Used by universities to compare different applicants, your UCAS personal statement showcases how your skills, experience and aspirations are well-suited to the course

What is a university personal statement?

A key part of the online application, this is your opportunity to tell course tutors in your own words why you feel that you'd be an asset to their university. However, you'll have to adhere to the UCAS guidelines as you endeavour to meet the course entry requirements.

How long should it be?

There's no maximum word count, but you'll need to remain within the 4,000 character limit (including spaces and punctuation) allowed in UCAS Apply, as well as keeping the statement to a total of 47 lines.

UCAS recommend that you write your personal statement in Microsoft Word before copying and pasting it into the online application form. This is because the application page times out after being inactive for 35 minutes. You'll need to account for how individual characters are counted differently between Microsoft Word and the online form.

What do I write about?

When considering what to include in your personal statement, take time to think about the reasons you're applying to university and what makes you a suitable candidate.

To make this work for different courses and different universities, you'll need to find some common ground by providing examples of why you'll be a success - demonstrating enthusiasm for the choices you've made and how it fits in with your career ambitions.

This can be achieved by talking about the relevant skills, experience and achievements you've gained through extra-curricular activities, work experience, placements and volunteering (as well as education), detailing what you've learned from each.

Even if you've not got much to shout about, it may not be too late to show you're actively preparing for higher education. Get involved with an extra-curricular club or sports team, secure a part-time job or engage in voluntary work. You could even complete a free online course with an organisation such as FutureLearn or the Digital Business Academy.

If you're an international student, you could discuss why the UK's your preferred study destination, not forgetting to mention the English tests, courses and qualifications you've taken.

How do I write a personal statement?

By planning your personal statement, breaking it down into sections, you can ensure you've covered the most relevant points and adopted a sound plan.

Course-relevant skills and credentials should be given prominence in the overall structure. However, as you only have the one personal statement for all your choices, if you've selected a variety of subjects that aren't that similar you'll need to focus on the transferable skills and common qualities typically valued by all universities.

Adopt a simple, concise and natural style for writing your statement, while still showing enthusiasm. Allow your personality to shine through.

It can often take a number of redrafts until the statement is ready, so get used to reading your statement aloud and asking for feedback from family, teachers and advisers before redrafting to make sure your writing flows well. You'll also need to check for correct punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Keep an up-to-date copy of your statement saved somewhere so that you can refer back to it during the interview process.

How do I start a personal statement?

The best thing to do at this point is to get thinking about why you're applying for the course you're applying for, and how you became interested in it in the first place. Was it through work experience or studying the subject at A-level?

Once you've noted down your reasons for choosing the course, you can move on to your skills and what makes you stand out positively from other applicants, providing evidence of where each specific attribute has been utilised.

After you've taken time to get all this written down, condense it so it's less wordy. You can then attempt to write a punchy opening paragraph showcasing your genuine excitement at the prospect of going to university, and understanding of what you're getting yourself into.

What should I avoid?

  • As you'll only have the one statement, it's important not to mention universities by name - unless you plan on applying to just a single institution.
  • Remember that admissions staff may not share your sense of humour, so steer clear of anything that might get misinterpreted by admissions tutors. Refrain also from using clich├ęs or making arrogant statements.
  • Resist any temptation to use somebody else's work as your own. The UCAS Similarity Detection Service utilises the Copycatch system, which will compare your statement against those stored within a comprehensive library of statements - those sent to UCAS and elsewhere (including paper publications) - searching for any similarities.
  • Be careful not to ramble. Structuring your work so you know how much space you have for each section will make sticking to your main points much easier.

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