The personal statement is a vital part of a UCAS application. There is space for 4000 characters/47 lines, and it is the part of the application that allows the applicant to tell the universities about themselves beyond their exam results.
So, what needs to be included to make a good personal statement?
Show the universities why they should choose that student above another. The applicant needs to think about what makes them special, what makes them stand out. This can be through hobbies, interests, any research undertaken, work experience, personal experience, anything.
It is also good to mention what is currently being studied, but in relation to the application, such as saying what skills they have given the applicant.
Knowledge and Enthusiasm regarding the Chosen Subject
The university needs to know that the applicant has some knowledge about the subject they are applying for, so they know that they are aware of the course they are applying for. An example is the misconception that a psychology degree teaches people to read minds. So, demonstrating knowledge of psychology will show the universities that the applicant is aware of what the subject actually involves, and therefore that they have done their research.
The applicant also needs to demonstrate their enthusiasm for their chosen subject, although words like ‘passionate’ should be avoided if at all possible, because they are used in many statements and will therefore sound repetitive and insincere for the admissions tutor who has read numerous applications in a row.
The applicants needs to demonstrate that they have the skills a university is looking for, which can vary depending on the course applied for. Examples of skills include communication, teamwork and study skills. Rather than just saying that they have the skills, the applicant needs to show that they have them, by giving examples of how they have used them.
This can be paid work, voluntary work, workshops undertaken, anything than shows that the applicant has experience – again, what is relevant depends on the course being applied for, although transferrable skills can be gained from anything.
The applicant should say a little about what the experience involved, but the most important part is to reflect on it and say what they got out of it, and emphasise the things that are particularly relevant to the course.
Things to Avoid
- Don’t address the university directly e.g. ‘I would very much like to study at your institution’. Most applicants apply to more than one place, so this does not sound sincere. Even if only one university is applied to, it is not relevant to the personal statement, because as the name suggestions, it is supposed to be personal.
- Phrases like ‘From an early age I have wanted to study…’ because in a lot of cases it isn’t true and even if it is true, it isn’t relevant. Also, a lot of applicants use it so like the word ‘passionate’, it sounds repetitive and unoriginal to admissions tutors.
- Informal language. The personal statement is a formal piece of writing and should therefore be written as such.
- All describing but no reflection. The reflection is the important part, so this needs to be the focus of what is being talked about, long descriptions are not necessary.