Tips on how to write a personal statement for your UCAS form

How do I write an effective personal statement for inclusion on my UCAS form for application to university in the UK?

Your personal statement is the hardest part of your UCAS form for UK university application. Make sure you start to prepare it in plenty of time before the submission deadline and expect to take a minimum of one week’s work to get it finished and checked.

Inevitably the most important parts are the beginning and the end. Write a very strong first sentence to engage the reader and encourage them to carry on reading. Remember the aim is to make your personal statement memorable. Try to avoid finishing off with a summary of extra-curricular activities, instead finish with a bang!

The most important thing to include is why you want to study the course. Displaying passion and enthusiasm for your subject is the key to success. You need to fully demonstrate that you have the ability to write specific detail about your area of interest, for example by mentioning a particular artist or author and why they interest you. Evidence of your knowledge and opinions within your fields of claimed interest is vital.

There is no particular need to talk about career aspirations unless these are clearly linked to your chosen course choice and are your inspiration behind why you have chosen that particular course. However, if you do have clear plans for what you wish to do after university, it is appropriate to mention them, as it displays that you have a mature attitude towards thinking through your choices and decisions.

There is no word limit, BUT there is a line limit (47) and character limit (4000 including spaces). Use the word count on your computer to check this before submission.

Always tell the truth and try not to over-exaggerate as it is very likely that you will be caught out. For example it is now common practice to exaggerate sporting achievement, but if you feel it necessary to do this, make your statements believable and quantifiable if questioned on it. Be prepared to be challenged on everything that you have claimed if you are invited to interview.

Avoid making jokes or using well-known over-used quotes as the admissions tutors want to get to know you and your opinions, thoughts and capabilities. Be as original as possible. Try to think of things that you have done or experienced which are relevant, unique or particularly special. Avoid appearing to be arrogant, but on the other hand do not be too modest as you must say enough to sell yourself.

Seek the opinions of others once you have prepared your draft. Ask friends, teachers, relatives, experts in your chosen field and anyone you know who works in a business environment, used to looking at CV’s, to look at your draft and offer comment. Constructive criticism and open-minded feedback are really useful.

Your personal statement is a reflection of your ability and character. Check very carefully the layout, spelling and grammar are perfect

Beware of plagiarism. Even sentences or small sections of your statement can be checked by the university for authenticity. If the origination of even a small part of your statement is questionable, this will lead to instant rejection.

Check the balance of your statement. About half of it should be about your interests, hobbies and work experience. Reading and work experience should have the lion’s share of this part of the text so do not be tempted to over-emphasise extra-curricular activities. Always use examples when mentioning skills, activities and interests. Experiences should be as recent as possible. Being Head boy at age 13 is not particularly of interest to a university admissions tutor.

Ensure that your personal statement suits ALL the courses that you are applying for and is not just aimed at one university and their particular course. Even if you do have a first choice university or course, at this stage you should not be putting all your eggs in one basket and should have several options under consideration. Remember it is always good sense to have a back-up plan!