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How to write your personal statement

It can be hard to know where to begin when writing your UCAS personal statement. So we've put together some top tips and advice to help you make the most of your personal statement.

As part of the UCAS application process, you'll need to complete a personal statement. Your personal statement might be the only chance you have to ‘speak’ directly to an Admissions Tutor so it’s important to get it right. Many people find it difficult to write about themselves. Particularly their own strengths, so don’t worry if you’re struggling for ideas. You can use this guide to help ensure you write a great personal statement. 

Frequently asked questions

A personal statement is a short written account used to support your university application. It is your opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself to universities. And to show how and why you are a good candidate for your chosen course. A well-written application may convince a university to make you an offer or invite you to an interview. 

It’s never too early to start work on your personal statement. In fact, we’d recommend you give yourself as much time as possible.

Before you begin it’s important you have an idea of the course or subject area you want to study. Your personal statement needs to be specific so knowing what course you’re interested in will make it easier to start writing. It’s a good idea to check out the course descriptions in university prospectuses or on their website. This way you can find out the skills and experience that you’ll need. You can then reflect on how these relate to your own interests and qualities. 

Where to begin?

  1. Start with an engaging and positive introductory sentence which makes the admissions Tutor want to read on.
  2. Make it different. The most overused opening phrases are: “From a young age I have always been interested in…” and “For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with…”
  3. State your reasons for applying to your chosen course and what it is that motivates you.

The great thing about a personal statement is that it’s exactly that - personal. This is your chance to stand out from the crowd and explain why you’re the right choice for your chosen course.

It’s important that the statement reflects you, so you need to write in your own individual style. However, there are certain facts Admissions Tutors will be expecting to see. So it's important that you include these to ensure you give the best account of yourself, your skills and your experience.

Everything that you write should be relevant and linked to the course(s) you are applying for. Whilst you will only submit one personal statement it will be seen multiple times by all the universities and courses you have applied for.

Here are some questions to think about to ensure your statement stands out:

  • Why do you want to study the course?
    You need to show that you have a genuine interest in the subject area and the motivation to immerse yourself in it.
  • What makes you suitable?
    This is your chance to show how your experiences have prepared you to meet the demands of the course.
  • What makes you stand out?
    Think about what you can offer outside of the lecture theatre and how you will contribute to the university community as a whole.

Download our guide to writing your personal statement for more top tips.

Your personal statement needs to stay within the 4000 character limit set by UCAS. This includes spaces and blank lines. This might seem like a lot, but it's only around 1 side of typed A4 paper. So you need to keep it clear and concise. Use the UCAS personal statement tool to help you keep within the limit as well as tips on how to structure your statement.

There is no set layout for your personal statement. But here are some style and structure tips to help you along the way:

  • Make sure you sound interested in the course. Admissions Tutors will recognise applicants who aren’t totally committed.
  • Don’t use bullet points. A personal statement is a chance to show how you can make a reasoned argument in continuous writing.
  • Avoid repetition.
  • You need to show rather than tell the Admissions Tutor that you are a good candidate. So don’t just list all your skills and achievements. Pick the most relevant, explain them carefully and provide examples.
  • Check your statement for spelling and grammar. And then check again.
  • Ask your parents, friends and/or teachers to read through your finished statement. They can help to make sure it flows and that you’ve not forgotten anything.

Guide to writing your personal statement

Discover how to write a great personal statement with our handy guide. It covers everything you need to know from structuring to tips on what to include.

Download your copy now

Personal statement dos and don'ts

Read it out loud.
This will help you spot sentences which aren’t worded correctly.
Check it’s all there.
UCAS has a limit of 4000 characters or 47 lines of text, including spaces and blank lines.
Do some practice.
You should be prepared to write several drafts- the average is six.
Be well prepared.
Be ready to talk at length about everything written in your personal statement.
Don't be negative.
Focus on what you have done, not what you haven’t.
Don't complicate it.
Keep your statement concise and write in your natural style.
Don't copy or paraphrase.
UCAS use sophisticated software and check every personal statement for plagiarism.
Don't include irrelevant facts.
Apply the ‘so what’ rule. If you can’t explain how a point relates to your course, leave it out.

University application dates

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September - January
  • Complete online UCAS application
  • Submit form to college - reference added
  • Form sent to UCAS
  • 15 October – Deadline for applications to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary courses and to Oxford and Cambridge
  • 26 January – Main application deadline (Some Art and Design courses have a March deadline, please check UCAS for details)
  • UCAS send an acknowledgement to the applicant
  • UCAS send a copy of the application to chosen institutions

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September- May
  • Institutions make decisions
  • UCAS informs you of the decisions
  • Attend interviews/auditions/applicant days if invited
  • Submit additional choices via UCAS Extra* if eligible
  • Some courses and late applications may not receive responses until later in the cycle
  • Applicants accept offers
  • 1st Choice – Firm, 2nd Choice – Insurance
July- August
  • Await results
  • Clearing (Unplaced applicants matched with course vacancies)
September
  • Enrol

 *Extra is open Feb-July

Starting your university application?

If you've just started applying for university and need help with your application, we've put together some guidance to help you through the process.

Get help with your university application