UCAS: Writing Your Personal Statement

April 11, 2016

Writing Your Personal Statement

Starting

The main things to think about are:

  • what do I want to study? (if you can't answer this, you should probably concentrate on working this out, rather than writing a PS)
  • why do I want to study it?
  • what personal qualities, interests and experience do I have which show I am suited to this subject, and to study at university?
  • what are my other interests and skills?

What should you include?

A basic list, which isn’t conclusive is:

  • Interest in the course: Why do you want to do it.
  • Relevant work experience
  • Skills and qualities required
  • Interest in your current studies
  • Career Aspirations
  • Enthusiasm for the subject
  • How are your current studies related
  • Any other interest/hobbies/experiences you wish to mention
  • Plans for gap year if deferring entry.

How do I prioritise my ideas?

A simplistic approach is to include anything about the course towards the beginning of the statement, and anything that’s less relevant towards the end.

A very simple structure might be:

  • Introduction: Why do you want to do the course, how did you make your decision, show your enthusiasm for the subject.
  • Relevant work experience [for vocational degrees only - for non vocational courses relevant work experience isn't necessary so can be left out of a PS if you haven't done any] and subject relevant extra curriculars : Anything that you’ve done which is relevant to the subject can go here. Also mention career aspirations.
  • Enthusiasm for current studies, and how they help with the degree.
  • Skills and qualities: What skills and qualities do you have, and that will you need to do this course. Don't just list skills though, give examples of circumstances when you've demonstrated skills.
  • Anything else: This paragraph usually contains hobbies/interests/sports/music/voluntary work. Try to link it with the course or at the least link it to how you manage to stay sane while studying. If you're deferring entry, an explanation of your gap year plans can go here.
  • Conclusion: Sum up why the university should take you, and what an offer would mean to you.

Do      

  • Remember that your personal statement is your personal statement, not an article written about your prospective field of study - it should tell us about you, not about the subject.
  • Only put in things you are prepared to talk about at interview (if you have one).
  • Give convincing reasons for why you want to study the course - more than just "enjoying the subject" (this should be a given).
  • For very competitive courses, find out as much as you can about the nature of the course and try to make your personal statement relevant to this. If the course shows a 'C' on UCAS.com the information given there will be especially useful.
  • If you have (realistic) long term career plans, make a link between these and the course you've chosen to study.
  • Mention positions of responsibility with some examples of duties and skills you learnt carrying them out.
  • Talk briefly about what you do outside school.
  • Be reflective. If you make a point like 'I like reading', 'I travelled aboard', say what you got from it.
  • Keep paragraphs concise.    

Don’t

  • Just list what you're doing now. You should pull out the skills and experiences that are relevant to the courses for which you're applying. Show how your hobbies and interests contributed to your generic skills or personality in a way what supports success on a Higher Education course.
  • Mention skills and activities without giving examples of when they have been demonstrated or what you learnt from them. Anyone can write "I have great leadership skills" in a PS, actually using a sentence to explain when you demonstrated good leadership skills is much rarer and more valuable.
  • Refer to experiences that took place before your GCSEs (or equivalent) except as anecdotes or if absolutely necessary.
  • Mention interests without being more specific - for reading mention authors or genres, likewise with music or art - mention particular artists.
  • Exaggerate or lie!!
  • Apply for too many different courses, making it difficult to write a convincing personal statement which supports the application.
  • Copy and paste the statement from somewhere else!



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