The personal statement is a key component of your UCAS application. It is the only part of the application process that you have complete control over, so it your best chance to sell yourself to the admissions tutor. Here are my top tips for how to write a successful personal statement;
1. Important Information: First things first, let’s look at the rules. You have a minimum of 1000 and a maximum of 4000 characters to use; it’s important to stick to these limits. The UCAS website has no spelling or grammar checking software so I suggest writing your statement in another word processing package before copying it into your application when you’re happy with it. Please remember, the personal statement should be your own work. UCAS have similarity detection software that will pick up if you have copied someone else – don’t run the risk of plagiarising!
2. Start Early: The personal statement is quite a lengthy piece of work, and will likely take you more than one attempt so it’s important to start early. My top tips to remember are; plan your structure, draft and then re-draft again! Remember, you can always ask your friends and family to read your statement and give you some feedback.
3. Getting Started: It can be tough to know where to start with your personal statement, so I suggest taking some time to organise your thoughts. Put some thought into why you’re interested in your chosen subject area and then think about your personal skills and achievements. You need to include an opening statement which clearly shows why you are interested in that subject area so think about where your interest has come from and provide evidence that you understand what the subject is.
4. Things to include: The overall purpose of your personal statement is to evidence that you have the skills necessary for your chosen subject area in addition to the skills necessary for university life. This means that you don’t only need to focus on your academic achievements but also showcase your hobbies, interests and any work experience that you have. Remember, you need to provide evidence of any skills that you mention. For example, if one of your skills is team-work you should think about which experiences have helped you develop this skill. Towards the end of your personal statement you should include your plans for the future and how the course might help you achieve these goals.
5. Things to avoid: Avoid lying or plagiarising in your personal statement. You may well be found out! Don’t use overly flowery language – it will be obvious to the reader that you don’t normally write in that way. Don’t use negative statements, or list hobbies such as sleeping, shopping, etc. Also, don’t mention a specific institution by name. It may be your first choice just now, but it doesn’t look good to other choices.
6. Use humour and clichés with caution: You may find something funny, but the admissions tutor may not! If in doubt, leave it out. Remember, something that you find funny may even be offensive to others.
7. One statement for all: Remember that the personal statement you write will be used for all 5 choices on your UCAS form. If you do find yourself applying to further courses through extra or clearing, then the same statement will be used for those applications too. Try not to be too course or institution specific, just in case things change.
8. Things to do now: Keep researching the courses and institutions that you are considering applying for. Keep up your extra-curricular activities. If you are in your final year of school or college you may get the chance to organise leavers activities, be a buddy to younger pupils, etc; all of which look good on your application form. Keep getting more work experience – either paid or voluntary, especially if it relates to your course or future career plans. Most importantly, keep up with your school or college work. Many people will rely on grades from the final year to get entry to University. You will also need a reference to support your application, which will normally be written by a teacher. Even if you already have the grades that you need, you should still work hard in your final year. Once you have a qualification nobody can take it away from you, and you never know when you might use it in the future.
9. Don’t ever sell yourself short: Everyone has their own skills and attributes that help set them apart from others. Many people feel uncomfortable when tasked with telling others how fantastic they are – but that’s exactly what you have to do when writing your personal statement. Use these tips to help you get started, but remember this is your chance to tell us what a fantastic person you are and why we should accept you onto the course.
Good luck in writing your personal statement!
Student Recruitment, UK & EU