As few universities interview prospective candidates, your personal statement is the only chance you have to differentiate yourself from other students.
You do not have to use all the space provided, but probably will! You cannot continue on an extra page. You have 47 lines or 4000 characters and you must use font size 12; this is a UCAS ruling, made because they reduce your form in size to copy it before distribution.
It is vital that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. We will not process forms which contain misleading or inaccurate statements. UCAS scans every personal statement to prevent plagiarism. Draft your statement in a Word document first and use the spell checking facility to correct any errors. It is very important that this document is accurate. Most students write 4-6 drafts before it is good enough to import onto the UCAS form.
Be honest and specific. Try to start with a basic structure of 3 paragraphs.
- Why this subject/course? You need to explain your interest in the subject and give evidenceof this interest. What first caught your attention: a lesson, a topic, a t.v. programme? You may have read a book or article, seen something in the news or heard a radio programme about the subject. Analyse it, say what was interesting about it, what you learned. Try to choose something outside the curriculum to show that you have an interest beyond school. This would be better starting point than ...’I have always wanted to..’. You should also avoid suggesting that you are following in your parents’ footsteps.
Universities want you to demonstrate that you understand what is involved in the course and give evidence supporting why you are suitable for the course. If you have undertaken work shadowing or work experience, what did you learn? If you are applying for a subject not covered by A levels e.g. medicine, physiotherapy, media studies etc., you must demonstrate that you know what is involved in these careers/courses. When making links, avoid saying, ‘I think this shows I have the skills needed...’. This is a judgement for the admissions tutors to make; they can infer qualities from your statement. You can say ‘I enjoyed developing my interpersonal/teamwork/time management skills...’ and leave the admissions tutors to interpret this. The commonest reasons universities quote for rejecting candidates is that they do not emphasise their interest in the course, or show sufficient intellectual curiosity about the subject, so this section must glow!
- What have you learned from your A levels? You must refer to your A levels; why did you choose them? What interests you in particular and how do the subjects link to the course being applied to? What academic skills have you acquired (such as research, use of ICT, teamwork, critical analysis, separating relevant from irrelevant, mathematical) and how will these be useful in the course(s) to which you have applied?
- Extra-curricular interests and achievements outside the classroom should be outlined. Many of you are involved in multiple relevant and worthy activities outside school so you may need to be a bit selective. Try to link learned skills (e.g. ICT, communication, organisational) or attributes (e.g. commitment) and experience to your chosen course. This can be from paid employment, sport or additional responsibilities undertaken in/out of school. The following example is from the UCAS website, where you can find further help.
'I enjoy badminton'
'I play badminton twice a week with a club that plays in local competitions and I play in both singles and doubles matches. Doubles matches requires good team working, an ability to support your partner, to devise a game plan but be able to adapt it as required and fast reactions. I enjoy the social side of the club and take responsibility for organising the social activities and fundraising events. This gives me an opportunity to develop my organisational and planning skills. Fitting in all these activities while keeping up with my academic studies demands good time management and I think I do that very well.'
When you have made a first draft, give one copy to a subject specialist and one to your tutor, asking them to check it through. Please don’t expect them to correct your spelling and grammar. You may wish to give a final draft to your Head of Year for checking. Good luck!