Personal statements are set to become a thing of the past. The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has introduced a new process for university applications from 2025, meaning that the process will change in 2024 ready for 2025 entrants.
Personal statements have always been an essential part of the university application process. However, UCAS has decided to scrap personal statements in their traditional form. They will now be replaced by a new three-question structure.
If you are preparing to apply for university right now, then you don’t need to worry too much. This new structure isn’t coming into play until 2025, when students are applying for 2026 entry.
What is the new application process?
The new application process differs from the original university application process. Initially, university students were required to write a personal statement, which would be uploaded to UCAS Hub. Universities would then read the personal statement as part of your original university application and make their offers from there.
Under the new process, it will work differently. Under the new university admissions policy, you will no longer be required to write a detailed personal statement but will need to answer questions related to three key areas.
Current key themes are:
- Motivation for course: Why do you want to study the course?
- Preparedness for course: How has your learning thus far helped you to be prepared for your course?
- Preparation through other experiences: What else have you done to help yourself prepare? How and why are these experiences so useful?
- Extenuating circumstances: Is there anything the university needs to know about you? (optional)
- Preparedness for study: What have you done to prepare yourself for student life?
- Preferred learning styles: Which learning and assessment styles suit you best?
These questions allow students to present themselves in their own words but with more structure. Teacher references will also change, allowing for more objective comments.
Depending on user feedback, these questions may change in the future.
Following extensive consultation, UCAS scrapped the latter three. This is because UCAS discovered that the themes would be too difficult to universities that have different teaching and assessment styles. The extenuating circumstances question will have a different section to be answered, but not everyone will need to answer it.
When does this new process start?
This new process will be introduced in 2025 and take effect for 2026 applicants. Those applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still need to write a personal statement for their application in the current format.
This means the new process will be coming in after January 2025 (October 2024, if you are applying to Oxbridge).
A personalised tool will also launch later this year. This tool will provide applicants with entry-grade reports that will give students a range of the profiles accepted onto similar courses over a five-year period, using UCAS data.
Why is the process changing?
UCAS has decided to change the university application process based on student feedback. This process will now offer greater support for applicants from different academic backgrounds.
UCAS has recently published their own report on current applications, called the Future of Undergraduate Admissions report. This research discovered that, out of 13,000 polled students, as many as 83% found writing a personal statement to be too stressful, while a further 79% found the statement too difficult to write without appropriate support.
Personal statements were not unpopular, however. 72% of students found that personal statements were essential parts of the university application process. Personal statements allowed students to stand out as more than just application numbers and their grades. However, the question format s will allow students to continue to stand out from other applicants.
How are teacher references changing?
Teacher references are changing to allow teachers to make more objective comments regarding students. Students can pick current or former academic referees, such as teachers, tutors or head teachers; these referees will then write a full reference to their career goals, work experience and predicted grades.
This process is set to change slightly for 2026 applicants. Under the new system, the referee will instead answer three structured questions. In these questions, teachers will include a general statement about the student’s school or college, any extenuating circumstances that could affect the student’s exam performances and any other circumstances the teacher feels the university should be aware of.