Writing a personal statement (UCAS)
University is without a doubt one of the most exciting times of a young person’s life. Three years of partying, studying and total independence are ones that you will remember forever, there’s nothing quite like it. However in order to experience the wonder that is student life, every student must first apply through UCAS. UCAS is the portal by which every university application is made and is relatively straightforward to understand. However, the area that most students struggle with is the dreaded personal statement. Although the mere word sends shivers down the backs of most 18 year olds across the country, it does not have to be a daunting task. If done well it can sometimes make the difference between an offer or rejection regardless of your grades. Take me for example, I was a consistent ‘B’ student all through school with the odd ‘A’ thrown in. Despite this I was very ambitious and I applied to universities that only accepted AAA at A-Level. Despite the fact that I had never been a straight ‘A’ student, I got accepted to all five universities, including some of the best in the country. This wasn’t because of my parents, my postcode, the school that I attended or my grades, it all came down to the fact that I spent time and effort to make a killer personal statement. Luckily for you I am going to tell you exactly how to do it, but before that we must first look at what a personal statement is.
The personal statement is one of the main parts of your application, after the university sees that you are on track to meet the required grades they will then take a look at your statement to assess your personality, hobbies, interests and most importantly ambition. The main piece of advice that I can give you is that with every point that you make ALWAYS RELATE IT BACK TO THE COURSE. But more on this later. For now let’s take a look at the structure. Essentially there are two main aspects to your personal statement:
- Why you are applying?
- Why should the university choose you?
Why are you applying?
Okay! So in the first half of your personal statement you should be convincing the university about why you want to do that course. Therefore you need to talk about your ambitions, the subject itself (Including modules that interest you) and why you want to continue into higher education.
So for example, I wanted to do a law degree. So I explained in my personal statement that I wanted to study law in order to become a solicitor. I told them that I had wanted to go into the legal profession since I was 14 and had maintained the drive to do this ever since. I then mentioned some work experience that I had and used that to show them how ambitious I was. I told them that I had attended court to watch several trials and had also done some work experience at a law firm. Don’t forget that the best way to demonstrate your ambition is through experience and evidence.
I then went on to talk about the course itself. I explained that I had a strong passion for criminal and international law (I also told them that I intended to study Spanish part time at the university to help with this). Again you will notice that I keep offering them evidence of my ambition and interest. Do not forget that you are trying to convince them in 4000 words or less, how committed you are to the course. So make sure you do this and use your experience to back it up.
Why should the university choose you?
Okay so the trick to this part of the statement is to remember that the university is a business, they want to be the best. Therefore they want the best students. Here you need to convince them that you are better than all of the other students applying for your course. So my advice for this section would be to break down exactly what qualities and skills are valuable for your career choice. For example business students would need to be good communicators, have leadership skills and cope well under pressure. I would recommend coming up with three or four of these and then find some experience that you’ve had that demonstrates these skills. For example you could say for coping well under pressure that ‘In my spare time I like to Scuba Dive, due to the potential dangers of this I am required to be able to remain calm and relaxed if I find myself in a stressful situation. This would aid me in my studies as studying for exams and making last minute amendments to coursework can be very intense. Additionally this would also help me in my career as I would often be required to make important business decisions in very short spaces of time.’ The use of hobbies shows that not only do you have the required skills to study and work in this field but also that you are a well-rounded individual as well, which is very important to universities.
So if you only take one piece of advice from this article then let it be this ‘always relate the point you are making back to the course/subject’. Every point that you make should explain how it will help you in your studies, how it will set you apart from other candidates or how it will help you in your career. Additionally get your family, friends and teachers to read the statement and ask them if it shows your ambition. They will also probably pick up on any spelling, grammar and punctuation errors as well.
If you stick to the advice provided in this article you should come out with a statement that is truly personal and genuinely reflects your desire to study. As long as you have the determination to do the course then this will shine through in your application and it will be recognised by the universities. Good Luck and enjoy the process, it only happens once.