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Personal Statement: How to write your UCAS application

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A personal statement, that you submit as part of your UCAS application, is an opportunity to sell yourself. It’s your chance to talk about why you’ve applied and showcase any relevant skills and experience. Before you get started, here are a few tips that might help you write the most important section of your UCAS application.

What format is your personal statement in?

You will submit your personal statement digitally as part of your UCAS application. It’s a text only section with a maximum limit of 4,000 characters and 47 lines. That might sound like a lot but, once you get started, you’ll easily fill that and more. Remember, you can’t add any images, links or attachments to support your personal statement. To help keep your word count down, make sure you keep it concise and prioritise examples that are relevant to the course.

Top tip when writing your personal statement

Write it out first. Do all your edits in your draft version and make sure you save it regularly. Once you’re happy, copy and paste it into your UCAS application. If you prefer to type it directly into UCAS, remember the system times out so make sure you are hitting save regularly.

What is your Personal Statement used for?

Universities use personal statements to learn more about you and add support to your application. A good personal statement could win you a place at your first-choice University, especially if your grades are on the boundary, so don’t overlook its importance.

Do you have to write a personal statement for every course?

No. The same one is used for each course you apply for. With that in mind, it’s best not to mention any specific higher education institution by name and think carefully when talking about the subject area; keep it general and think about common themes.

What makes a good personal statement?

In three words, a personal statement should be relevant, accurate and unique. Here’s some tips to get you out of the starting blocks.

  • Relevant – it might sound obvious but make sure you write about you! Talk about the subject area you are applying for and why you are passionate about it. Provide examples of relevant achievements, work experience or volunteering, and what skills you’ve developed along the way. Also mention any extra-curricular clubs you’ve been involved with, whether it’s sport or award programmes such as Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Accurate– It may be tempting to exaggerate, but it’s best to keep things accurate; you may be asked for more detail if you’re invited for an interview at a later date. Also, check your work for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Read your personal statement out loud or let someone else read it to you, and don’t rely on spell check to do the job for you.
  • Unique – Don’t copy the work of someone else; whether it’s a friend or an online template. Once you’ve submitted your personal statement to UCAS it’s scanned by their Copycatch system. Your personal statement will be flagged if it shows a similarity of 10% or more. It’s much better to be original, enthusiastic and natural in your style of writing, and don’t over complicate things. Let the reader know what’s unique about you.
Is there a set structure for my  personal statement?

The short answer is no, there’s no set structure you have to follow. However, like any good piece of writing it should have a beginning, middle and end. That doesn’t mean you should tell your life story in chronological order. Here’s some examples of what to include:

  • Your introduction (approx. 100 words) could focus on why your applying, your passion for the subject and your ambition.
  • The main body (approx. 300 words) of your personal statement could look at your academic achievements and relevant experience; including any skills you’ve developed and how you will apply them to your studies.
  • And finally, your conclusion (approx. 100 words) should summarise all of the above in a final closing statement.
If you are struggling for ideas, here’s a few tips to help you:
  • Research – by now you should have a good idea of where you want to apply to. You’ve probably ordered prospectuses, attended open days and browsed the online course search. If you are struggling for ideas, go back and read over the course descriptions highlighting any qualities, skills and experience that they might be looking for. 
  • Ask yourself questions – or better still, get a friend or family member to quiz you about your choices. Why does that subject interest you? Why do you want to study a degree? What are your future plans? What skills do you have that make you suitable for the course? What have you done to develop your interest in the subject? What have you done outside school or college? Jot down or voice note your answers – you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll have to get started with your personal statement.
  • Reach out for help – there are so many online resources providing great advice on personal statement writing. Check out the UA92 YouTube channel for handy video tutorials on writing a compelling personal statement. And don’t forget there’s people out there to that would love to help; talk to your teachers, advisors, family members, friends and University admissions staff.

We’ve already mentioned that your personal statement is an important part of your university application, and equally it can be the most stressful. So, don’t suffer in silence. If you feel like it’s getting you down then stop, take a breath and talk to someone.

Contact [email protected] and arrange a 1-2-1 discussion about your personal statement with one of our Student Recruitment team.

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