Admissions tutors receive thousands of UCAs applications every year, so personal statements really give you a chance to showcase yourself and say why the university should choose you.
We’ve put together some tips on how to get started and what you should include, so you can make yourself stand out in a sea of applications!
How to get started
Firstly, don’t panic! You have months to put together your personal statement, so you don’t need to rush it (just don’t try to cram it all in the day before the deadline!)
Some people find it helps to jot down ideas as they come (either on your phone or in a notepad). But if you can get it clear in your own head – why a university should offer you a place on their course – you’re halfway there!
Where to start
A top tip is to write your personal statement in Microsoft Word, then copy it onto the online application form, as the application page will time out after 35 minutes.
It’s a good idea to make a plan (don’t worry this blog will do that for you!) but also to think about your writing style, so we’ve put together some do’s and don’ts to help you on your way:
Writing style: Dos
One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, when writing a personal statement is to show off your enthusiasm! You can do this by using simple short punchy sentences and positive words, such as: achieved, developed, discovered.
Personal statements should be focused and professional, but this doesn’t mean generic, you should still allow your personality to shine through. Using a natural writing style with accurate, clear content and a memorable ending will help you stand out.
There’s a limit on how much you can write: 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.
Writing style: Don’ts
A big one to avoid is – cliches! This can put admissions tutors off immediately, so can trying to include your whole life story. To help, here are some of the most used opening lines, that you should avoid:
- From a young age, I have always been interested in …
- For as long as I can remember, I have…
- Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed…
As space is limited, don’t begin writing your personal statement like a letter, addressed to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, just jump straight in. Structure your statement so it will be easier to stick to your main points and avoid waffle.
Although it’s good to show your personality, admissions staff may not always share your sense of humour, so don’t include anything that might get misinterpreted.
There are lots of personal statement templates online, but make sure you don’t get tempted to copy them. You’ll get caught out, as UCAS has a Copycatch system, which will compare your statement to others previously submitted. Also, only include things you’d be prepared to talk about if part of your application process includes an interview.
Other key things to avoid are criticising your current college and trying to blame teachers for any disappointing grades you might have got. Or writing about a specific university, unless you’re only applying to one place.
What to include
A good place to start is to think about what you have done that’s different or shows you off as someone who really loves the subject you’re applying for.
Write why this course is so important to you and why you want to do it for the next three years.
Highlighting relevant work experience in your personal statement can really make you stand out, include what you’ve learnt and don’t forget to show your passion.
If you haven’t had much experience, it’s never too late to sign up for something new, you could do a free online course in a relevant subject, to show you’re preparing for university life.
Relevant transferable skills
Most universities won’t expect you to have lots of specific experience and knowledge, but they do expect to see commitment and will be looking at how you’ll adapt and contribute to the course.
So showcase your relevant skills (e.g. communication, problem-solving and time management skills) and achievements that make you a good fit for the course. Remember to expand your points to give real examples of how you’ve used these skills in the past, don’t just leave it at ‘I’m really organised’, you need to prove that you are.
Extra curricular activities
Be selective, admissions tutors don’t want to read a long list of your interests. Just mention hobbies, interests or volunteering experiences that are relevant to your chosen subject, to show your interest and engagement and to prove you are a suitable candidate.
Show how the course fits with your career ambitions, interests and personal goals, to help demonstrate why you should be chosen for the course.
You don’t need to talk about the grades you got, as there is a whole other section for this. But it’s good to show enthusiasm for your current studies and give specific examples of current work that you enjoyed.
This is an interesting one, but if there are any personal or financial circumstances (even Covid related reasons) that have had a strong bearing on your grades, you can let the university know about it in your personal statement.
If you are planning to take a gap year, let the admissions tutor know what your plans are and the extra skills you’ll get from doing it.
Make sure you show why you should get a place on the course, so the admissions tutor will want to offer you a place.
Before you submit
Make sure you spell check and proofread your statement. It’s a good idea to get someone else to check it and ask your teachers for feedback.
If you’re copying your statement from Word into your UCAS form, check that it’s still formatted correctly, as not all characters will show up on your UCAS form and indentations will be removed. Another top tip is to leave blank lines between your paragraphs, to make your personal statement easy to read. Then once you’re happy, it’s time to submit. Good luck!
We hope this blog fills you with confidence so you are ready to start the application process. If you would like more information about the courses available, please contact our experienced team on +44 (0)23 9283 9210.