UCAS Personal Statement Guidance

Do you find yourself sitting down to start your UCAS Personal Statement, but not knowing where to start? Take a look at our comprehensive UCAS personal statement guidance - and start writing your best draft.

Sayantani Mitra - 09 August 2021 · 12 min read

With an estimated 700,000 students applying to universities each year, the UCAS personal statement is an important part of your application to university or college.

It’s your chance to demonstrate your ambitions, skills and experience to admissions staff and give them a reason to invite you for an interview or make an offer for you to study with them.

As nervous as you may feel about having to write your personal statement, it’s your only opportunity to share your suitability for your chosen degree with your prospective tutors. Take this as a chance to really connect with the admissions staff and prove to them that you are the perfect candidate for their institution.

Need some help with your UCAS application? Follow our UCAS personal statement guidance below so you can make yours as successful as it can be. We include details on how to structure yours, what the character limits are, as well as what you should and shouldn’t include when writing yours. 

 

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UCAS personal statement guidance: A Few helpful tips to get you started

Before you even consider tapping away on your keyboard, there’s a few things you should know about your UCAS personal statement, which we’ve outlined below. 

Your personal statement is a very important part of your application, and you want to make sure the one you submit is the best it can be. Read our guidance through carefully to ensure that yours really stands out above the rest. 

How important is UCAS personal statement?

A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college in the UK. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion and dedication to your chosen field of study.

When it comes to applying for a place at a university in the UK, your UCAS personal statement is a hugely important part of your application. This short, written statement is your opportunity to build a persona for yourself. It’s what takes you from simply being a name and a list of qualifications on a document, and instead gives the admissions officer a real impression of who you are, your ambitions, as well as what hobbies or interests shape your personality. 

Admissions officers use your personal statement, as well as your qualifications to give out interviews and offers to study with them. Therefore, you want to ensure that any personal statement you submit to a university or college is the very best that it can be. But don’t worry, we’ve got all the advice you need to do so. 

How long is a UCAS personal statement?

The UCAS personal statement is 4000 characters or 47 lines of text - whichever is reached first. 

Is a personal statement 4000 characters with or without spaces?

The UCAS personal statement is 4000 characters long including spaces and blank lines. Ensure what you say is succinct to avoid missing out on being able to include all the things that are great about you. 

How do I make my personal statement stand out?

Each year, each university receives an estimated 45,000 applications for undergraduate study, all from students all around the world who are eager to study at their institution. That’s an estimated 44,999 pool of applicants that you could find yourself battling against to secure a place at your dream university on the course that’s perfect for you

Therefore, you need to do everything you can to really make your personal statement stand out above the rest. And how can you do that?

Well, by writing about the one thing you know most about - i.e. yourself. 

It may seem obscure, but think about it. If you really are the perfect student for that course at that specific university, then why shouldn’t you be able to make your UCAS personal statement stand out?

Remember, the personal statement is a place for you to show to admissions officers why you are suitable to study at their university or college. Highlight all the fantastic things about you and what you can bring to the student body, and you’ll be doing your best at making sure your personal statement really shines. 

 

What should you not put in a personal statement?

Your personal statement is an opportunity to really express who you are, your interests and qualifications, and because of this, there really is no wrong way to write them - they are a written reflection of who you are. 

With that being said, there are definitely a few things that you should steer clear of as they could do more harm than good with your application, including the following:

University names

Firstly, one essential piece of UCAS personal statement guidance we can offer you is:  don’t mention exact names of colleges or universities, or a particular faculty you’d like to work with.

When it comes to your UCAS application, you can select up to 5 universities and colleges to apply to. However, with these, you only submit one personal statement for all five of your UCAS choices. So, you don’t want to be sharing the name of your dream university in an application with your back-up choices - or you could land yourself in hot water.

Including university names within personal statements is a common mistake students make when drafting their personal statement, but one which can easily be avoided if you keep mindful throughout your writing process. 

Instead, keep everything as general as possible, only tying in together common themes, facilities or qualities that each university you are applying to shares. After writing your first draft, ask family and friends to read through and double check you’ve not made this mistake. 

 

Other peoples’ work

Another common mistake students make is the temptation to copy someone else’s UCAS Personal Statement - such as a friend or family member, or by stealing quotes from one they’ve simply taken one off the internet. 

As great as looking at other peoples’ statements may be for helping influence your creative juices and help you put pen to paper, you could also find yourself unintentionally plagiarising their work simply by ‘borrowing’ their ideas. 

It’s important to remember that copying someone else’s personal statement doesn’t do you justice, and defeats the entire purpose of submitting one. The admissions officers really want to get to know you, not just what you think they may want to hear about you. 

You should view your university application as a two-way decision. Yes, you are trying to prove to the admissions team that you are the ideal candidate for their student body, but they also want to ensure that you are making the right decision and choosing the right course of study for you. If you aren’t your authentic self within your own personal statement, you could a) end up jeopardising your place entirely, and b) end up landing a place at a university that isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.  

In addition, it’s also vital to know that UCAS uses software to check every single statement for plagiarism. So even if you feel tempted to, you shouldn’t ever copy someone else’s statement at the risk of having your application eliminated from the applicant pool completely.

 

Unsubstantiated claims and white lies

Linked to this idea of plagiarism is where students decide to make things up or write unsupported bold claims within their UCAS personal statement.

When talking about your own achievements or skills, it can be tempting to make things sound more exciting or better than they really are to try and impress the admissions staff. However, as tempting as it can be, you should never make any information up or mislead your reader in any way. 

Remember, you may be asked to provide evidence of your stated achievements, or if you are invited for an interview, you may be asked detailed questions about things you’ve mentioned. This is especially true for Oxbridge applications. Honesty really is the best policy!

 

Irrelevant facts

Lastly, a common problem which most students fall victim to when drafting their personal statement is the use of irrelevant personal facts. 

Before you choose to write about something that sounds a little obscure, such as how you went on a day trip to a museum when you were twelve, apply the common rule of asking yourself, ‘so what?’ Does it make a useful contribution and help explain why you should be given a place on that course? If not, leave it out.

 

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Building your personal statement

Now we’ve learnt more about what the personal statement is, how it should be, and covered some of the do’s and don’t when it comes to writing one, let’s take a deeper look at what content you should use to build the main body of your personal statement. 

What should a UCAS personal statement include?

Before we dive into the details, an important thing to remember when writing a UCAS personal statement for undergraduate studies is that you only get to write one statement. It will be the same for each course you apply for so you should focus on your own interests, skills, and experiences and how they relate to the particular course/subject.

If you have chosen a variety of subjects - it’s best to talk about common themes relevant to your skill set and experience. For example, someone torn between applying to study Law and Criminology at university may want to include skills such as; problem-solving, creative thinking, attention to detail etc.

With that being said, let’s take a look as to what areas of interest you should write about within your personal statement. 

As a rule of thumb, you should try to include details on all of the following:

●      Why you’re interested in the subject

●      Your enthusiasm to learn this subject

●      How your previous experience (educational or professional) relate to the course

●      Relevant aspects of work experience, or volunteer work you’ve undertaken

●      Activities and hobbies that demonstrate your interest in the subject

●      Any training achievements that show your skills

If you’re applying as an international student, then you should also mention a few additional points:

  • Why do you want to study in the UK?

  • If English is not your first language, then write about your skills and substantiate with any courses/tests you’ve taken.

  • Last but not least, why do you want to be an international student rather than study in your home country?

Use these bullet points to help draft your plan, and you’ll ensure you’ve covered everything you need to.

 

How do you structure a personal statement?

How familiar are you with essay writing? As a student, we’d hope the answer is probably ‘quite.’ And that’s great, because you’ll need to draw on your essay skills to master your personal statement. 

Why? Well, typically, a standard essay structure applies when writing your personal statement:

●      Introduction

●      Body

●      Conclusion

Always start with an opening sentence that captures the attention of your reader and encourages them to continue to read on. This can be a quote, a personal anecdote, or something you’ve learnt. Avoid starting with sentences such as ‘ ever since I was little it’s been my dream to…’. It’s overdone and certainly won’t help you stand out against the other applicants. 

For the body paragraphs, there isn’t a ‘set’ style on how you should lay your content out. Instead, you should structure what you want to include in an order that is coherent and logical and most relevant to what the universities and colleges are looking for. Remember to use our checklist above of what to include so that you don’t miss out any key details. 

For the conclusion, you want to summarise everything you’ve already said during the rest of your UCAS personal statement. Use this closing statement to reinforce why you, what your skills offer, and how you are right for the course. 

Needless to say, once you’ve completed your personal statement draft, remember to check character count, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Leave time to get feedback and re-draft if needed.

Your first draft will probably be a lot longer than the character limit too, which can make re-drafting quite difficult - especially when you think every single detail is critical. Ask family and friends to be honest, and get them to help strike off sections of content which are weaker than others or don’t best highlight your strengths.

How do I end my UCAS personal statement?

Closing your personal statement can be just as difficult as completing the main body. After all, you want to leave your admissions officer with a great lasting impression - so it needs to be as strong as the rest of your statement if you want to be made an offer or invited to interview. 

The main thing to remember is that your personal statement should tie back to what you’ve written earlier on. Your overall structure should be like that of an essay, so you want to use the conclusion to revisit and re-emphasise the key points you’ve already spoken about throughout the main body. 

With such a short character limit for your personal statement, it’s also essential that you keep your conclusion as short as possible. Keep the ending short, concise, and to the point. Like the start of your personal statement, you want your audience to want more - such as with an interview, or to give you the offer so they can work alongside you in the future! 

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Summary

Your UCAS personal statement is your chance to really sell yourself to your favourite university or college and help you secure a place on your dream course. Giving yourself an identity is key to being successful when applying for higher education, and the best way to achieve this is by writing a unique and interesting personal statement. 

There’s no denying that personal statement writing can be a daunting concept. But with enough time to plan ahead and make a few drafts, this needn’t be the case. Take on-board all the points we’ve raised in this article, and you’ll be well on your way to submitting your best application possible! 

UCAS Personal Statement Guidance: Get Professional Support and Coaching

The only person who can get you into university is you. With that being said, there is plenty of support out there to ensure you bring out your very best and submit the best application possible. 

Discover Melio Guidance: customised, one-on-one coaching and support from an experienced Guidance Counsellor. 

Whether you’re looking for rigorous feedback on your personal statement writing, or looking for someone to coach you in preparation for a university interview, our counsellors are there to help you focus on the area you are most nervous about, and leave you with the practical tools needed for future success.

Find out more about Melio Guidance - contact our admissions team to speak with an advisor.

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