How To Write Your UCAS Personal Statement

Jeremy Plumley

With half term out of the way, it is time for students who are applying to university in the 2016 cycle to really start working on their UCAS application forms. We know that a lot of you have already been to open days and have started working on personal statements, so you are hopefully well on the way to completing your application.

The ASPECT team are on hand to support Weston College students with their applications to higher education. Feel free to send us drafts of your personal statement or book in an appointment with a member of the team to talk through course choices or look through your application form.

As mentioned in the UCAS tutorials delivered by ASPECT, we are encouraging all students to submit a first draft of their personal statement by Monday 2nd November at 6pm to katharine.knight@weston.ac.uk. This doesn’t have to be the finished one, but it just gives the ASPECT team a chance to offer you some initial feedback. Below are some top tips for completing your personal statement – don’t forget there are loads of great guides on Moodle as well (go to the Moodle homepage > Student Zone > ASPECT > Going to HE and scroll down to the personal statements section).

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Personal Statement Basics

The personal statement is the most important part of your application. If you are applying for a course that does not require an interview, the admissions team will be making a decision mostly based on your statement. If you are applying for a course that does have an interview, then the admissions team will decide whether to put you through to interview based on the statement, so either way it is really important. But don’t see it as a threat – it’s a great chance for you to let the university know why you are so motivated to study that subject and how you have developed that interest.

The maximum length is 4000 characters including spaces, which is around 500-700 words depending on how long your words are. Make sure you aren’t over the character count as UCAS will cut you off once it reaches 4000. If you’re struggling to keep within the character count, ask ASPECT to take a look and try and cut it down for you. It should be in paragraphs and have a clear introduction and conclusion; it should be written as an essay rather than a letter. 75% of your statement should be about your motivation to study the subject and how you have developed this interest and your relevant skills through college and work experience, and then 25% is about your extra activities.

What goes in the personal statement?

Make sure you keep your statement content really relevant to the subject you are applying for. You should write about your current course and any other courses you have done that are relevant, and mention your work experience. If you have done extra reading around the subject you are applying for or have attended lectures that have added to your interest, the university would love to know how these have inspired you.

Remember not to just explain what you did, but also make it clear to the university what knowledge and skills you have gained from each experience. Which modules on your course have been really good preparation for the degree you’re applying for? Did you get so inspired by a lesson you then researched into the subject in your own time? How have you developed your teamwork and leadership skills in your part time job? Really let the university know how these experiences have prepared you for university study.

Using the ABC Method will help you check that you are expanding enough on the points you are making.

A – Activity (e.g. module on your course, work experience, Duke Edinburgh award)
B – Benefit (e.g. the skills or knowledge you gained from the experience)
C – Course (e.g. how has this prepared you for the degree you’re applying for?)

C is the really important part for the university, so make sure you always relate back to the degree you’re applying for.

Top Tips

Here are some top tips for writing your personal statement that will hopefully help refine your statement:

Write a plan first – do a mind map with different sections for each paragraph and then use the ABC method to expand your points
Read examples, but don’t copy – there are loads of example personal statement on the internet which can be great for ideas, but don’t copy as UCAS have a plagiarism filter
Use the documents on Moodle to help you – there are guides and presentations on Moodle to help you with your statement so make sure you are making the most of them
You don’t need to write it in order – if you’re struggling with the introduction write another paragraph first and come back to the introduction later
Be specific – rather than listing every single thing you’ve done, it’s more important to let the university know what skills and knowledge you have gained from your experience
Be positive – the universities want to know you are passionate about the subject you’re applying for, so use positive words and show how much you love this subject!
Ask for help if you’re struggling – remember that the ASPECT team are here to help

How to get more help…

The ASPECT team available to give you more help if you need – they’re based at each campus at the following times, though you can always arrange an individual appointment with us on a different day:

G16 at Knightstone Campus – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
C03 at University Campus – Thursday
CECE Library/NSETC at South West Skills Campus – Wednesday