Writing a UCAS Personal Statement – The Do’s and Don’ts

Let’s face it, writing a UCAS personal statement as part of your UK university application is a challenging and daunting task.

When you meet other applicants who are equal to you in terms of scores, your personal statement can be the deciding factor that set both of you apart.

Keep in mind that you have a limited number of characters to sell a product (that would be YOU) to the university of your dreams, so don’t be frustrated or surprised if you get stuck!

Luckily, we can provide you a number of things to do and NOT to do to keep in mind when writing.

The Do’sThe Don’t
Do your researchDon’t exaggerate
Do highlight your strengthsDon’t waffle
Do be truthfulDon’t be cliché
Do your planningDon’t look for application templates
Do proofreadDon’t use complex sentences
Don’t go over the limit
Don’t list your qualifications

The Do’s


 

1.    Do your research.

Look at the course/university you are applying for. Check out their course requirements, subject modules, awards, university facilities, etc.

Showing genuine interest and knowledge in the course that you want to study provides a good impression to the admissions team!

You could also include details about how the course modules/facilities in your chosen university will be useful for increasing your knowledge. Show them your knowledge about the university and that you are eager to be a part of them.


 

2.    Do highlight your strengths.

Focus on the positive. The university admissions team is not interested about the things that you are not good at, but the things that make you who you are (so cliché but so true).

Let them know what you CAN do, the knowledge you have about your area of study and any personal aspirations or goals that you have in your personal statement.

Ask your friends, family or peers if you get stuck thinking about your own skills. They could help shed some light on what you are good at.

Got any experiences that are related to your course? WRITE THEM DOWN.

For example, if you are applying for a medical course, you could mention that you have experience as a volunteer first-aider or shadowing a doctor.


 

3.    Do be truthful.

Seems obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people (still) lie on their applications.

In everything you say in your personal statement, keep it legit.

Presenting yourself in a better light does not excuse you from lying because it might come back to haunt you, especially if the university requests for an interview.

Lying could cause your application to be reconsidered, or worse, revoked (that means saying goodbye to your chances of getting into a UK university).

So, tell the truth. Always.


 

4.    Do your planning.

Don’t start typing random words and hope for the best.

Make a list of the things that you want to mention in your personal statement, which includes all the ‘Dos’ from 1 to 4. This will be your CORE CONTENT.

Start with a good introduction. This should really just be one paragraph. Mention:

  • Why you are interested in your subject.
  • How the programme aligns with your passions.

After the introduction, start on your core content. Include ONLY your best points from what you wrote down.

End on a strong conclusion that’s 1 paragraph long. Talk about:

  • How this course can prepare you for your desired career.
  • Summarise a few main points from your core content. 1 or 2 sentences.
  • Link back to your introduction. Remind them why you want to study your chosen subject and how it will help you with your career goals.


 

5.    Do proofread. Then proofread again.

This is something that you cannot stop doing until you are 100% satisfied.

Having your teachers, family or friends read your personal statement is a great idea, because they could give you suggestions. But some suggestions will be better than others so make sure you collect them all before making changes.

Reading it multiple times (sometimes out loud) can also help you identify and hammer out impurities, like grammar mistakes, spelling errors or vague sentences.

 

 

The Don’ts (PAY ATTENTION NOW)


 

1.    Don’t exaggerate.

This ties-in to the point about being truthful.

Yes, your achievements are great and must be included. But twisting them, even slightly, to make yourself look better isn’t.

If you won a regional award for your creative writing, don’t say you won the Amateur-Writer-of-the-Year award if it isn’t true. (If you did, you probably won’t even need to read this guide)

It’s simple: JUST TELL THEM WHAT HAPPENED.


 

2.    Don’t waffle. Get to the point!

No, I’m not talking about the delightfully baked pastry with syrup and cream.

In the UK, the phrase ‘to waffle’ means to keep talking about one thing without any real meaning or value in what you are saying.

This is especially true if you start writing about your life story, like saying ‘When I was young, my grandfather told me…’

You are more likely to put the admissions officer to sleep and send it straight to the trash if it becomes too boring for them.

Remember, they are reading over 100 statements a day so you better make it easy for them to read and understand you!

A good practice would be to have a maximum of 3 sentences to talk about 1 topic or point.


 

3.    Don’t be cliché. Just don’t.

“This helped make me a better person.

“After this experience, it made me feel like I could do anything!”

“And that was the most important lesson of all.”

If any of your sentences sound like this, try saying them out loud while looking at yourself in the mirror or in front of someone else. If you or the other person gets the urge to roll their eyes, you know you’ve stumbled on a cliché.

Clichés may sound good in theory, but they don’t actually say anything about yourself and is a waste of resource (in this case the character limit).

Be sure to proofread your final statement to cut all of it out!


 

4.    Don’t look for application templates.

The temptation is real. We completely understand that.

But Google searching ‘Top UCAS Application Templates’ and changing around a few words is not only going to cost you your admission chances for one university, but possibly all of them too.

Believe it or not, the admissions teams know ALL ABOUT the thousands of ‘application templates’ that are swimming around the Internet and have computer software that can detect even the slightest similarity in writing style.

If you considered relying on this during the application stage, it gets even worse during assignment submissions at university. YOU COULD BE EXPELLED.

So, don’t even think about it!


 

5.    Don’t use overly complex sentences.

It might seem like a good idea, but using long, complicated sentences to demonstrate your writing skill or vocabulary is just painful to read.

Remember, the person reading your personal statement is still, well, a person. They aren’t robots.

Get someone else to read your statement and if they cannot immediately understand what each sentence means, cut it down.

If you have a complex sentence, try breaking them up with 1 point per sentence.

*Check out ‘Don’t Waffle’


 

6. Don’t go over the limit!

Keep in mind that the personal statement…

CANNOT BE MORE THAN 4000 CHARACTERS OR 47 LINES OF TEXT LONG!!!!

Any longer than that, and the university won’t receive your full statement, making you look like you cut yourself off mid-way.

Imagine the admissions officer laughing and sending your hard work straight to the delete pile.

So, don’t do it.


 

7. Don’t list down your academic qualifications.

You would just be wasting characters!

The admissions team receives your personal statement with your application, which shows your achieved grades and all the subjects you have studied.

Repeating them in your statement would just be wasting your words to highlight more of your strengths.

Only talk about the subjects that are related to the programme you have applied for!

 

So, to summarise:

Keep these tips in mind and use them in your writing. Live by them. Think about them at the dinner table the night before your application submission.

Once you have finished, you can be confident that you have a most excellent personal statement in your hands.

If you are still unsure about how to write a personal statement or would like to know more about applying to UK universities, get in touch with us!