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What are Personal Statements?

What are Personal Statements?

What are Personal Statements?

The personal statement that your teachers, friends and tutors are referring to is the UCAS personal statement that is part of your university application process, and your personal statement writing process is the same. The personal statement is a 47 line – or 4000 character – piece of writing that you write yourself and is similar to a covering letter. A personal statement is like an essay which allows students to tell universities and higher education colleges about themselves, their ambitions and why that institution should offer you a place on their course.

A good personal statement will convey your passions, determination and enthusiasm that you hold for a subject and show universities, why you want to study, are their university. Although the personal statement is similar to an essay and/or covering letter (Which is not too dissimilar for when you would have written one for when you were getting a job during GCSEs), it is specifically for university applications through UCAS. However, students who are applying independently through the university, or as a mature student, or on a part-time course (any time not through the UCAS system) may still need to write a personal statement as per requirement from that university.

During our personal statement advice sections, the term; Personal Statement; is referring to applicants contacting UK higher education institutions. Application standards in countries outside the UK may differ.

Who writes a Personal Statement?

The personal statement is titled that solely due to the fact it is a piece of writing curated and submitted by yourself. Prospective candidates will need to write the text themselves, and although can seek help from people for a personal statement; such as teachers, tutors and their families and friends should write the entire piece themselves.

Universities want to see your style of writing and to hear your voice through your words. It is easy to tell if somebody else wrote all or part of your statement. Institutions will see this as a negative mark against your application if they don’t believe you wrote it yourself.

What are Personal Statements - UCAS picture

What does my personal statement have to be like?

The majority of personal statements follow a similar structure (see below), but not every single one has to be identical, as you can see from our personal statement examples, here on University Compare. The most important point about your statement is that each one is unique and personal, just like you are. Not all students are the same, and universities love that about their student body, so they want your statement to be different too.

There is no strict checklist to follow when it comes to planning or writing your statement, although there are some things students should and shouldn’t include. However, these are just guidelines to help you show off how amazing you are as a person. They also will include tips on how to write about subjects that are necessary and relevant. The worse thing a candidate could do is to write about events that are irrelevant or pointless, and this will almost certainly be one of the top three things that you should never include in a personal statement.

Should I use a template to write my personal statement?

There may be tools and templates available on the internet; however, you should avoid using them if you can. Thousands of other students may also have had the ‘bright’ idea like you did and use the same one! This would take all the unique qualities out of your personal statement completely – which is what we are trying to avoid. If you ensure you talk about the right things, then there isn’t anything to worry about.

How is a personal statement structured?

A personal statement will be similar to writing an essay, and as you will be applying after GCSEs, BTECs and A-Levels you should feel confident in writing in this style. However, it does not need a title, a cover sheet or an introduction. Although you have 4000 characters, and that may seem like a lot, you will find it hard to fit all of it into that limit.

Students should write in paragraphs, with each paragraph concerning one subject or topic. The personal statement should be grammatically and factually correct, as well as checked thoroughly for spelling errors. The font should be generic and easy-to-read, such as Times New Roman or Arial. Font size shouldn’t be smaller than 8pt or larger than 14pt. There should be no pictures, fancy borders or colours in your statement – it should only feature text. All of these points above show that you understand how to write formally and sensibly and that is one of the things you might read when you see how to write a personal statement.

Students should begin their personal statement with a strong paragraph of either why they want to study that course, subject or why they are interested in either of them. This will set up the rest of the statement perfectly. If you find yourself struggling, you can look up some personal statement intro examples

There are several things to think about when writing your personal statement:

  • Why do you want to study that course?
  • Why do you want to study that subject?
  • Have you studied that subject before (or similar)?
  • Why are you suitable for this subject/course?
  • What skills or past experiences are related to this subject?
  • Do you have any past achievements or skills?
  • Do you have any work experience?
  • What are your hobbies and interests?

These eight areas are great talking points for a personal statement. But you don’t have to write them in this exact order or write about all of them. As long as you feel you covered most areas and that you discuss relevant topics, then there is no need to worry. Avoid writing about something that isn’t that relevant, or for the sake of putting it in!

How many personal statements do I need to write?

Students only write one personal statement when applying via UCAS. Therefore students shouldn’t mention specific course titles or universities unless they are only applying to one university. If a student applies to four universities, then they should talk about the brief subject area. For example, if an individual is hoping to study Art History, but has chosen varying degree courses at three different universities, then they should discuss Art History as a whole. Writing about the Engineering degree course at the University of Sheffield will only dissuade the other two universities which were not mentioned. So make sure that you’re general when referring to subject degree courses

It may seem difficult at first to try to address one statement to four different institutions. However, it is most likely the case that you applied for similar courses at different universities and can use the same subject within the statement. You can still write about how passionate you are about Art History – and mention an interest in Gallery Management if you wish – without needing to be specific.

What are Personal Statements - Another UCAS picture

Where should I write my personal statement?

This depends on where you feel most comfortable and where you can concentrate fully. Your personal statement is an important piece of writing for your university application(s), and you should dedicate enough time to it. Some students may prefer to write it by hand, or at their school or college library. While others may like to write down bullet points while relaxing in the evening. It doesn’t matter where or when you plan and write your statement, as long as you give yourself enough time to write it, check it over, edit it several times, and all before the deadline.

Furthermore, a helpful tip is to write your personal statement in a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, or a text application on a computer or laptop. Somewhere you can save it multiple times as you are writing it, and be able to send it to yourself, either through email or a personal account. You could also print out a hard copy to read it via a different format – sometimes it helps with the editing! After you feel satisfied with your statement, then you can upload it onto your online application through UCAS. The reason we suggested writing and editing away from UCAS is because the web page logs out after an allotted time. Meaning your progress could be lost if you forget to save, or leave your computer for a long period of time.

Does the personal statement have a word count?

There is no specific word count to the UCAS personal statement. However, there is a 47 line and 4000 character count. A line count refers to the number of lines of text the writing has, meaning they all will be roughly the same length to look at. The character limit means a number of characters entered into the statement, including spaces, punctuation, numbers and letters.

Can I write my personal statement in an alternative language to English?

UK, EU or international students are not able to write their personal statements in any other language than English, apart from students who are applying for a Welsh course where their entire application can be in Welsh. If a student wishes to write their application in Welsh, they will need to register in Welsh at the beginning of the application process. Obviously if you are going to Europe, you need European Health Insurance

How do I register my UCAS application in Welsh?

To register in Welsh, students can select ‘Cymraeg’ under the application service section where it states ‘Apply’ on the UCAS website. Once they are logged into their UCAS application, candidates can change the language to either English or Welsh (if they wish to change the language from Welsh to English) on the ‘Options’ page. Also, the help and guidance text in Apply is available in Welsh. Students may also choose to receive correspondence from institutions, course providers and UCAS in Welsh.

Can I use European characters in my personal statement?

Students are able to use European characters in their personal statements, although, when submitted in English online, the characters may be altered or changed through translation. If you are able to use the English character, try to do so first.

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