The UCAS personal statement strikes fear into most sixth formers. Sculpting the perfect personal statement is an arduous an unavoidable process. With approximately 600,000 people applying to university each year, admissions officers need a way to filter stronger candidates from the rest of the pool.
As daunting as this task may seem, it’s also your only real opportunity to share your personality and suitability for your chosen degree program. Follow our top tips, and you can make a success of your personal statement.
Understand the UCAS personal statement guidelines
There are specific requirements for your personal statement which you absolutely cannot ignore. You cannot exceed 4,000 characters, or 47 lines of text (including blank lines) – whichever is reached first. If you do, universities won’t receive your entire statement.
Because of this, make sure your personal statement has a strong, definitive conclusion. It will look poor if you’ve obviously cut it off mid-sentence after realizing you’d surpassed the text limit. Instead, plan your piece thoroughly and give each section adequate attention, time and characters.
Plan your time and write it well in advance
Given how important it is, the UCAS personal statement can take a while to perfect, so give yourself time to work on it. Most schools probably won’t let you leave it until the night before – but try to even be slightly ahead of your internal deadline. The more time you allow yourself, the longer you can take to edit your ideas and strengthen your application.
Choose which universities you’re applying to before you start
The academic level of the university and course you’re applying to will have an impact on the tone and content of your personal statement. If you’re not sure of the kind of universities you should be aspiring to, you can use the UK University Search Tool, which will generate a list of universities based on your UCAS Tariff points. If you are unsure what your qualifications equate to, you can just pop them into our UCAS Tariff Points Generator.
Once you have made an informed decision about where to apply to, you’ll be able to cater your statement appropriately. As a general rule, the more traditional and academically acclaimed the university, the less time you should spend in your statement talking about non-academic activities.
Find out what admissions tutors are looking for
Speaking to university representatives can be a really great way to discern what faculties may want to see from applicants. Remember, universities are looking for the right students just like you’re looking for the right university. This information won’t be written in their prospectuses, but if you attend higher education events, like the upcoming UK University Fairs in Autumn 2017, you’ll find that representatives love engaging with students and speaking to them frankly about the application process. Click here for more information about the Autumn fairs hosted by UK University Search.
Draw on your enthusiasm
You need to saturate your UCAS personal statement with your desire to embark upon this course. Obviously, don’t allow your interest to descend into a cheesy mockery – you need to convey sincerity. Three years (minimum) is a long time, and the independence of university means that those who aren’t really invested in their course may struggle. Admissions tutors are searching for students who have a genuine interest and who will relish three years of education. Show that you’re one of these people.
Carefully select your extra- curricular activities
Knowing how much of your well-rounded self to present can be mystifying, especially if you’re worried that everyone will have the same things to say. If you’re not sure what to mention, a good idea is to focus on extra-curricular activities that tie into the course you’re applying to. So, if you’re interested in studying hospitality, mention any events you’ve worked or volunteered at. This might seem trickier for more traditional subjects, but you should be able to think of something. A math student could share their enthusiasm for chess, a budding geographer might describe physical landmarks and features they’ve seen when travelling, and a humanities student may be able to give examples of writing they’ve had published.
Avoid rambling and vacuous statements
You only have 4,000 characters to persuade admissions tutors why you are the perfect candidate for their course. Don’t waste any of them. Leave out any rambling stories about why you’re interested in a particular course. If something is particularly interesting, a brief overview may be relevant. Avoid clichés too. Saying you’re a “committed and hard-working individual” has no weight and detracts from any personality you’re trying to express.
This might seem obvious, but don’t lie
There is a very fine line between presenting yourself in a better light and simply lying. You should never lie – not only is it immoral, but, if caught, your application could be reconsidered and come back to bite you. This is particularly true if you are called to interview. There are many horror stories of applicants being interrogated about their favorite book, only for it to become apparent they never read it.
Finally, don’t copy
Reading personal statements used by older siblings or friends can be a really useful exercise, but don’t be tempted to re-use somebody else’s words. Aside from the fact it doesn’t demonstrate your uniqueness and personal drive, there are also programs used by UCAS to prevent plagiarism. Copycatch reports suspicious activity to universities, so don’t risk your application being rejected. Your personal statement needs to be your own.
Lead image: Jisc.ac.uk
The personal statement is an important part of the UCAS application. It's your chance to describe your ambitions, skills, and experience.
Our personal statement tool
You can write up to 4,000 characters of text that show you’d make a great student – so it might take a few redrafts until you’re happy with it.
This tool will help you think about what to include in your personal statement, and how to structure it. It also counts how many characters you’ve used, so it’s easy to see when you’re close to that 4,000 character limit.
Write your personal statement now
- Course descriptions mention the qualities, skills and experience it’s useful to have for each subject – take note of these to help you decide what to write about.
- Remember it’s the same personal statement for all the courses you apply to, so avoid mentioning unis and colleges by name. Most students choose similar subjects, but if you’ve chosen a variety, just write about common themes – like problem solving or creativity.
- If you've got a question about writing your personal statement, don't worry you're not alone. Check out our blogs:
What to write about
- Why you are applying – your ambitions and what interests you about the subject, course providers and higher education.
- What makes you suitable – any relevant skills, experience or achievements gained from education, work or other activities.
These are great ways to prepare for higher education.
If you do or have done any of these before, they could be ideal things to mention in your personal statement. Or you might be able to organise or start a new activity before you send your application.
International and EU students
As an international student there are a few extra things you should mention.
- Why you want to study in the UK
- Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken
- Why you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country
Here’s where you can mention any alternative entry requirements you’ve used – like an Access course or APL – demonstrating the skills and knowledge you’ve gained through your previous experiences.
How to write it
Feel free to use our personal statement mind map and personal statement worksheet for planning your personal statement.
There’s no definite formula to follow – just take your time and follow these guidelines.
- Structure your info to reflect the skills and qualities the universities and colleges value most.
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise and natural style – nothing too complex.
- Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes or anything unusual – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
- Proofread aloud and get your teachers, advisers, and family to check – then redraft until you’re happy with it and the grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct.
We recommend you write your personal statement first, and then copy and paste it into your online application when you’re done.
Check the 4,000 character and 47 line limits though – some word processors get different values if they don’t count tabs and paragraph spacing as individual characters.
When you do add it to your application, save it regularly as it times out after 35 minutes of inactivity.
If you're applying to study Teacher Education in Scotland, you'll need to make your application through the UCAS Undergraduate scheme. Read dedicated personal statement advice from Scottish training providers about what to include in your personal statement.
European characters and other languages
You can use some European characters in your personal details, personal statement, employment and referee details. Some of these will be substituted with UK equivalent characters. Check our Extended character sets substitutions for more details.
It’s not possible to apply in an alternative language, unless you’re applying to Welsh course providers and you’d like to make your application entirely in Welsh.
- To register in Welsh, when you go to the application service ‘Apply’, you can select ‘Cymraeg’.
- When you’re logged in to your application you can change the language to English or Welsh on the ‘Options’ page.
- The help text in Apply is available in Welsh too.
- In Apply you can choose to receive correspondence from course providers and from us in Welsh.
Sut i ymgeisio
What happens to personal statements that have been copied?
We screen all personal statements across Copycatch our Similarity Detection system – so make sure your personal statement is all your own work. Don’t copy from anyone else or from the internet and don't share your personal statement with other applicants.
If we find any similarity in your personal statement, your application will be flagged. Then we’ll email an alert to you and your university or college choices and this could have serious consequences for your application.
Want to say more?
You can only submit one personal statement – the same one for all the courses you apply to – and you can’t change it after your application has been submitted.
If you want to send any more information you can ask your university and college choices if they’ll accept further details.
- If they agree, you should send it to them, rather than us.
- After we receive your application, we’ll send you a welcome email that includes your Personal ID – quote your Personal ID along with the further information you send to the unis and colleges, so they can link it to your UCAS application.
Was this page helpful?