How to Write a Standout Personal Statement for UCAS
Share this post:
Do the words ‘personal statement’ have you trembling with fear?
A personal statement really ISN’T something to be scared of. There are much scarier things out there. We’d get it if you were scared of clowns. Or spiders. Or even tiny holes.
A personal statement, however, is simply 500 words that show admissions officers why you’d be a great fit for their course and university. That’s (almost) all there is to it…
Top tips for writing your personal statement
Here are some pearls of wisdom to help you ace your personal statement:
SHOW PASSION FOR YOUR SUBJECT
Admissions tutors are looking for students who genuinely want to spend three (or four) years becoming an expert in their chosen subject. So, you need to have a real think about what makes you a suitable candidate for the course…
Is it your favourite subject at school? Have you been inspired by someone or something? Will it lead you to your dream profession?
Be wary of sounding too cheesy. You don’t need to explicitly say: “I’m really passionate about biology.” This doesn’t mean much unless you back it up with real-life examples to show WHY you are passionate about biology...
HANDPICK RELEVANT EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Have you done anything outside of school that demonstrates your passion for the subject? This could include anything from your personal hobbies to work experience, Duke of Edinburgh or Young Enterprise.
You want to show that there is more to you than good grades. However, don’t mention extracurricular activities for the sake of it. If you’re applying for a maths degree, they don’t need to know about your vast stamp collection. But they will want to know about your 6-month winning streak at chess club.
“The best statements will show that a student is interested in the subject; that they’ve studied it, that they’ve developed an interest in it outside school, and that they’re developing their skills and abilities outside academia.” Liz Hunt, Undergraduate Admissions Manager at the University of Sheffield.
YOU DON’T NEED TO TELL THEM YOUR LIFE STORY
Keep your statement short. Concise. And natural. You only have 4,000 characters to prove your worth - so use each one wisely.
If you feel like you’ve said what you need to in less than 4,000 characters, that’s fine. Don’t ramble on just to fill the space - it only wastes your time and the reader’s.
DON’T LIE (NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT)
Be careful not to exaggerate your achievements or lie about anything. Did you really spend your summer holidays meditating with Tibetan monks?
There’s a fine line between highlighting your best qualities and just straight up lying. Everything you mention in your personal statement could be brought up at a later stage - particularly if you are invited for an interview. So don’t get caught out.
UCAS also has a dedicated Verification Team tasked with spotting plagiarised personal statements. Don’t be tempted to copy someone else’s statement, or to share yours with your friends. If your statement is flagged as being too similar to other applicants, it can seriously affect your chances of being offered a place at university.
YOU CAN ONLY WRITE ONE STATEMENT
Whilst you can apply to up to five different universities - and five different courses - you don’t need to write five different personal statements.
If you’ve applied to a variety of subjects, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name and make sure the content applies to every subject.
PLAN YOUR TIME EFFECTIVELY
Given how important it is, writing a personal statement should be treated as an ongoing piece of work that requires a lot of time spent re-reading and re-drafting.
If you leave it to the last minute, you may leave out some important information or give the impression that you rushed it. A record 275,520 young people applied to university in 2019, so you need to do everything you can to bag yourself a spot.
PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD...
We cannot stress enough how important this is. Spelling and grammatical errors are sloppy, and will counteract all the hard work you put into writing the statement.
There’s a simple life hack for this. First, read it out loud to yourself. Second, give it to people you trust (teachers, careers advisors, your parents etc.) to check it again. Do not rely on a spellchecker as it won’t necessarily pick everything up.
The most important thing to remember is that your personal statement should be exactly that - personal. This is your chance to show why YOU should be picked above thousands of other applicants. Get that right and you’re onto a winner.
If you’re planning on going to university next year, you’ve still got plenty of time to write a standout personal statement. The application deadline for most UCAS Undergraduate courses is in January.