Employers and Universities: Work with us?

How to write a brilliant UCAS personal statement

Your UCAS statement is your chance to give the admissions tutors at the universities that you are applying to a chance to meet the real you – to demonstrate your interest in the course, show what you would bring to the faculty and the university and convince the admissions tutors to offer you a place.

This post will show you how to structure your UCAS personal statement.

'Want to write a killer UCAS personal statement? Check out this guide'

Tweet this to your follower

Before we get started though, take a look at this video from Bangor University on how to write a winning statement:

Use your space wisely

In your UCAS personal statement, you have limited space to express yourself – only 4,000 characters, which translates as just over a page of typed A4 – so every sentence in your statement will need to pull its weight. Bear in mind that you can only write one personal statement for all of your university choices, so make sure that you are tailoring your statement as much as possible to each of the courses you are applying to – otherwise your tutors might doubt your commitment to their university and course.

Start early

One thing’s for certain: you won’t come up with a polished UCAS personal statement overnight.  It will take many drafts, a lot of editing and a few late-night flashes of inspiration – and it will all be worth it when those university offers start rolling in. To help you get started, we’ve got a few useful tips to point you in the right direction.

What should you include?

Although it’s called a personal statement, the idea is not just to give the admissions tutors a potted history of your life to date. You need to be expressing your academic self – your interest in the subject you are applying for and your achievements in that area. Your UCAS personal statement is a good place to write about any subject-related work experience you have done, any courses of lectures that you have attended which have advanced your knowledge and will demonstrate that your interest extends beyond the classroom and any books or articles that you have read.

Make sure that you are not just listing the things that you have done – try to show what your reading and experiences have taught your and how they have developed your interest and understanding of your subject.

Beyond the classroom

You should mention your extra-curricular achievements as well, but the amount of space that you dedicate to this section should depend on the university to which you are applying: if you are applying to Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial, you should keep your extra-curricular activities to a minimum as these universities are focused primarily on your academic achievements. 

If you’re applying to a university such as Loughborough, which may be looking at the contribution that you will make to the university as a whole as well as the faculty, then you can dedicate a bit more space to your achievements outside of your subject.

How do you start a UCAS personal statement?

There are about a million ways to start a UCAS personal statement – and there is no one correct way to begin: some people start a personal statement with a quote which encapsulates their interest, others with an anecdote that explains where their curiosity for their subject stems from.

Your opening should set the tone for the rest of the statement – showing your enthusiasm and interest in your subject, and introducing the admissions tutor to your personality. Don’t ever feel like you need to pretend to be someone else in your UCAS personal statement – just make sure you are your academic self.  Speak as you would to your headteacher – clearly, maturely, but retaining a sense of who you are.

How do you finish?

Almost as hard as starting your UCAS personal statement is finishing! Your final paragraph doesn’t have to be long – just enough to round off your statement and reiterate your interest and dedication for your subject. Watch out that you don’t come across as too arrogant or self-assured here – it can be easy after almost 4,000 characters of own-trumpet blowing to get a little carried away!

Is there anything to avoid?

Your statement is your space to sell your own subject interest. You haven’t got much room, so make sure that you’re not repeating anything that the admissions tutors could find out somewhere else on your UCAS form – you don’t need to list your A-levels or GCSE grades, for example, as these go into the form in a different section.

Be positive!

You should aim to be really positive in writing your statement. This is not the place to attempt to explain a lower predicted grade due to a disagreement with a teacher or the fact that you needed to miss school for an extended period of time due to illness. 

If there is something in this vein that you feel the admissions tutors need to know, ask the teacher writing your reference whether he or she could include this in the reference section of the UCAS form. It’s far better for your teacher to bring this to the admissions tutor’s attention and it means you don’t waste space trying to explain yourself - instead you can just dazzle the university with your interests and achievements. 

Final advice

It may not be the most exciting activity and after days, weeks and even months of drafting, summoning up the motivation might be a challenge, but proof-reading your personal statement is absolutely essential! You know that feeling you get when you spot a typo in an article – no matter how insignificant, it lowers your opinion of the content of the piece and the author.

Admissions tutors are likely to be sticklers for accuracy, so make sure you get your teachers, friends and parents to proof-read it a couple of times.  One tip we’ve got is to begin with the last sentence and work your way through your personal statement backwards – it keeps you focussing on the individual sentence and not the full statement.

Best of luck with writing your UCAS personal statement! Look on it as a challenge, but also a very important opportunity to talk about a fascinating subject – you!

In the classroom? Explore this article as an interactive presentation:

Can't see the presentation in your browser, follow this link to view on Prezi.

If you're a bit confused about UCAS, check out this guide to what UCAS points mean, why you need them, and how you can get them.