The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) works as a centralized agency where a candidate makes applications for multiple courses at different universities in the UK. Students planning to study for an undergraduate degree in the UK must apply through UCAS – including home students and international students. An essential enclosure of the UCAS application is your “Personal Statement”. In this article, we are going to discuss how you should write your UCAS Personal Statement for undergraduate courses.
The universities in the UK get students from different countries for the reputation that they have built over a while. So, every course gets more applicants seeking admission than the number of seats available. It is, therefore, extremely important that your application must stand out of the crowd to get a fair chance of selection.
Why is the UCAS Personal Statement Important in Undergraduate Applications?
A personal statement offers you an opportunity to talk about yourself and your passions, outside of your academic performance. It gives you a chance to get noticed for the unique talents and experiences you have. The idea behind this is that the admissions officer (often referred to as an admissions tutor) finds reason to read your personal statement more than once.
Writing your personal statement should be taken as a project and like every project you need to put in place a plan. Think thoroughly about two things when you are planning to write your personal statement.
The first one is the practical and factual information you need to get across and the second is the emotional human part of you that makes you different from everyone else. Before you set out to write, note down the key things you would want the admissions tutor to know about you.
Do not spend too much time to make the notes syntactically perfect – this is more about making sure you know why you should be offered a place. However, once you have created your first draft, do not forget to check & correct erroneous spelling and grammar. Read the course description on the university’s official website. This will help you with what to include and give you a good idea of what each university is looking for.
How to Get Started with the UCAS Personal Statement
Here are a few questions, answering them will get you started in writing your personal statement –
- Is the course you have chosen in continuation of your present study?
- What excites you about the subjects you would study in the course?
- Do you have any professional/relevant experience that would support your choice of course?
- What life experiences do you have that you can talk about?
- What are your achievements in life that you are proud of?
- What skills do you possess that make you fit for the course?
- How does the course align with your career goal(s)?
How to Structure the UCAS Personal Statement
The opening paragraph is extremely important. Admissions tutors will be reading many personal statements so it’s important to grab their attention right from the start.
In your opening paragraph, consider showing your enthusiasm for the subjects, showcase your knowledge and understanding, and share your ambitions of what you want to achieve. Avoid aphorisms, remember this is intended to introduce yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. Just keep it relevant, simple, and concise. Avoid long-winded explanations that may often become confusing to the reader.
Keep the Word Count in Mind
Be mindful of the size limitation which is 4,000 characters, which is about two sides of an A4 page. So, you will need to choose words wisely to fit everything in. In theory, you could use up to 4,000 characters – but you’re probably more likely to be limited by the line count. That’s because it’s a good idea to put line breaks in between your paragraphs (to make it more readable) and you only get a maximum of 47 lines. With this in mind, 3,500 characters is a more realistic limit.
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Demonstrate Your Personality and Skills
A combination of your personal and practical skills will create a unique picture of who you are and why you’ll be a successful student, so definitely include both. This will provide an answer to ‘Why you are applying?’. Likewise, prove your enthusiasm for your current study and take the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and knowledge now and how you want to build on that. To explain why you are interested in the course, talk about your hobbies and volunteering experiences related to the subject.
Universities like to know the abilities you have that’ll help you on the course, or generally with life at university. So, provide an insight into your skills, including the position of responsibility you hold or have held, both in and out of school.
Remember, to include evidence or be able to provide one if called for all your claims. Give them one more little insight into your ideas, interests, or skills, or be specific about something you want to achieve from the course or your wider university experience. While you are writing, be prepared to note down any thoughts straightaway that comes to you. Later on, you can revisit and include it in an appropriate place.
Conclude your UCAS Personal Statement with Career Goals
A key academic skill at the degree level is being able to form a structured written argument, including a conclusion that summarizes the key points. There is no set way to end your statement. Some guidance on this would be to tie it back to what you have written earlier. That is, revisit the key points you’ve already spoken about in the main body of your personal statement and emphasize them again in your conclusion.
Do talk about the future. Looking to the future is an optimistic way to finish. It shows you are goal-oriented, and you’ve carefully thought about how this course fits into your plans. Finally, talk about how you will be an asset to a university.
Another important point to remember is that all of your UCAS choices will see your personal statement, so it may be best to keep it general, rather than being specific about one university.
UCAS Personal Statement vs Common App Essay
- When you apply to UK universities, you’re applying to one particular degree program, which you’ll study for all, or almost all, your time at university. In the US, you might be applying to different colleges for different majors. You might have an undecided major.
- Your UCAS personal statement should focus less on cool/fun/quirky aspects of yourself and more on how you’ve prepared for your particular area of study. In the Common App essay, you should equally talk about yourself.
- The UCAS Personal Statement will be read by someone looking for proof that you are academically capable of studying that subject for your entire degree. In some cases, it might be an actual professor reading your essay. In US college applications, essays are, more often than not, read by admission officers.
- You’ll only write one personal statement, which will be sent to all the universities you’re applying to, and it’s unlikely you’ll be sending any additional (supplemental) essays. Your essay needs to explain why you enjoy and are good at this subject, without reference to any particular university or type of university.
- Any extracurricular activities that are NOT connected to the subject you’re applying for are mostly irrelevant, unless they illustrate relevant points about your study skills or attributes: for example, having a job outside of school shows time-management and people skills, or leading a sports team shows leadership and responsibility.
- Your personal statement will mostly focus on what you’ve done at high school, in class, and often in preparation for external exams. 80-90% of the content will be academic in nature.