How To Write a Personal Statement (for UCAS)

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What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a statement about YOU.

The UCAS personal statement is a 47 line (or 4000 character) piece of writing that allows you to tell the universities and colleges you are applying to why they should offer you a place on the course.

In order to do this successfully, you need to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject to the admissions tutors, as well as demonstrate your suitability to the course.

NB: A program is what you intend to study such as Software Engineering and a course is a module of the program such as database management 101.
Aims of the personal statement
Many universities don't interview applicants, so the only information they have about you is on your UCAS form.

A majority of the UCAS form contains your details - the bits the universities are interested in are your grades, your references and your personal statement.

The personal statement is the only part you really have full control over, so this is your chance to present a good image to the admissions tutor, even if your grades don't really seem to reflect this.

If you are applying to an oversubscribed university course, e.g. Physiotherapy, Medicine, etc. and everyone applying is likely to have good grades, the personal statement is the only thing that will set you apart from other applicants, so you want to try and make yours as good as possible.

When the admissions and subject tutors look at your personal statement, they are likely to be asking two main questions:

1. Do we want this student on this course?

2. Do we want this student at this university?

These questions can then be broken up further to make it easier to answer them thoroughly:

  • Is the student suited to the course that they are applying for?
  • Does the student have the necessary qualifications and qualities for the course?
  • Is the student conscientious, hardworking and unlikely to drop out?
  • Will the student do their best and cope with the demands of the course?
  • Can the student work under pressure?
  • Will the student be able to adjust to their new environment at university?
  • What are their communication skills like?
  • Are they dedicated to this course and have they researched it well?
  • Do they have a genuine interest in the subject and a desire to learn more about it?

These are the sorts of questions you need to answer in your personal statement.

Unfortunately you cannot answer them directly with a simple 'yes' or 'no' -  you need to provide evidence and make it sound believable.

Ultimately, admissions tutors are human too, and may well have hundreds of personal statements to sift through, so even if you think you've answered all these questions really well you may still be unlucky.

There are other techniques you can use to make your statement stand out and appeal to admissions tutors, but remember people are all different and therefore may have different ideas about what they look for in a prospective student.
WRITING GUIDELINES
1) UCAS advice on how to write
Where to start

  • Plan and Research about the program you want to study at the university or college.
  • Ask yourself questions on the course such as:
  1. What skills do you have that are related to the modules/courses of the program you intend applying?
  2. Why are you applying?  
    • Why that subject interests you?
    • why you want to study at higher education level?
    • What your ambitions are when you finish your course?
  3. What makes you suitable?
    • Skills, knowledge, achievements and experience you have that will help you do well
    • These could be from education, employment or work experience, or from hobbies, interests and social activities
  4. Which of your skills and experiences are most relevant?
    • Check course listings to see what level of understanding you need to have and what qualifications or skills they're looking for.
    • This way you can link your experiences to the skills and qualities they mention, and you can put them into a structure that's most relevant to the course providers

How to write it
The UCAS website pointed out that "There's no right answer for how to write it, or any definite formula you should follow" – just take your time and don't worry if it doesn't sound right on your first attempt. Even the best writers in the world redraft their work!

1. Structure

  • In the course listings see which skills and qualities the universities or colleges value most.
  • Then structure your info into an order that's most relevant to them.

2. Style

  • Write in English (or Welsh if you're only applying to Welsh providers), and avoid italics, bold or underlining.
  • Use an enthusiastic and concise tone of voice – nothing too complex – just what comes naturally.
  • Be careful with humour, quotes or anything unusual – you do want to be individual, but if the admissions tutor doesn't have the same sense of humour as you, it might not work.
  • Get the grammar, spelling and punctuation right, and redraft your statement until you're happy with it.
  • Proofread and read it aloud to hear what it sounds like. Ask advisers/family members to check it too.

3. Format

  • You can use up to 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text (including spaces and blank lines).
  • We recommend you write your statement first and then copy and paste into your online application (but watch out for the character and line count – the processor might get different values because it doesn't count tabs or paragraphs).
  • When you add to your online application click 'save' regularly because it will time out after 35 minutes of inactivity.

4. Don't copy!

  • Don’t copy anyone else's personal statement or from personal statements posted on the internet. Make sure your personal statement is all your own work.
  • We screen all personal statements across our Copycatch similarity detection system. If you are found to have similarity in your personal statement, your application will be flagged, you, together with your choices will receive an email alert and this could have serious consequences for your application.

REFERENCE: UCAS WEBSITE LINK
2) Creating Notes about Yourself
Now you have some idea of why you're writing a personal statement, you need to think about what you're going to put in it. At this stage, you need not worry about the structure of your statement.

Below are some questions that can help create notes about yourself.
What you want to study at university and why

  • Specific aspects of the courses that interest you
  • Examples of coursework you have completed
  • Practical work you have enjoyed
  • Books, articles, etc. you have read related to the subject area
  • Work experience or voluntary work in this area
  • Conferences you have attended
  • Personal experiences that lead to the decision to take this subject
  • Where you hope a degree in this subject will take you in the future
  • Experiences that show you are a reliable and responsible person
  • Part-time job
  • Business enterprise
  • Community and charity work
  • Sixth form committee
  • Helping out at school events and open days
  • Young Enterprise, World Challenge, Duke of Edinburgh award, Asdan Award, Debating societies, and what you have gained from these experiences.

Your interests and skills

  • What you like to do in your free time
  • Sport and leisure activities
  • Subjects you study that are not examined
  • Musical instrument(s) you play
  • Languages you speak
  • Prizes you have won or positions achieved in your interests

Gap year (if applicable)

  • Why you want to take a Gap year
  • What you plan to do
  • How this may relate to your course

N.B: Endeavour not to lie about yourself. If you're choosing this course just because you can't think of anything better to do, that's not a good enough reason, and maybe you should consider looking for a course you would enjoy more.
3) Structure of your personal statement
Now it's time to think about the structure of your personal statement - you should have read lots of examples by now and may have a fair idea about how yours is going to look, but this section should clarify things a bit if you don't.

Most statements are written in an essay format, but you don't have to do yours like this.

We don't recommend you write it as one large block of text. Even though you can fit more words in, this just makes it hard to read.

You could however use headings rather than write in an essay style. Not many personal statements are written like this but if you think yours would work better like this, then go ahead.

A starting guideline is to simply spend half the statement talking about the course and why you want to take it, and spend the other half writing about yourself and your own abilities, though once you get into it this can be easily changed.

Another approach is to split up your notes into a few categories and write a paragraph on each category. For example:

  • Paragraph 1: Introduction to the subject, the aspects you’re interested in and why
  • Paragraph 2: What you have done related to the subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form
  • Paragraphs 3 and 4: Work experience placements and relevant activities at school
  • Paragraph 5: Your interests outside of school, particularly those that show you are a responsible and reliable person
  • Paragraph 6: Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment

Again, this is only a guideline - depending on yourself and your course you may want to change things.

REFERENCE: Studential

 
EXAMPLE PERSONAL STATEMENT
1) Computer Science personal statement

From an early age I’ve always been deeply interested in computing. It was my dad, introducing me to the computer systems at his work place that first sparked this interest. I can always remember the feeling of wanting to know just how computers worked, why they worked and what else they could do.

This interest never left me, only growing more profound and passionate with every new discovery I made. From communicating with an artificial intelligence to seeing the wonders of the Internet for the first time, computers have left me fascinated with just how much power yet mystery they hold.

The A-Levels I chose to study have all helped me to develop both myself and my understanding of the subject. Physics for example has helped me to understand how certain parts of a computer function, while Computing has given me a greater insight into the business aspects of the computer industry.
Chemistry and Physics have both helped to improve my analytical and evaluative skills. Within maths I have been lucky enough to have a teacher who was very interested in computer science. He has been especially helpful, lending me books such as Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. This has given me an insight into the richness that is computer science.

My interest in computing has not been restricted to the classroom and college life. Within the last twelve months I’ve used the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past twelve years together with the help of my family to set up my own computer related business. This has given me a totally new perspective on how certain things function, and how business operates. The writing of a business plan was a totally alien experience for me, but over the course of 9 months I researched and planned, and finally when the plan was complete I was rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that I had completed something that most people would never have the chance to do especially at my age.
Through the setting up of the company and its subsequent running I have learnt many things. These include how to balance tasks effectively, how critical teamwork can be and how to delegate tasks to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

As well as spending time both studying and helping to run the business I understand the importance of having time to relax. One of my hobbies that I try to make time for is learning to fly, and gaining my private pilots license. As a child I dreamed of becoming a pilot and luckily its one dream that I’ve managed to follow. I love the freedom that flying gives you and the control that you have when in the air. Training for my private pilots license (PPL) has also involved me taking onboard a lot of responsibility for the safety of those onboard, and those around the aircraft. From ensuring that I carry out the pre-flight checks correctly, and knowing what’s around you both while you’re on the ground and in the air to ensuring that I’m prepared for any eventuality.
I also enjoy both playing and watching tennis. I’ve played in various competitions before, and have helped to umpire junior matches at my club. To ensure that I can fit everything in I’ve had to develop very good time management, prioritising what I need to do efficiently.

I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the challenges that studying for a degree in computer science will bring.

Profile info
This personal statement was written by Soulfish.

Soulfish's university choices
Cambridge University
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Nottingham
University of Southampton
The University of Warwick
The University of York

Green: offer made
Red: no offer made

Degree
Computer Science at The University of York
2) Computer Science Personal Statement

A career in Computing- this has been my dream ever since I came into meaningful contact with this latest tool that science has put into man's hands. The steady use of computers at my home and my ever-growing awareness of their use in office, business, the media, the entertainment industry and the worldwide communication through satellite and internet, has made me decide to choose a career which would involve the widespread use of computers

Consequently, I chose as subjects Maths, Business Studies, and Design& Technology for both my AS and A2 levels. Maths has taught me the rigorous reasoning involved in logical thinking of which the computer is the perfect mechanized model! Business Studies acquaints me with the complexities of modern business and commercial practice in which computers are being most fruitfully employed at present. Design & Technology has greatly enabled me to acquire the necessary insights into the designing of technological aids without whose aid modern sophisticated life would be practically impossible. It has also given me ample opportunities for turning my practical talents to creative use. The insight and experience gained in these diverse yet related fields of study, I am sure, are going to help me enormously in my progress with my higher education in Computer Science

I am a steady cricket fan, very keen in watching matches wherever and whenever played and consider myself rather a good player. Books and reading and using the computer take up most of my leisure-time at home. As a Senior Prefect of my school I have many opportunities for social interaction, and my experience with school discipline has taught me much about life's responsibilities

I earnestly look forward, then, to a promising career in the computer-field and hope my studies at university will be productive both to me and to the large community of which I am a part.
Credit: The Student Room Wiki

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