The prospect of writing your UCAS personal statement can be a daunting task.
Not exaggerating in your personal statement is just as important, even if you believe it to be a relatively small exaggeration, such as reading a book you have not read – just don’t do it.
What is a UCAS personal statement?
Firstly let’s establish what a UCAS personal statement is and what it should contain. The UCAS website states that:
‘A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It’s a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.’
You should consider your personal statement to be a short reflective essay, explaining why you deserve a place on the course that you are applying for.
Your personal statement is read by admissions tutors, who then decide if they will offer you an interview or a place at the university.
How to structure your personal statement
Here is a simple guide on how to structure your personal statement. Firstly, you will need to provide an introduction detailing why you want to study your chosen course. Remember, if you are not applying for a place at an Oxbridge institution, you should not refer to any specific university as your statement is sent out to all the universities you are applying to.
After your introduction, you should write about your academic achievements. This should be the largest and most detailed section of your personal statement, particularly if you are applying to Oxbridge institutions.
The next section of your personal statement should discuss any further interest you may have in your chosen subject outside the realm of academia. For example, if you are an English Literature student, perhaps you have recently been to a conference or attended a book event.
The following section of your statement should detail any relevant work experience that has deepened your understanding of your subject, and the skills you have developed as a result.
Your next section, which covers your hobbies and interests, should be the shortest. However, you can really make yourself stand out here, particularly if your hobbies are unusual.
Finally, you should provide a brief conclusion to your personal statement, simply reiterating the points you have already made.
Oxbridge vs non-Oxbridge
Whether you are applying for a place at Cambridge or Oxford or a non-Oxbridge university, it is important that you check the requirements for your university. For example, the application deadlines, length of statement and the general tone of your personal statement can vary depending on the institution.
If you are writing a personal statement for Oxbridge it should be on the more academic side. You should be more reflective and explain your understanding of your subject, going into as much detail as you can.
For example, you could discuss any theories of works that you have studied that relate to your subject, which would help demonstrate to the admissions tutor that you are well-read in your chosen subject.
Keep it positive
Your personal statement should have a positive tone, and should only include your achievements and goals. You are likely to achieve the grades you need, so consider this your last chance to stand out from the crowd and secure your place!
Scrap the irrelevant personal facts
Really think about what you are writing – do you really think that the admissions tutor wants to hear about that geography school trip you went on in year seven?
No – they want recent, relevant information about you. Consider if what you are writing clearly explains why you should be given a place on the course.
Avoid random lists
This tip is similar to the one above, in that you should be selective with the information that you are providing in your statement. Random lists might include things like countries you have visited or books that you have read.
You can include work experience or jobs but make sure you write about what you have learned from these experiences, or how it has deepened your understating of your chosen subject.
A dentistry admissions tutor states: ‘I would much rather read about what you learned from observing one filling than a list of all the procedures you observed.’
Stick to the word count
Now, this one may seem obvious but it should not be overlooked. You have 47 lines, or 4,000 characters, in which to write your personal statement. Although this may seem plenty, to begin with, believe me, once you start writing the space will fill up quickly.
A good tip from Which? is to end your paragraphs midway along the line, as it will appear to be a paragraph without actually making a line or indentation, as doing this would cut into your precious word count.
It is recommended that you type your statement out in a Word document, so you can get a clear idea of your word count. Once you have finalised your statement, you can copy and paste it into the UCAS Apply system.
Avoid the use of quotations
Your personal statement is your chance to get your voice heard, your chance to explain why you deserve a place at the university, so why waste your precious word count with someone else’s words?
No matter how relevant or important you believe the quote to be, it is always best to NOT include it. Admissions tutors get especially fed up of reading irrelevant and unexplained quotes at the beginning of students’ statements, especially when they are not even referred to or explained.
One sport admissions tutor admits that they are ‘totally fed up of Muhammad Ali quotes!’
Mention your long-term plans
You can mention your long-term plans and goals in your personal statement, however, it is advisable to keep this fairly brief. If you are able to detail your future plans or goals, this can make you stand out from other candidates applying to your course.
As an admissions tutor has stated: ‘Just saying you want to be a journalist isn’t exactly going to stand you out from the crowd.’ So try to make your reasoning behind your goals clear and interesting!
If you are applying for a deferred entry it is advisable that you detail what you are planning to do during your gap year, as most institutions will want to know what you will do with your time.
However, if you are unsure as to your future career or further education goals then it is fine to leave this out of your personal statement – not everyone knows what they want to do yet.
Do not plagiarise, lie or exaggerate in your personal statement
This is extremely important – if you only take on board one tip from this list let this be it! UCAS utilises rigorous and strict plagiarism software to check all personal statements, and if your statement is flagged it can only mean bad news.
The worst case scenario is that you will not be offered a place at university, and this might have a huge effect on your future – ultimately it could mean that you never get the chance to achieve your dream job.
Not exaggerating in your personal statement is just as important, even if you believe it to be a relatively small exaggeration, such as reading a book you have not read – just don’t do it. You could get caught out during your university interview.
Achieving a place at university is a huge achievement, why would you want to get there dishonestly?
The more drafts you write, the better
The first draft of your personal statement should not be the one that you submit to UCAS. It is important to proofread your statement several times. Why let grammar or spelling errors ruin the statement that you have worked so hard on?
In fact, you could even get feedback from your friends and family. Or even better, get your college tutor to give it a read through and provide you with constructive feedback.
Good luck to everyone writing their personal statements!
Hello! I’m Jodie and I have recently graduated from the University of Winchester with a Master’s degree in English Literature. I’m particularly interested in writing and talking about true crime. In my spare time, I enjoy writing short stories, reading, and travelling.