Personal Statements

One of the key distinguishing features within the application process is the personal statement.

Writing your UCAS Personal Statement

Writing a personal statement is probably the most difficult part of the UCAS application. You may find it difficult, if not embarrassing to “sell” yourself but this is what you need to do in 47 lines maximum including blank lines. You should have a pretty good idea of what course you want to study before embarking on writing your personal statement.

What is the aim of the Personal Statement?

Many universities don’t interview applicants, so the only information they have about you is your UCAS form. Admission tutors will look at 1) your academic qualifications and results / predictions; 2) your personal statement; 3) the academic reference. If you are applying to an oversubscribed university course, and everyone applying is likely to have good grades, the personal statement is the only thing that tells you apart from other applicants, so you want to try and make yours as good and personal as possible.

You must remember that university admission tutors are busy members of the university academic staff, with many other commitments. They tend to read UCAS forms in batches when they have the time. They soon suffer from personal statement fatigue as they read hundreds of them. Make things easy for them:

1)       Get your application in early: this is a sign of real motivation and good organisational skills.

2)      Make your statement easy to read, interesting and concise.

What are Admission Tutors Looking for?

  1. Students who are academically suited to their course: meeting the entry requirements is essential. Make sure you check individual universities’ general and department specific requirements. For some very oversubscribed courses, your predicted grades as well as SQA results are your first hurdle.
  2. Students who have researched the subject and show that it is realistic for him/her
  3. Students who display strong motivation and commitment to studying the chosen subject at university; who devote and will continue to devote time and effort on their studies. For certain vocational subjects (medicine and related courses, veterinary science, teaching etc…) relevant experience will be absolutely essential.

What makes a Good Personal Statement?

  1. A good personal statement is clear, waffle-free, interesting and devoid of spelling mistakes, bad punctuation and poor grammar.
  2. Paragraphing is essential. Therefore your statement must be fairly concise.
  3. It should give convincing reasons for your choice of course and show that serious research has been undertaken into the subject, especially if it is new to you.
  4. It should convey a genuine liking for studying (extra-curricular reading linked to your chosen subject; attendance at taster courses; conferences, talks outside of what the school has to offer), evidence of a mature attitude (position(s) of responsibilities at or outside of school) and a rounded personality (hobbies – please do not make them up!!!).

What you should do in your Personal Statement:

  1. Be concise but put across your genuine interest for your chosen course.
  2. Show evidence of extra- curricular (outside of the Higher and Advanced Higher Course content) reading
  3. Use the “so what?” approach: what is the point of what you are saying?
  4. Avoid repetition and stating the obvious. Paragraphs which say nothing interesting and substantial are a no-no: Edit! Edit! Edit!
  5. Paragraph your work.

For any academic course, the bulk of the personal statement (3/4 of your statement) must be academic: on your interest for the chosen subject and evidence of this interest in an academic way (extra-curricular reading; capacity for independent thought and analysis etc…) Only 1/4 of your statement should be about your hobbies and outside interests.

What you must not do in your Personal Statement:

  1. Plagiarise an existing statement in part or in full: this may lead to your application being withdrawn by UCAS.
  2. Use gimmicks such as jokes: jokes are a bad idea.
  3. Ramble on and on and repeat what you have already said, only in a different way: get to the point!
  4. Use a quote without a clear purpose.

Structure of your Personal Statement

  1. Your personal statement is written in an essay format, in paragraph form.
  2. It must be a maximum of 47 lines long on the UCAS online application section. It must be typed in Times New Roman, font size12. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. This must be perfect so don’t rely on the computer spellcheck only.
  3. Keep a copy of your personal statement to take with you if you are called for an interview. Always word-process your statement, have it checked by your Pastoral teacher  before putting it on the UCAS system.

There is not one correct structure for your Personal Statement but the content must be logically organised in clear paragraphs.

Spend most of your time on the start of the personal statement. A good start will interest the admission tutor and cause him/her to read the statement properly rather than just scanning it.

To help you develop your own personal statement the following websites contain examples.

They are only a guide and not to be copied as UCAS scan all personal statements with the ones they have previously received. (This includes big brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.)

Below is a possible format to help you develop your personal statement.

  • Paragraph 1:

Introduction to the subject, the aspects you’re interested in and why you want to study the course you are applying for.

  • Paragraph 2:

Work experience/ Shadowing placements as well as additional activities you have undertaken like attended lectures, read articles, spoken with professional in the field.

  • Paragraphs 3 and 4:

What you have done related to the subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form. This could include project and coursework completed in the higher and advanced highers. It could also include relevant activities at school.

  • Paragraph 5:

Your interests outside of school, particularly those that show you are a responsible and reliable person able to work well as part of a team as well as independently.

  • Paragraph 6:

Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment

All personal statements should be word processed to allow you to edit easily. It will also allow an easy transfer on to your UCAS form as you have a window of 35 minutes to do so.

When you have completed your Personal Statement ask a  family member to read through it, double checking spelling and grammar and once you are happy you should show a copy to your Pastoral teacher to see where any further improvements could be made.

Further Information

The Sutton Trust

The Sutton Trust:  Making a Statement

The Sutton Trust:  Better Statements

The Guardian:  How to write your Personal Statement