are cogently linked together. 

This advice, from Cal Newport’s book, How To Be A Straight A Student, helped greatly. You can read it if you would like to get your first too!

5. Give your personal statement to someone else to read. 

Fortunately, I had a friend who was a social worker. She agreed to read my personal statement. From that reading, she gave me valuable feedback on what I could improve on. 

Having someone else to read removes our blind spots. Having interacted so much with your personal statement, you might be too emotionally invested in it to remove parts that are not as good. Therefore, having someone else helps to make your essay much better. 

I hope the advice here helps you to write a better personal statement on ‘why study social work?’

discuss your social work personal statement with someone else
Discuss your personal statement with someone!

Example of personal statement

This was the personal statement I wrote that eventually allowed me to be accepted into the University of Nottingham’s BA Social Work course.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Indeed, I have come to see how a life well-lived is one through which we give out of the largesse of our hearts. With a desire to engender positive change in the society around me, contributing to the community that has nurtured me, studying social work develops the expertise needed to aid the communities around me. 

My desire to study social work stems from a wish to help people deal with the befuddling complexities of life, for which there is often no proper problem-solving method, and certainly no correct answer. What piqued my interest in social work was a first-hand encounter with social workers, who inspired me to take up social work myself.

In college, I remembered seeing my mother bent over the toilet bowl, vomiting out the remains of her previous meal. Days later, she was stripped of her once lustrous, beautiful hair. Watching my mother buried under blankets, trying to keep warm, I was overcome by a sense of helplessness. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. The months after were a harrowing experience. 

So often used to the pillar of strength my mother represented, to see her reduced to such a state, ravaged by the destruction of cancer, terrified and frightened me. As the eldest in the family, I had to take on additional responsibilities at home on top of my academic workload. It was arduous juggling the various obligations. There were times when exhaustion overtook me, causing me to fall asleep in my uniform, waking up only to fight another day. 

However, I was fortunate to have the guidance of a social worker, who helped me regain emotional balance. She enabled me to stand on my own two feet again, anchoring myself in the midst of the changes that were happening around me. Just as I have been so helped, I desire to offer lifebuoys of aid to others, assisting them in finding greater emotional stability and eventually soaring towards a more fulfilling life.

Intrigued by the complexities of social work, I joined YGOS, a welfare organization reaching out to youths from disadvantaged backgrounds, as an intern. There, I worked with youths who were doing poorly academically and exhibiting behavioral problems. I enjoyed the opportunity I had to personally mentor these youths, working closely with them to improve their academic grades and attitude towards learning. Having a hand in molding them positively, revealed the possibilities that social work offered in eliciting real change in the community around me.

The myriad of opportunities that an overseas education offers me excites me. Exposure to a different welfare system will further my perspectives on the various welfare models in the world, and broaden my horizons on the pros and cons that each welfare system inherently possesses. Studying overseas will push me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to live independently. Experiencing another culture, environment, and country will open my eyes to the diversity in the world, and begin seeing the world in a different lens. 

Beyond school, I volunteer regularly with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. In one of my earliest experiences volunteering, I was teaching a boy to write the alphabet “A”. After struggling for thirty minutes, he threw up his arms, exclaiming, “I don’t know how to write this!” For him, the writing of such a simple alphabet had already prompted so much difficulty. 

It was a reminder that in the search for the academic “A”s in our lives, it is such a blessing to even have the chance to search. Volunteering regularly has equipped me with empathy, which will aid me in better understanding my clients’ needs, finding lasting solutions for them.

Through social work, I hope to impact the world, shaping it, one person at a time, community by community, walking with my clients through some of their darkest emotional tunnels, and helping them to find the light again.


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