How To Write A Personal Statement (UCAS for UK Universities)
A personal what?
That's right a personal statement. If you want to apply to university in the UK then you need to write a personal statement. Your personal statement is your opportunity to sell yourself to the five universities that you are going to apply to. They want to know why you are interested in their course and why they should pick you.
Here are a few things about the personal statement that you should know before you get started:
-You are only allowed 4000 characters
-That's 47 lines
-You can't write in a small font to gain an extra line because the UCAS system does it's own editing
-There is no magic formula!
How much should I write about myself?
Personal statements as a general rule should be split into two parts, the main part worth 70% should be about why you want to study the course that you have applied to. The remaning 30% should be about you and your skills.
This rule is a general rule, but can be bent in either way regarding the percentage split. However, what you need to consider is that your teachers are also going to provide UCAS with a reference about you, so you don't need to worry too much about including everything about yourself in your statement.
Just to make things a little more complicated if you are applying to Oxbridge, Oxford and Cambridge that is you should really just focus on why you want to study the course. They are not very interested in your extra curricular activities.
The best video I've found which goes through the whole process
Where to start?
Writing a personal statement is a daunting task. You don't often get the opportunity to write about yourself, so it might seem a little odd at first. On average it usually takes around five redrafts to get the final product. Some people can do it in less but its not very usual.
The dreaded first sentence. Everyone seems to draw a blank when they start their personal statement. It is a very important sentence after all!
Before you begin I want you to imagine that you are the admission staff for the university in which you want to apply to. You are probably thinking these thoughts:
-Please for the love of God don't bore me
-If you use one of these sentences I will commit suicide: 10 most overused opening sentences
-Please tell me something that I don't know already
You have to realise that these admission staff are going to be reading around 500 personal statements a day. You need to be original in order to get the edge.
You don't have to write a personal statement in order to begin with. Any ideas that you might have write down.
Start asking yourself these kind of questions:
-What particular aspect of this subject really fascinates me?
-What makes me different from all of the other students applying to my course?
-What reading can I talk about in my personal statement?
Hopefully the fact that you are applying for a particular course means that you already know what makes you eager to study this subject. However if you are lacking inspiration, go out read some articles and books to do with your subject matter. You can even watch videos around the subject matter. It really doesn't matter, just make sure that you are reading and watching suitable material. They probably won't be too impressed if you are quoting horrible history in your personal statement.
When looking for useful material keep in mind that the rest of the students in the UK will be also, if every student is reading a student magazine, and you all choose the same article to talk about... Well your in trouble.
A Cambridge admission's tutor said 'my best piece of advice is to not follow any kind of formula, follow your nose, and let the admission tutor see something of who you are, and what your own interests really are. So don't try to fit a mould, try and break out of the mould.'
To quote or not to quote?
For some reason students feel the need to quote in there personal statement in almost every paragraph. This is simply not the case. Using quotes is a good way to introduce an idea but don't overdo it!
Ask yourself whether it really supports your personal statements message. Adding in random quotes to do with your subject will do you no favours if not supported by your own insight into what you are trying to explain or show. Admission tutors sadly cannot read your mind and will probably break down in dispare if you decide to leave a quote on its own without any explanation.
Redraft and evaluate
You have to be critical of your work. You will only have one shot at impressing the admission staff. Get someone else to read your personal statement and ask them to be critical.
Word is not your friend when writing your personal statement. That useful red squiggle line that appears will tell you that you have spelt something wrong, but sadly the suggestion words don't always mean what you think they mean. Get a friend to read carefully the words that you have used. I guarantee you will find some mistakes.
You are probably going to go overboard on the number of characters you use. 4000 is hardly anything! Re-read what you have already said and try to get rid of any parts that you feel don't contribute to your overal statement.
Personal Statement examples
Looking at other people's personal statements is a good way to get a feel for the general format.
Don't be tempted to copy them because UCAS uses advanced software which will find out if you are 'borrowing' someone's words.
UCAS official how to guide
If you have any questions feel free to leave comments below!