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How do I write my personal statement?

How do I write my personal statement?Your personal statement is one of the most important parts of your UCAS application. You could be an A* student, but if your statement doesn’t cut the mustard, universities may not give you a second thought. Read these top tips to make sure you get it right.

Key facts

  • You have 4,000 characters to use in your personal statement. (That includes spaces and punctuation.) That's around 650 words, although the exact number will vary.
  • You're also limited to 47 lines (each of which can be a maximum of 94 characters long), which could cause problems if you use a lot of short paragraphs or lists. This tool can help you check that you are within the limits.
  • Every university will see the same personal statement. This can be a problem if you are applying for more than one subject.
  • The UCAS form will time out if you spend too long on the page without saving. You can avoid losing your personal statement by writing it in another program and then copying and pasting it across.
  • You can change your personal up until your application is submitted - but not after! Make sure you check it again before you submit it.

Things to cover

1: Why do you want to study in higher education?

Show that you have commitment, enthusiasm, self-discipline and motivation, and that you have thought about the decision carefully rather than applying because it's the obvious thing to do next.

Say how you will benefit from university life and the course itself.

2: Why this course?

Discuss your long-term goals and ambitions. Explain why you enjoy the subject and how you became interested in it and don’t forget to mention what skills you have that are relevant to the course.

3: Recent study and further reading

Talk about specific areas you have studied in the past and why that interested you. Give details of any projects you are working on and any work experience that may be relevant. Talk about any further reading you have done beyond what was required for school and college. (If you haven't done any, you should!)

This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are interested in and engaged with your subject. Instead of just saying that a book increased your understanding of a subject, write about something in it that you found especially interesting and why. That way, you are demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm instead of just declaring it.

4: Life skills and extracurricular activities

Think about the skills you have used in work, school and at home that are relevant to higher education. The following skills are useful to mention but make sure you give examples of where you demonstrated them. This doesn't have to be as part of your studies: for example, being involved with a club or a sports team can show motivation and organization skills.

  • Independence
  • Self-motivation
  • Organisation
  • Confidence
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Being approachable and empathic
  • Team-working
  • Interests and hobbies

Try to ensure they are relevant to the course. But, if you have any unusual hobbies, it could be a good conversation point during an interview.

5: Writing your conclusion

Try to summarise the main points of your statement then finish it off with a positive comment about why they should pick you. You could also end with a comment about your career aspirations, if you have not already.

Dos and Don'ts

Your personal statement is the first thing universities have to judge you on, and first impressions really do count! This means that how you write your personal statement is almost as important as what you write, and following these tips should improve your chances.

Do

  • 1335495_green_tick_in_circle.jpgBe enthusiastic. Admissions tutors want to see that you are passionate about the subject. Talking about why you want to study the subject should account for up to 65% of what you write.
  • Make your statement easy to read so it's easier for the admissions tutors to process.
  • Be an early bird and get your application in as soon as possible.
  • Make sure your personal statement is clear, logical and concise.
  • Don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personality on the form. However, avoid humour. What you find funny might not be the same as the course tutor.
  • Try and show how you have learned from your experiences.
  • Keep within the character limit of 4000 characters, including spaces, and line limit of 47. If you don’t, you won’t be able to save your personal statement on the UCAS website.
  • Write several drafts and get feedback from others. Try to  get advice from beyond your school and your teachers, and check the university website for advice about what they are looking for.

Don’t

  • 1335494_red_cross_in_circle.jpgDon't start every sentence with “I”.
  • Don't use vocabulary you don't normally use and just looked up in a dictionary.
  • Don't use famous quotes in your statement
  • Don't repeat things already on your UCAS form
  • Don't lie or embellish the truth
  • Don't take any political viewpoints
  • Don’t openly favour one university over another.
  • Evade awkward and negative issues. If there are things from your past that you are not proud of, for example a bad school record, explain how you have changed. Where possible, try to turn negatives into positives.

Further advice from UCAS

If you need more information and inspiration on how to write the perfect personal statement, UCAS have produced the Personal Statement Mindmap. They've also produced a Personal Statement Timeline to set you on your way and make sure you get your personal statement in on time. You can download both of these official UCAS resources below. 

Related links

Downloads

UCAS Personal Statement Timeline (PDF document, 29.5 kB)

UCAS Personal Statement Mindmap (PDF document, 466.6 kB)