Key points to remember for your UCAS Form:
- Deadline for submission of the UCAS form for almost all courses and universities is 15 January 2019, 18.00 UK time.
- Your personal statement should be a maximum of 47 lines, and 4,000 characters. Don’t confuse ‘characters’ with ‘words’: 4,000 characters is about 600 words!
- You can only write one personal statement: it will be read by all the universities you’re applying to – it’s therefore worth avoiding mentioning an individual university by name.
- Admissions tutors are reading thousands of personal statements: make sure you don’t give them an excuse to discard yours in the first paragraph with sloppy spelling or poor grammar.
- Your UCAS form includes a reference from your teacher or tutor. Make sure you get this from them in time!
Stuck on what to write? Put yourself in the admissions tutors’ shoes…
If you were them, what would you be looking for in a potential student for their course?
Write a list of five things you would be looking for. Perhaps your list looks something like this:
- academically able
- evidence of an interest in their degree course going back several years
- will contribute to university in a wider context (sports, debating, human rights issues)
Write the five headings down, and then jot down, in bullet point form, all the evidence you have that you possess these characteristics.
Show don’t tell!
Instead of writing, ‘I am passionate about my subject, and I am mature and responsible’, write something like: ‘Since the age of fifteen, I volunteered on an airbase on Saturday mornings – further fuelling my desire to study aeronautical engineering. By the time I turned seventeen, I had demonstrated my long-term commitment to the airbase and was deemed sufficiently mature and serious to be given considerable responsibilities, which included x and y’.
Keep your structure tight
If you have a tendency to waffle, plan the personal statement the way you would an essay: paragraph by paragraph. For example, the plan might look something like this:
- Paragraph 1 – you and the course. Why this course? Evidence you are passionate about the subject. Relevant hobbies, activities, extra studies that would help you with the course.
- Paragraph 2 – you as a student. Any notable achievements, particular qualities such as self-discipline or tenacity which would stand you in good stead at university?
- Paragraph 3 – you as a person. Evidence of your talents and interests. Your plans for the future. How the course will help you fulfil your aims.
- Conclusion – reiterate your commitment to the course and how you think your skills would be suited to university life.
What to avoid…
- Anything irrelevant – something is irrelevant if it doesn’t demonstrate why or how you would be well-suited to studying at university. Playing in a school orchestra is relevant – it shows commitment, team-skills and so on. The name of your dog isn’t relevant, though!
- Does it sound stilted? Try reading your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t sound like something you would actually say out loud, chances are it’s a bit stilted. Maybe you can try changing it to something that you’d say more naturally.
- Quotations – especially from films! 47 lines isn’t a lot, and the admissions tutors want to hear from you – they want text that you’ve written, not something from someone else.
- Repetition – you may not notice that you’ve used the expression ‘I’m passionate about…’ three times, but the admissions tutor will! Keep a keen eye out for this.