Applying for university? Tips on writing your UCAS Personal Statement
13th October 2015
Author: Christine Phillips
So you’ve filled out the easy parts of your UCAS form but still have your 47 lines to complete. Don’t be scared! Here's how to make your statement sing.
What is a UCAS personal statement?
UCAS is the organisation which runs the university applications process.
You apply for university places through its online system which you need to register to use.
You then complete basic information, such as your personal details, course choices and qualifications.
The final part of your application is called your personal statement. Here you explain why you want to study your course and why you’d make a great student.
The biggest hurdle is where to begin when you’re staring at a blank page. Once you’ve written your first draft it gets easier. This skeleton plan may help get you thinking:
Why do you want to do this course? What inspired your choice? Show you understand what you’ve applied for and most of all be positive and excited about the course.
Middle section (up to two paragraphs)
Give evidence to prove your enthusiasm for the course and why you deserve a place. Include the research you’ve done to understand the subject. Have you read periodicals, attended talks or written blog posts, for example? Is there some work or research you carried out which particularly inspired you? Use recent extra-curricular activities and work placements to demonstrate how you’ve developed relevant qualities and skills for the course. If you’ve chosen a variety of courses, write about the common themes. Try to include what’s unique about you and what makes you stand out.
Positive end paragraph
This is the personal touch where you talk briefly about your interests. End on a positive note and keep your conclusion short and sharp without repeating what you’ve already said.
Which? University reports that universities suggest you focus about 75 per cent of your personal statement on your academic studies and your interest in the course and 25 per cent on the extra-curricular dimension to show you’re a well-rounded person. Your final draft can be up to 4,000 characters of text and 47 lines long. Write as many drafts as you need to until you are happy.
Advice from admissions tutors
“Before you start drafting your statement check the entry profiles for the courses you’re interested in at UCAS.com,” advises June Hughes, registrar and secretary at the University of Derby, “”This will enable you to understand what experience and qualifications are required.”
“You need to demonstrate, above all else, focus and commitment. Prioritise what it is you have to say; be explicit about your skills and qualities, ” advises Nicola Murray-Fagan, head of UK student recruitment at Bournemouth University, “A simple rule to remember is whenever you say you have a skill or quality – demonstrate how, when and where you acquired it.”
“The key message is don’t just tell us what you have done, tell us what you have learnt from it and how this will be useful for your future studies,” says Jo Ladwa, head of planning and admissions at Keele University.
Dos and Don’ts
- Do make sure you have the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Always proof-read your final application and then get someone else to check it too. If the course is very competitive a badly written personal statement could result in rejection.
- Do keep your sentences short and don’t waffle or repeat information you have already included elsewhere in your application. Don’t use overly formal or flowery language, just simple plain English.
- Do say what you hope to achieve from the course.
- Don’t use flattery like, ‘it would be an honour to study at your university,’ or include the specific names of universities. Remember your UCAS application and personal statement will be seen by all the universities you apply for so don’t show any preferences.
- Don’t try to be funny or use rhetorical questions or clichés like, ‘I have wanted to be a vet my whole life’. Be honest and be careful not to come across as being arrogant.
- Don’t copy an already existing personal statement you have found on the internet – you will get caught! UCAS screens all personal statements across Copycatch, their similarity detection system, and if any similarity is found then your university and college choices will be informed.
- Most of all DO show lots of genuine engagement and enthusiasm about the course. Show bags of positive attitude and don’t include anything negative.
- Do check the UCAS deadline for your courses as timings vary and allow plenty of time to submit your application.