Writing your Personal Statement

The UCAS Personal Statement is a key component of your University Application. It’s the only chance you have to sell yourself to the admissions tutor, so it’s important to get it right.  Here are my top tips for how to write your personal statement:

  1. Restrictions. First things first, let’s look at the rules. You have a minimum of 1000 characters 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 my recommendation is to write your statement in another word processing package, spell and grammar check it, and copy it into the UCAS application when you’re happy with it.
  2. Where to start? It can be tough to know where to start with your personal statement, so I suggest taking some time to organise your thoughts. Think about your personal strengths and organise them into different topics:
    Strengths Skills Personality Hobbies Work Experience Achievements
    e.g. Time management e.g. Team working skills e.g. Caring, friendly e.g. Swimming, acting, sports e.g. Volunteer in a local care home e.g. Performed in the school show

    Take this template and add in your own personal skills and strengths to get a good idea of what to include in your personal statement. There are lots of online resources to help you plan your Personal Statement, including those on the UCAS website.  Just 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!!

  3. 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, sell yourself, draft and re-read! You can always ask friends, teachers and relatives to read your first draft and give you some comments.
  4. Things to include. As well as using the table above to organise your thoughts on your personal skills, you should be including the following points. Why you are applying for this course – remember that if you are applying for more than one subject area this may be tricky, and your personal statement should reflect all of your choices. Include the information you wrote down in the planning phase, but be sure to back it up with evidence of what you gained from each experience. You might also want to include your plans for the future and how you think 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. Generally, British people are not fantastic at blowing their own trumpet and 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!

Vicki Todd
Education Liaison

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