Forming a key part of your university application, you should use the UCAS personal statement to showcase how your skills, experience and aspirations make you a good fit for the course

What is a university personal statement?

This is your opportunity to tell course tutors in your own words the reasons why you feel you'd be an asset to their university.

How long should a personal statement 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 your UCAS application, as well as keeping the statement to a total of 47 lines.

UCAS recommends 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 still 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 they fit in with your career ambitions.

You'll need to talk about the relevant skills, experience and achievements you've gained through extra-curricular activities - whether these are sporting, musical or creative.

As well as going through your academic record to date, your personal statement also gives you the opportunity to take about any work experience or volunteering you've undertaken, detailing what you've learned from it. For instance, you may have been involved with the Young Enterprise programme at school and have a better idea of how to manage your money.

It's never too late to show you're actively preparing for higher education. Get involved with an extra-curricular club, secure a part-time job or get volunteering. You could even complete a free online course in a relevant subject with an organisation such as FutureLearn or the Tech Nation Digital Business Academy.

If you're an international student, including those from the European Union (EU), you could discuss why the UK is your preferred study destination ahead of universities in your own country. Don't forget to mention the English language tests, courses and qualifications you've taken.

Finally, if there are any personal or financial circumstances that have had a strong bearing on your performance at school or college, you can outline these in this statement. The coronavirus pandemic has affected many people up and down the country so if you feel it's had a strong impact on your studies, you can let the university know about that here.

How do I write a personal statement?

By breaking your personal statement down into sections, you can ensure you cover the most relevant points.

Course-relevant skills and credentials should be given prominence in the overall structure. You can use the course descriptions to help you.

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 universities - for example, creativity or problem-solving.

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 allow plenty of time to write it properly, and set yourself a schedule.

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 the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar and not just rely on a spellchecker.

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

How do I start a personal statement?

At this point, think 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 written this 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 an understanding of what you're getting yourself into.

Get off to the best start by using the UCAS personal statement tool.

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.
  • Refrain from using clichés or making arrogant or exaggerated 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).
  • 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.

University personal statement examples

While you can find some examples online - from the likes of Reed.co.uk, King's College London and Aston University - it's important to use your own words and not copy them directly.

Indeed, the UCAS personal statement worksheet can prove just as useful when it comes to helping you decide what to put in your own personal statement.

You can simply print out this personal statement template and jot down any ideas into the various sections as you think of them.

Find out more

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