Date of Publication: 22 May 2020
The approach of summer can be both an exciting and daunting time for many school and college students. It’s the time that you’ll be invited to lots of university open days, to see where you could be studying a subject you love. It’s also the time to sift through all those prospectuses you’ve collected to see what course interests you the most.
However, with UCAS applications opening in September, summer is certainly the time that you should be starting to prepare your applications, and that includes beginning to draft and write your personal statement.
If you’re not sure how to get started with preparing your personal statement for university, take a look at our helpful introduction below to learn more about the process. We’ll cover everything from what the UCAS personal statement word limit is, and what you should and shouldn’t include in your applications.
What is a UCAS personal statement?
A personal statement is a supporting piece of text, written by yourself, which describes your ambitions, skills, and experiences to prospective universities, colleges and conservatoires.
It’s a chance for you to show yourself off, to show these institutions why you would be a great student for them to have on their course, as demonstrated by your experience, skills and goals for the future.
Your personal statement is the first thing the admissions team will see when they receive your application, and it will help to determine the likelihood of an interview or even a place on the course you have applied for – so you need to make sure it’s the best it can be!
Is a personal statement 4000 characters with or without spaces?
Currently, the UCAS personal statement limit is 4000 characters, including spaces and blank lines.
What should be in a UCAS personal statement?
Your personal statement is all about you, and why you are a great candidate for the course you have chosen for further study.
As already mentioned, you should talk about your ambitions – why you want to study the subject you have selected and how you think it will benefit your future.
You should also talk about what your skills and strengths are, using evidence from school and extracurricular activities as to how these skills will transfer to university and help you to excel during your time there.
If you’re looking for more tips on what to include in your personal statement for university, UCAS website offers some great tips on what sorts of things you could include:
- ‘Look at course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experience it requires – you can use these to help you decide what to write about.
- Tell the reader why you’re applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.
- Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you’ve gained from education, work, or other activities.
- Include any clubs or societies you belong to – sporting, creative, or musical.
- Mention any relevant employment experience or volunteering you’ve done, such as vInspired Awards, Step Together, or Project Trust.
- If you’ve developed skills through Duke of Edinburgh, ASDAN, National Citizen Service, the Crest Awards scheme, or young enterprise, tell them.
- If you took part in a higher education taster course, placement, or summer school, or something similar, include it.’
What should you not write in a personal statement?
Despite students usually applying to more than one university on UCAS, you are only allowed to write one personal statement for all of your applications. Therefore, you should never include any universities, colleges or conservatoires by name in your application.
Specific course names
In addition, if the course you are applying for has a different name at different institutions, you shouldn’t include the exact name of the course in your personal statement. Instead, you should talk about the subject more broadly; why you are passionate about it, and what particular topic areas interest you.
Student experience review site, Student Hut, recommends avoid listing things for the sake of trying to impress the reader. Instead, they recommend ‘make sure each point is relevant and backed up by evidence. Expand on statements in order to explain why you’re an ideal candidate.’
Repeated application information
Your personal statement is limited to 4000 characters, and so you shouldn’t waste any of those precious characters by repeating information that’s already covered on the application form. Study.com advises; ‘there’s no need to include your grade-point average…avoid repeating any answers that are requested on application forms.’ Instead, use your characters to show your personality, skills and ambition off.
From lying about secondary reading you have done, to bigging up a particular experience you have done, you should never exaggerate anything in your personal statement.
If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to an interview, the tutor will ask you questions about your personal statement and ask you to expand on points. If you’ve lied at any point, they’ll be able to see straight through you, and you could jeopardise gaining a place on the course.
For more advice on what you should and shouldn’t include in your personal statement for university, take a look at the official UCAS website for guidance.
Read to put pen to paper? Check out our blog on how to start writing your personal statement.
Alternatively, for further help and direction on how to write your personal statement and perfect your university applications, don’t forget to check out our online university guidance programme, Melio Guidance.