Help with writing your UCAS Progress personal statement – what to include about yourself, and some dos and don’ts on how to write it.
Writing about the course
Why are you applying for your chosen course(s)?
Explain why you want to do your chosen course(s). For example, someone who wanted to work with animals might write 'I would like to study a BTEC in animal care as I am passionate about looking after animals. I already look after two dogs and it will help me in my future career plans.'
Why does this course interest you?
You can write about anything you've read about the course(s) that you find interesting and would like to find out more about.
Why do you think you are suitable for the course(s)?
In this section, you can write about any experiences you have had that are related to the course(s), or any skills you've learnt that might help you. For example, if you have done any related volunteering or work experience, or if you have a part-time job such as babysitting, which shows more general strengths such as responsibility or commitment.
Do your current studies (e.g., GCSEs) relate to the course(s) you have chosen? If so, how?
You can let the provider know how much you enjoy a subject by writing about a course you have already studied that you found really interesting or you were good at.
Skills and achievements
Write about anything you have done that might help with your application.
- Write about anything you are proud of passing, for example, grade 2 in piano, or being selected for a sports team.
- Include any awards you have done, such as Duke of Edinburgh, or through ASDAN, for example.
- You can add any positions of responsibility you have held, for example, being a prefect or helping with young students at school.
Hobbies and interests
Make a list of your hobbies, interests, and anything you do socially.
- Think about how they show your skills and ability.
- Try to link them to skills and experience you might need on your chosen course(s).
Include details of placements, work experience, voluntary work, or jobs, especially if it is relevant to your chosen course(s).
- Try to show how this experience gave you new skills or made you think about your future plans, for example, things you really enjoyed or were good at.
- Also include any part-time work you are still doing, like a Saturday job or babysitting.
Use this section to tell the provider what you might like to do in the future as a career after completing the course. Explain how you would like to use the course(s) you have applied for to help you reach your goal.
Dos and don’ts when writing a personal statement
- Do use your best English and check your spelling and grammar are correct.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show your interest in the course, it will help your application.
- Do ask people that you trust, like your teacher/adviser or parent/carer to read through what you have written and give you feedback.
- Don’t exaggerate – you might be asked about what you have written if you attend an interview with the course provider.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute – it's a good idea to give yourself time to think about what you write to make sure you don’t forget anything.
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The UCAS personal statement strikes fear into most sixth formers. Sculpting the perfect personal statement is an arduous an unavoidable process. With approximately 600,000 people applying to university each year, admissions officers need a way to filter stronger candidates from the rest of the pool.
As daunting as this task may seem, it’s also your only real opportunity to share your personality and suitability for your chosen degree program. Follow our top tips, and you can make a success of your personal statement.
Understand the UCAS personal statement guidelines
There are specific requirements for your personal statement which you absolutely cannot ignore. You cannot exceed 4,000 characters, or 47 lines of text (including blank lines) – whichever is reached first. If you do, universities won’t receive your entire statement.
Because of this, make sure your personal statement has a strong, definitive conclusion. It will look poor if you’ve obviously cut it off mid-sentence after realizing you’d surpassed the text limit. Instead, plan your piece thoroughly and give each section adequate attention, time and characters.
Plan your time and write it well in advance
Given how important it is, the UCAS personal statement can take a while to perfect, so give yourself time to work on it. Most schools probably won’t let you leave it until the night before – but try to even be slightly ahead of your internal deadline. The more time you allow yourself, the longer you can take to edit your ideas and strengthen your application.
Choose which universities you’re applying to before you start
The academic level of the university and course you’re applying to will have an impact on the tone and content of your personal statement. If you’re not sure of the kind of universities you should be aspiring to, you can use the UK University Search Tool, which will generate a list of universities based on your UCAS Tariff points. If you are unsure what your qualifications equate to, you can just pop them into our UCAS Tariff Points Generator.
Once you have made an informed decision about where to apply to, you’ll be able to cater your statement appropriately. As a general rule, the more traditional and academically acclaimed the university, the less time you should spend in your statement talking about non-academic activities.
Find out what admissions tutors are looking for
Speaking to university representatives can be a really great way to discern what faculties may want to see from applicants. Remember, universities are looking for the right students just like you’re looking for the right university. This information won’t be written in their prospectuses, but if you attend higher education events, like the upcoming UK University Fairs in Autumn 2017, you’ll find that representatives love engaging with students and speaking to them frankly about the application process. Click here for more information about the Autumn fairs hosted by UK University Search.
Draw on your enthusiasm
You need to saturate your UCAS personal statement with your desire to embark upon this course. Obviously, don’t allow your interest to descend into a cheesy mockery – you need to convey sincerity. Three years (minimum) is a long time, and the independence of university means that those who aren’t really invested in their course may struggle. Admissions tutors are searching for students who have a genuine interest and who will relish three years of education. Show that you’re one of these people.
Carefully select your extra- curricular activities
Knowing how much of your well-rounded self to present can be mystifying, especially if you’re worried that everyone will have the same things to say. If you’re not sure what to mention, a good idea is to focus on extra-curricular activities that tie into the course you’re applying to. So, if you’re interested in studying hospitality, mention any events you’ve worked or volunteered at. This might seem trickier for more traditional subjects, but you should be able to think of something. A math student could share their enthusiasm for chess, a budding geographer might describe physical landmarks and features they’ve seen when travelling, and a humanities student may be able to give examples of writing they’ve had published.
Avoid rambling and vacuous statements
You only have 4,000 characters to persuade admissions tutors why you are the perfect candidate for their course. Don’t waste any of them. Leave out any rambling stories about why you’re interested in a particular course. If something is particularly interesting, a brief overview may be relevant. Avoid clichés too. Saying you’re a “committed and hard-working individual” has no weight and detracts from any personality you’re trying to express.
This might seem obvious, but don’t lie
There is a very fine line between presenting yourself in a better light and simply lying. You should never lie – not only is it immoral, but, if caught, your application could be reconsidered and come back to bite you. This is particularly true if you are called to interview. There are many horror stories of applicants being interrogated about their favorite book, only for it to become apparent they never read it.
Finally, don’t copy
Reading personal statements used by older siblings or friends can be a really useful exercise, but don’t be tempted to re-use somebody else’s words. Aside from the fact it doesn’t demonstrate your uniqueness and personal drive, there are also programs used by UCAS to prevent plagiarism. Copycatch reports suspicious activity to universities, so don’t risk your application being rejected. Your personal statement needs to be your own.
Lead image: Jisc.ac.uk