How to write the perfect UCAS personal statement
Struggling to write up a glowing personal statement for your UCAS application? We're here to show you how it's done!
So, you've chosen your uni course, shortlisted your five ideal universities, and now the only thing stopping you from riding your unicorn into Studentville is passing those pesky exams. Right? Wrong. Your next task is the delightful job of writing your UCAS personal statement!
I waltzed into it thinking it was easy, all I had to do was make myself sound great, how hard could it be? Turns out it's kind of difficult to big yourself up, even if you think you're pretty awesome.
You've got 47 lines (or 4000 characters) to 'sell' yourself to your chosen universities. This is your chance to shine! Here are some tips that will have the universities begging for you to join them.
How to write your personal statement
Open with something attention grabbing
Do you know how many times the people in that office are going to read "I'm Shaniqua, I'm from Manchester and I love Drama/Maths/Orienteering"? Too many times.
You want to stand out and impress the people who sort through these applications, and the best way to do that is to say something different.
If possible, try to include something to do with the course you're applying to; for example, I applied for an English and Creative Writing course, so began my statement with the line "Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been amazed by how words can paint a picture in one's mind and launch their imagination" …or words to that effect.
I can't say it was necessarily true, but it worked, I got offers from every uni I had applied for. Obviously you don't have to be quite as flowery with your language, but it makes a nice change from the run of the mill opening sentences. Also, try not to be too cliché or over do it.
Emphasise extra curricular activities
Your personal statement for university is the only part of the application that you have complete control over. It can help give you that boost you need if your grades are perhaps not ideal, and allow universities to see more of your personality, as opposed to just your academic achievements.
Include any hobbies you may enjoy (don't say 'socialising', you might as well say 'eating' or 'breathing'), and also any voluntary work you've done in your time.
This can be tied into having good timekeeping, organisation skills and being personable. Universities like to see an applicant with extra curricular activities or personal interests in something, as it shows an extra bit of who you are.
Make sure you sound right for the course
Demonstrate to the uni that you're perfect for the course you've applied to and not just their institution (warning: remember not to mention the name of any universities explicitly in your personal statement! Unless you're 100% only applying for one).
Try to keep your personal statement relevant to your course at least a little, so whilst mentioning hobbies and charity work is all well and good, you should aim to relate most of it to your chosen course.
If you've chosen English, perhaps mention a love for books; Maths – any competitions you may have entered or just why you love the subject so much. If you show a genuine interest in it, there is no doubt the university will lap your application up. They want enthusiastic students who have a passion for what they are studying.
What's more, if you are struggling to find a passion for the subject then you should ask yourself why you are applying to study it, especially with the latest rise in university costs.
Think about structure
This was the part I had the most difficulty with. I knew I needed an introduction and conclusion, but had no idea what to put in between the two!
I would suggest starting off with an attention grabbing opening sentence, why you're interested in the subject and why you want to pursue it, followed by what you've done relating to your chosen university subject. Follow this with information on any work experience or school activities you have been involved in.
Naturally the next topic to tackle is out of school activities, particularly ones that show you are reliable and organised, and that you feel are relevant. Finish with what you hope to achieve at university and finish it off with something a bit memorable!
Read other people's UCAS statements
Credit: Kamil Porembiński – Flickr
Some of us are gifted when it comes to writing, but a lot aren't. Personally, I find it helps to read other people's work in order to gather what the layout for something should be, and get a feel for tone and style. This is particularly important in personal statements, as it can be difficult to know where to begin.
You can also view a range of statements and decide yourself what makes them good and bad, and I found it helped me immensely to have a loose guide of how it should be set out.
Be wary of ending up with a personal statement that's too similar to your friends' though. Universities have seen a lot of it before and can usually tell when a UCAS personal statement is not original.
Writing for multiple courses in one statement
Credit: Gabriel Rojas Hruska – Flickr
I do a joint degree, but fortunately it's in English and Creative Writing, so when writing my personal statement it was easy to mix the two together. However, writing for a joint degree in two completely unrelated subjects can be difficult.
I'd suggest dedicating a section of your UCAS personal statement to each subject, it may not flow as nicely, but it makes it easier than trying to fit them together when it clearly isn't going to work.
As for applying to different courses at different universities, you've given yourself a difficult challenge, but not an impossible one!
Just try to think about why it is that you want to do these different degrees – is it because you have so many interests and don't want to narrow your options too much? Chances are, this means you're an interesting and active person with lots to say! Fill them in.
Things to avoid in your personal statement
Here are some things to avoid when writing your personal statement:
- Don't start every sentence with 'I', spice it up a bit!
- Don't sound pretentious, or use words you wouldn't normally use – they'll be able to sniff that out.
- Don't repeat information you already have on your UCAS form (predicted grades etc.)
- Don't randomly drop quotes into your statement unless you can back up why the quote has influenced you!
- Don't try to be funny (even if you are!) and litter your statement with jokes. Although a bit of subtle humour can be great if done properly.
- Don't copy anything from statements you may have seen (try to change it to make it your own).
- Try not to be too formal – relax a bit and let your personality shine through!
So there we have it! It might seem like a daunting thing to have to do, but once you get into the swing of it, you'll be panicking about having too many words (trust me).
Always ask for help if you feel you need it, from teachers or even other peers, don't worry about it and put it off until it's nearly too late, or you'll find yourself stressed out for no reason.
Best of luck! And if I have one more bit of advice for you, it's to head over to the Save the Student homepage to see what else there is in store to get you ready for starting uni!
You'll find everything in there from university clearing guides, to help with choosing your student accommodation and just about everything you'll ever need to know about student finance (including info on grants and scholarships!).