Personal statements for university applications

Author
Editor
Posted
June, 2016

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

What is a personal statement?

A key part of the application, this is your opportunity to tell course tutors why you feel that you'd be an asset to their university.

However, 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 qualities most valued by universities, as well as your extra-curricular activities.

How do I write a personal statement?

Take time to explain the reasons you're applying to university, while demonstrating enthusiasm for your chosen field and how it fits in with your career ambitions.

Your statement is also the place to show how the skills and experience you've gained from education, work and any hobbies and interests, help you to meet the course entry requirements. 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 make a success of university.

When talking about work that you've done, be sure to include work experience, placements and volunteering, as well as jobs. Explain what you've learned from taking on these roles.

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

By planning your personal statement, breaking it down into sections, you can ensure you've covered the most relevant points. The UCAS personal statement tool is available to help you achieve this.

The best thing to do is to read your statement aloud and get feedback from family, teachers and advisers before redrafting it so that it flows well. You'll also need to check the punctuation, spelling and grammar.

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.

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

What should I avoid?

As you've just got the one statement for all your choices, it's important not to mention universities by name - unless you plan on applying to just a single institution.

It should be written in a natural style, but you'll need to steer clear of too much humour or anything admissions tutors might possibly interpret the wrong way.

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 - searching for any similarities.

Be careful not to ramble. If you've structured your work so you know how much space you have for each section, it will be easier to stick to your main points.