Personal statements

The personal statement is an integral element of the UCAS application form and inevitably the section that can prove to be the most challenging.

It is an opportunity for students to demonstrate to Admissions Tutors their passion and enthusiasm for their chosen course and to highlight the transferable skills that they have that will make them successful when studying.

There isn’t one set formula for writing the perfect personal statement, each will require time, patience and several redrafts to ensure that the finished piece really is the best representation of a student’s capabilities.

It is recommended that student’s include a variety of examples to illustrate what fuels their ambition, where they have acquired their skills from and how their current studies will complement their Higher Education choices.

Wherever possible a personal statement should be structured through key paragraphs, the first should always outline the motivation behind an application – whether it is based on previous study in a related field, work experience or an extracurricular interest the reasoning should be clear.

Other paragraphs may include details surrounding current studies, part time and/or voluntary work and wider reading and research around the subject. If student’s wish to discuss hobbies and interests this should be towards the end of their statement and shouldn’t dominate too much space.

A strong statement is often one that can draw additional skills from these activities, for example, if a student is the captain of a sports team they can use this to showcase skills in leadership, motivation and team work.

How you can support students

As a teacher or Careers Advisor there are several ways in which you can support students with their statements.

Firstly, encouraging them to emphasise their strengths and to structure their sentences to incorporate examples as evidence. Secondly, ensuring the statement is free of any spelling or grammar errors and slang terminology. First impressions can make a real impact with Admissions teams.

Finally, students should be actively discouraged from “borrowing” sentences from any existing personal statements – including those that have been previously submitted or that can be found on the internet.

UCAS run each application through Similarity Detection Software and alert universities to any plagiarism that may have taken place. In order to reduce the risk of accidental plagiarism students should avoid including clichés and include content that reflects their own individual circumstances and ambitions as this is unique to them.

For further advice and guidance regarding personal statements please download our PowerPoint and handout.

Personal statement tips

Key points to be aware of

  • Must be written in size 12, Times New Roman font, you only have a maximum of 47 lines.
  • You can't write the perfect personal statement first time – be prepared to plan and redraft lots!
  • Make sure there are no spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • You can't use any bold, italics, underline or colour.
  • Don't copy sentences from other personal statements.
  • Write your draft in Word and then copy and paste your final version onto your UCAS application.
  • Your statement should be approximately:
    • 30% why that course/profession;
    • 30% how your current studies have given you skills to help support you through university;
    • 30% work experience and voluntary work – drawing out additional skills;
    • 10% extracurricular activities.

Writing tips and suggestions

  • What/who has inspired HE choice? Where does the students motivation come from?
  • Highlight key points with relevant examples.
  • May choose to use wider reading and/or work experience to show commitment to subject area or further research into a profession.
  • Make sure you refer to how all of your qualifications are supporting your transition into Higher Education, not just the one(s) with the most relevant subject content.
  • Don't just list skills that you believe you have, make sure you can provide examples of how and when you have developed them.
  • Work experience, part time employment and voluntary work can highlight additional skills that you may not be able to get from the classroom.
  • Take advantage of local events and activities to broaden your understanding of your chosen subject/profession.
  • Make sure you don't make any reference to your university choice.

Examples of things someone wanting to study English may consider

  • Where does my inspiration come from?
  • What motivates me to study further?
  • What do I love most about literature?
  • Who are my favourite authors and texts?
  • A Level Psychology: team work, research, debate, analysis.
  • A Level Maths: Problem solving, report writing.
  • A Level English Literature: critical thinking, written communication.
  • P/T job in Pharmacy: customer service, communication, time management, organisation, reliability.
  • Involved in setting up and writing school blogs.
  • Love reading outside the classroom.
  • Part of the swim team – compete regularly.
  • Creative writing workshop during the summer – great chance to learn more!

Next steps