Personal Statement

Personal Statement FAQs

Ben Maples  · Sep 6th 2023  · 11 min

Your questions: answered! Writing a personal statement for the first time can be a confusing process. Here we answer common questions you may have throughout preparing, writing and submitting your personal statement.


What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay written by a student applying to a university. All universities will require them as part of a student's UCAS application.

A personal statement is generally a short description of the student and their interests. It will also detail their interest in the subject they are applying for.

University personal statement FAQs

When should I start writing my personal statement?

You can start writing your personal statement whenever you want. You'd be surprised how quickly deadlines, especially UCAS ones, can roll around.

It is also worth remembering when certain applications need to be in. For example, those applying to ‘Oxbridge' (a portmanteau of the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford), your application needs to be in by the 15th of October. Equally, those applying for specific degrees such as medicine courses, veterinary medicine courses, veterinary science courses and dentistry courses.

How long should a personal statement be?

A personal statement can be no more than 4,000 characters. This is generally between 570 and 1,000 words.

Your statement can only be 47 lines long. Your statement will only be accepted if it is within the character count set forward by UCAS.

Is a personal statement 4000 characters or 47 lines?

It's basically what you hit first. Remember that the 4000 characters includes spaces, so it's important to write coherent, concise sentences to make the most of the character count and use your 47 lines effectively.

What makes a good personal statement?

To know how to write a great personal statement, you should be aiming to show a good understanding of the course. It should also show your personality and aim to stand out from all the other applicants. This doesn't need to be anything outrageous but show them who you are and why you feel you'll be a good fit for the course and the university.

A good personal statement starts with a solid plan. Sit down, and map out how you're going to structure your personal statement and what you'll include.

What if I don't have anything to write about?

When you're thinking about what to include in your personal statement, split this up into areas:

  • A bit about yourself
  • Your interest in the subject
  • Your studies
  • Your achievements.

Think about clubs you've been a part of. Maybe you joined the school council or did some volunteer work – these are all examples that can be used in your personal statement. If you're struggling, chat to your tutors, parents or guardians or even your friends!

UCAS personal statement FAQs

I really don't like writing about myself, how do I do it in my personal statement?

We've all been there. It can feel so wrong to try and big yourself up like this. It's not arrogant to tell people how great you are! If you're struggling, think of it as though you're writing it for a friend, it'll make it feel a little less awkward.

What is an example of a strong personal statement?

We have tons of personal statement examples of past applicants to give you some examples of those who secured a place at different universities. You can look at personal statements from psychology applicants, law students and more.

What is a good opening for a personal statement?

A great way to structure the opening on your personal statement is to start with why it is you're applying to the course that you are. Try to avoid clichés like "Since I was young…" and "It's always been my dream…" and don't use quotes. Be original and draw on your personal experiences and express your passion for the topic.

Can you submit two personal statements on UCAS?

It depends on how related the courses are. If you are looking at either English language courses or English literature courses, then your statement probably won't need to change too much, even if they are separate subjects.

However, if the courses are different, we recommend picking just one. You're only permitted to upload one personal statement at a time, and trying to make an application for a business degree sound similar to a forestry degree is going to be near-impossible, no matter how good a writer you are. As part of your application process, you'll make a decision about which subject you'll want to apply for and then cater your personal statement to.

Personal statement FAQs

Should I mention the name of the university I want to apply to in my personal statement?

If you're applying for more than one university, it's best not to. It could prevent your chances of being able to attend the other universities if they see your favouring another.

Your personal statement is more of a "one size fits all" statement. It is part of your UCAS application and is automatically sent to any university you select for your choices, so mentioning a specific university as your desired choice isn't a smart move, even if they are your only choice.

How should I format my personal statement?

There are no formatting options for a personal statement. You can't write the statement in a different colour or with italics, bold or strike-throughs.

Your statement is uploaded digitally. You cannot hand your personal statement in in-person.

What tips do you have for writing personal statements?

You can also see our advice on how to write an outstanding personal statement. Here are a couple more tips for you to bear in mind:

  • Be confident in your abilities: Don't be afraid to include your accomplishments from in and out of school. Tell the admissions committee how these achievements have shaped you and what skills they've helped you develop. For example, leadership, teamwork, written and verbal communication.
  • Cut the ramble: Trying to write and edit your personal statement with the rule that every new sentence should have a different point from those previously. This is a good way to keep you writing concisely.
  • Always relate what you're saying back to how to your application:If you're talking about your studies, highlight how this will be useful for your studies. With your achievements, highlight the skills it developed. For your goals for the future, share how the course will help you achieve these goals.

Can I use ChatGPT for my personal statement?

You cannot use ChatGPT or generative artificial intelligence to write your personal sattement. It may seem tempting to ask ChatGPT, "Write me a personal statement", but UCAS and universities know when you've used it.

That isn't to say that ChatGPT and other AI bots can't be helpful. You can use them as grammar checkers or as a means of clarifying points, or to give you ideas, but it cannot write it for you. UCAS is starting to take out its own AI-detection bot to find out whether or not a statement was written with AI, so probably best not to risk it.

Is UCAS getting rid of personal statements?

Personal statements are changing. Under the new changes, students must now answer questions in six key areas.

These changes will be introduced in 2024 for 2025 applicants. So you will have plenty of time to prepare for the changes.

The areas of questions will be:

  • Motivation for course
  • Preparedness for course
  • Preparation through other experiences
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Preparedness for study
  • Preferred learning styles
  • All of these areas may change depending on user feedback.

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