However, as Williams says, don’t go overboard. “The mistake people make is to mention too many clubs,” he says, “it makes us question how dedicated you’ll be to your study or work. Pick some key extra-curricular activities and think about the skills they give you and feed that into what you are doing.
“Avoid the vacuous statement,” he adds, “the statement that seems to say a lot, but actually says nothing at all, for example ‘I am a people person; committed to doing my best at every opportunity’.”
Stock phrases should be avoided at all costs, and applicants should also be careful not to exaggerate their achievements. Be warned; if you are invited to interview, you should expect to be quizzed on what you have said in your statement. White lies won’t impress anyone and can become pretty obvious pretty quickly under pressure.
Applicants should also avoid copying anyone else’s statement or taking inspiration from the internet, says Balnaves. Ucas uses a program called Copycatch to identify similarities in statements and notifies the universities if it picks up anything suspicious.
Balnaves also urges students to review their statements for spelling and grammar and to apply in good time. “We probably get about 10 per cent of our applications in the last week,” he says, “but it’s best to give yourself some breathing space. The best advice you can get is from a family member or a teacher, read it aloud to them so you haven't missed any crucial bits.
“Write about what makes you unique," he continues, "only you know your unique selling points. Ask yourself ‘what makes me different, what will I bring to the university and what will I get out of it?’”
It’s important to remember that not only will your personal statement be used in the initial process of making an offer, it could also be used at the end of the application cycle if you miss the grade requirements.
As Hunt says: “The personal statement is something tutors will use to remind themselves why they made you the offer in the first place if things don’t go to plan - they might give you the benefit of the doubt.”
With this in mind, it’s worth putting in the extra effort now, to give yourself every chance of success.
Dos and Don’ts of personal statement writing
DO check for spelling and grammar - get your parents to double check and then check again
DO link your extra-curricular pursuits with your course choice
DO show your teachers a draft first – so you will know what to change in plenty of time
DON’T leave it until the last minute – try to submit the application before Christmas
DON’T use suggested synonyms unless you’re sure what they mean
DON’T be tempted to exaggerate what you’ve done
DON’T talk about specific universities, only talk about the subject
Your UCAS Personal Statement is easily the most crucial part of your university application, it allows you to show off a bit and show why you stand out from other candidates! A UCAS Personal Statement gives you 4,000 characters to tell everyone what you’re like, what you can do, and how passionate you are about the course that you’re applying for. Mentioning your A-Levels and GCSE results (or predicted results) is helpful, but the university want to know about you! What makes you tick? Why have you got an interest in the subject you’re applying for? What about the subject interests you and why?
These are all the questions that you’ll need to answer in your UCAS Personal Statement.
What is a Personal Statement?
A Personal Statement is an essay that you write about yourself that explains why you’d be a good student for a university and why you’re interested in your course. But more than that, this is a chance for you to display your passion for the subject. Your UCAS Personal Statement will fit the bill of “One size fits all”. This basically means that your Personal Statement should not be specific to one university. Your Personal Statement needs to show your passion for the course you’re looking to study rather than the university itself, don’t make the mistake of tailoring your UCAS Personal Statement to a university, rather than a course.
How long should I spend on my Personal Statement?
A Personal Statement should not be rushed! Plenty of students believe that you can write a Personal Statement the night before the deadline and just upload it to UCAS from there! Do not rush your Personal Statement. The more you rush it, the more the quality will suffer as a result.
A Personal Statement is a document that shows how passionate you are, so why not look up some quotes and see if you can incorporate these into your statement or see if you can make a connection between a certain hobby you have and how it can help you in your studies?
How do I write a Personal Statement?
Writing anything comes under the label of “Different strokes for different folks”. Whatever works for you is best. It is not uncommon for a student to go through several different drafts of a Personal Statement before coming to a final decision on which one to use. Your Personal Statement will most likely go through several different iterations before you settle on the finished product.
When does my Personal Statement need to be completed?
Personal Statements all need to be handed into UCAS around January 15th. Some institutions may have their own separate, internal deadlines to allow faculty members to evaluate your Personal Statement and see if there is anything that needs improvement as well, so check beforehand.
Is there anyone who can help me with my Personal Statement?
Yes, there are! You can speak to careers advisors, look up advice online, check out previous UCAS Personal Statement examples or Personal Statement templates or even use a Personal Statement Editor, to help you with your Personal Statement. Taking your Personal Statement to a tutor or teacher to have them check the work is a good idea too. Tutors and teachers will have seen many different Personal Statements over their time and they will all know the pitfalls and clichés that come with writing student Personal Statements.
Most universities will list Personal Statement guides on their websites as well, just to give you an idea of what they’re looking for.
Should I embellish anything on my Personal Statement?
Absolutely not! As with everything in life, the truth will always come out in the end, and lying on your Personal Statement is no different. Saying that you can speak five different languages when you can’t, is going to land you in a whole heap of trouble.
Universities have a way of finding things out about students and discover if they’re lying or not. This may be through simple background checks (routine phone calls to your previous schools or colleges) or simply asking you to prove yourself at interview stage if you are invited to one, and then the house of cards will come clattering down. It’s best, to be honest, and truthful, there will no doubt be enough for you to boast about without having to lie!
Where do I send off my Personal Statement?
Your Personal Statement will need to be sent off to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). You will need to log onto your UCAS Portal and upload your Personal Statement onto the internal system. This will submit your Personal Statement to your university choices and your university application will have begun.
What should I do when I’ve sent my Personal Statement off to UCAS?
Stop. All you need to do is just stop. The more you think about your Personal Statement after you’ve sent it off, the more you’ll start to drive yourself mad! We recommend that once your Personal Statement has been sent off, you just relax and focus on everything else you’ve got going on. Constantly checking your UCAS Personal Statement means that you will end up never being happy with it, be confident in yourself and your abilities and it will all be fine!