Writing your Personal Statement
Your UCAS Personal Statement is an opportunity to tell universities why they should offer you a place on their course.
They’re important – universities use personal statements to compare different applicants. That means you want yours to stand out.
Your statement must be unique and personal to you…but we can help you think about the content you should be including and the way it should be written.
Points to Remember
Nobody can rattle off a great personal statement at the first attempt. It will take a few drafts before you arrive at the final version. So make sure you start working on it early and get help from your teachers and advisers.
You can redraft your statement as many times as you like before you send it but once your application is submitted it can’t be changed. So take time to get it right.
Or, to be precise, a character limit. Your statement must be no more than 4000 characters long (or 47 lines of text) including spaces. That’s roughly 600 words.
That’s not very much so the trick is to use the space well – include the most important points and make them as succinctly as you can.
A badly written statement will not go down well. Structure your statement clearly and check your spelling and grammar.
Don’t just mention the skills you have. Give examples of how you have developed and used them.
For example, you might have demonstrated your communication skills by taking part in a debating competition, or your interpersonal skills by acting as a mentor for younger pupils…
You want to sell yourself, demonstrating all your skills and achievements. But that doesn’t mean making stuff up. Don’t pretend you’ve worked as a lion tamer if you haven’t. You might be asked about it down the line – especially if your course requires an interview – so be honest!
Write about the great skills and experience you do have.
Don’t be tempted to copy someone else’s statement or one posted online. It must be your own work. UCAS will scan them all to check for any similarities…so don’t risk it!
Remember, it’s the same personal statement for every course you’re applying to. So don’t write about why you want to go to one particular uni. Keep it general. Talk about why you want to study the subject. If you’re applying to different subjects, write about skills and themes that are common to them both e.g. problem solving or creativity.
Before you start writing your statement:
What do they involve? What kind of skills do they require? What kind of person are they looking for?
You must show that you have researched the course, that you understand what it involves, and that your skills and experience are well suited to it.
- your extra-curricular activities, inside and outside school
- your achievements and awards
- your work experience
- your skills and attributes
Which of your skills and experiences are most relevant to your application? Prioritise these.
Think about how you’re going to structure your statement and the main points you want to include.
What to Include
- What interests you about the subject?
- What do you hope to do when you finish the course? Does it relate to your career plan?
- Why do you want to study at university level?
Make your reasons and your enthusiasm clear!
- Maybe an experience at school or in work sparked your interest in the subject?
- Maybe you’ve been influenced by someone you know and admire?
- If the course relates to the career you want to do, explain why you want to pursue that job.
- What else do you want to gain from going to university?
- Do you have relevant experience?
- What skills do you have that will suit the demands of the course?
- How have you demonstrated these through your activities and achievements?
You must show that you understand what the course involves and that you have the personality, the skills, the knowledge, and the experience to perform well in it.
Think about your activities.
- play in a sports team or club
- play a musical instrument or attend dance lessons
- are a member of another club or society, in or outside school
- have gained relevant work experience
- have done some volunteering or helped in the community
- have won an award or completed a project e.g. Duke of Edinburgh or Young Enterprise
- have held a position of responsibility in or outside school e.g. as a mentor, a team captain, or a group leader
- have taken part in a university taster course, like the Top-Up Programme, or attended an event related to your subject
What skills have these activities helped you to develop and how do they relate to the demands of the courses you're applying to?
Think about what makes you unique and what achievements you’re proud of.
Why should universities offer YOU a place on their course?
Style and Structure
What you have to say is important. But so is the way you say it.
Your personal statement must be clearly written, well-structured, and as engaging as possible. Remember, university staff have to read hundreds of these every year so you want yours to stand out…for the right reasons.
You want your writing to be engaging. You want to show your enthusiasm and convey your personality. You want to hold the reader's attention. BUT you don't want to sound too chatty or informal.
That means striking a balance. Use an enthusiastic tone of voice and use language that comes naturally to you - it doesn't need to be too complex. But remember that your priority is to get your message across in a clear way. So avoid colloquial language and be careful with using humour, quotes or anything unusual. As UCAS advise, 'you do want to be individual' but the person reading your statement might not share your sense of humour!
Remember, you only have 47 lines to tell the reader how great you are. You won't be able to mention everything you've ever done or achieved. So prioritise. Write about the skills, achievements and experiences that are most relevant to your application.
- Begin by stating clearly why you're applying to the course. Try and give the most compelling reason you can. Consider the 'What to include' tips above. Explain your interest, demonstrate your knowledge of the subject, and show your enthusiasm from the start.
- In the main body of your statement, include the strongest examples of your skills and experience first - the ones that are most relevant to the demands of the course.
- Structure your statement logically with separate paragraphs for separate themes e.g. a paragraph on your relevant experience, a paragraph on your activities in school, a paragraph on your activities outside school etc.
- Conclude with a final statement that sums up your enthusiasm, your suitability, and your commitment.
A poorly written statement will not make a good impression. So:
- Redraft your statement until you're happy with it.
- Read it aloud to yourself to check what it sounds like - it must read clearly and flow well.
- Ask a teacher, adviser, or family member to proofread it to ensure that there are no errors in spelling or grammar.
Tip: Write your statement in a Word document first so you can easily edit it and keep track of the number of 'Characters (with spaces)' within the Word Count tab. When you're happy with your final draft, copy it into your UCAS form. Make sure to check that it's within the character limit before you save and send it.
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