Your UCAS personal statement is your chance to show universities why you deserve a place on their course. It’s also your opportunity to stand out against other candidates with similar grades. We’ve put together this list of things to avoid when writing your personal statement, to help you get a place on the course you really want.
Don’t use quotes
The clue is in the title; the personal statement should be all about you. A quote doesn’t give you the chance to show why you should be given a place on the course and can use up a significant proportion of your 4,000 characters.
"Don’t mention particular university names in your personal statement. Make us believe we are your top choice"
Don’t use clichés
Hundreds of personal statements include lines like ‘since I was a child’ and ‘I’ve always been fascinated by’. If there was a particular event or moment in time which sparked your interest for your subject, talk about that instead. Make sure you mention concrete examples, not your wishes and dreams. Not only does it make your personal statement more individual to you, it will also give you something to talk about if you get called to interview.
"Use concrete examples to back up statements and facts"
UCAS will run your personal statement through plagiarism software so don’t be tempted to copy and paste anything off the internet! Never lie about anything on your personal statement - don’t say you’ve read a book when you’ve only read a chapter. If you are invited for an interview, your personal statement will shape the discussion, so don’t get caught out.
"Don’t write anything you’re not prepared to expand on at interview"
Don’t forget your personal interests
The most important part of your personal statement is where you talk about the subject you are applying for and why you want to study it, but your non-academic hobbies and interests come a close second. Admissions tutors want to see what you’re like as a person, so use your hobbies and interests to show examples of your skills. If you’re a member of a sports team you could use this to highlight your team-working and communication skills.
Don’t write a generic statement
For the best chance of being offered a place, you need to tailor your personal statement to the skills and qualities universities are looking for. Look at university prospectuses and websites to see how they describe the course and the way it is taught. Make sure you address these skills and qualities in your personal statement.
When you write your personal statement, you should always use the ‘so what?’ rule. Make sure every point you make clearly explains why you should be given a place on the course, and if it doesn’t, delete it.
"Don’t be modest, say how good you are"
Don’t be afraid to stand out
Admissions tutors are looking for evidence that you have a passion for your subject beyond your A-Level studies. In order to stand out from the hundreds of other applications, you need to think about what you have done, and how this is relevant to the subject you’re applying for. What makes you unique? For example, nearly everyone applying for Economics will probably say they read The Economist and The Financial Times – what do you do that is different?
Don’t over think it
For most people, the hardest parts of writing a personal statement are the opening and closing sentences. You need to make it clear from the beginning why you want to study your chosen course. A good way to do this is by opening with something interesting, unusual or surprising. It can be stressful trying to come up with the perfect opening sentence, but don’t worry about it too much; it will suddenly just hit you.
"Get someone else to check your personal statement, but make sure any changes still reflect you."
Make sure your get someone to check what you’ve written! If our Admissions team could give you one piece of advice, it’s to get someone else to sense check your personal statement. Ask a teacher, your friend or a parent to read it through. Or better still, someone else’s parent who doesn’t know you as well – they might not know what you want to study or your aspirations for the future, but should after reading it.
Other useful resources for successful personal statements
The Student Room personal statement builder
UCAS - writing a personal statement
More university help and advice
Tips for writing a personal statement
A good personal statement can mean the difference between receiving an offer and being unsuccessful. Your personal statement is where you show us that you have what it takes to study on one of our undergraduate courses.
Learn how to:
Your personal statement
A personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your UCAS application to universities. It is used by universities during the admissions process to decide whether you are suitable for the course you are applying for.
You only write one personal statement for the five courses and universities you apply for.
You may want to apply for a variety of different courses - if this is the case, write about common themes relevant to all courses.
Plan your personal statement
It is a good idea to plan out what you want to say before writing your personal statement.
We are looking for evidence of your interest in, enthusiasm for, and understanding of your chosen course.
- why you are interested in the subject
- your ambitions and how taking the course will help you achieve them
- why you are interested in progressing on to higher education.
You must tell us about:
- your reasons for choosing the course (this is the most important part of the statement)
- your skills (and their relevance to your chosen subject)
- wider reading you've undertaken
- work experience (especially where this is relevant to the subject)
- any achievements or prizes you have won during your study or work
- your wider interests and hobbies
- any careers plans you might have.
If you are a mature student you can use your personal statement to talk about your wider experience and the skills and knowledge you have gained; as well as why you are now thinking about returning to education.
Structure your personal statement:
Use a clear structure in your personal statement and make sure each paragraph logically follows on from the one before.
- include an eye-catching and interesting introduction, as well as an engaging middle section and conclusion
- write around 4,000 characters (47 lines). The UCAS application will only accept this number of characters as a maximum
- think carefully about how you end the statement - you want a positive, forward-looking final paragraph.
Write your personal statement:
- be honest and write in your own words - the best statements are always the most genuine
- use clear language and avoid extravagant claims
- show what makes you stand out as a candidate
- be analytical rather than just descriptive - don't just tell us what you've read or what you've done, we want to see what you gained from this, or how it changed your perception of your chosen subject
- reflect on your work experience, especially if you are applying to courses linked to a profession (such as Social Work). We want to see evidence that you've had relevant work experience and how this has given you an insight into that profession
- draw on your other experiences - for example, are you a member of a society, have you won any awards, scholarships or prizes?
- provide evidence of your key skills, including research, critical thinking, communication, organisation, planning and time-management
- highlight any career aspirations you might have and show how the course will help you achieve them
- use accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling
- proofread your statement and ask a friend or relative to read it.
Less is often more in a statement, so focus in detail on a few topics, rather than writing a statement that becomes a long list of things you’ve done.
Remember - what we really want to know is why you've applied for the course, so this should be at the heart of your statement.
Make sure you allow enough time to plan and structure your personal statement carefully, ensuring you include everything you want to say.
If you are invited to interview, go back to your statement so that you can familiarise yourself with the information you have given us.
For more advice, see the UCAS tips for writing a personal statement