A handy guide to writing a UCAS personal statement

Posted: 23rd July 2019

How to write a standout personal statement

With the first year of their International Baccalaureate Diploma programme done and dusted, our Year 12 students are enjoying a well-earned rest over the summer break. However, with the UCAS deadline looming (15th October for applications to Oxford OR Cambridge and Medicine/Dentistry/Veterinary courses, 15th January for all other courses), university applications will be at the forefront of their minds. Westbourne provides an extensive and personalised career and university guidance programme, which includes full support on writing UCAS applications.

A key element of the UCAS application is the Personal Statement.

You are probably dreading this seemingly mammoth task, as are many other secondary school students. This may be the first time you’ve ever had to ‘sell’ yourself! However, with our handy guide, acing the personal statement is one hundred percent achievable.

What is the Personal Statement?

A statement of 4,000 characters (47 lines of text, approximately 500 words). You only have one statement for all five choices on your UCAS application. The personal statement helps you to really stand out against other applicants, and it could mean the difference between offering an interview, or even offering a place!

Applying to UK universities

Personal statement writing tips

Why is the personal statement important?

This is your opportunity to articulate to university admissions officers that you really want to study your chosen course, and that you have all the transferable skills to make a brilliant student at their university. 

Your personal statement reminds the university that there is a person attached to the application, so use this opportunity to really showcase your personality!

A bit of a tricky feat if you have applied for several different courses, however it’s best to tailor the personal statement to your first-choice course. Should you end up choosing another course, you can send the university a modified statement later.

Interview at Russell Group university

An effective personal statement could land you an interview.

What should the personal statement contain?

The personal statement should be roughly 75% academic, including your reasons for choosing the course and a demonstration that you possess subject specific and course knowledge. Dazzle them with all the extra research you have done on your chosen topic! IB students, this is where your extended essay really comes into power. You should demonstrate how your skills are transferrable, which is an easy feat thanks to the IB lending itself so well to university study. 

How to structure your personal statement

The personal statement should be 75% academic and 25% extra-curricular

The remaining 25% should be singing about your extra-curricular interest and activities. Include any sports, clubs and volunteering experience here, as well as achievements like the Duke of Edinburgh award. This is where CAS shines!

Personal statement: Do’s
  • Remember ABC – Action, benefit, and course relevance! Always link back everything you’ve mentioned to how it will help you succeed on your course.
  • Use positive and interesting language e.g. collaborated instead of worked together, explored instead of tried.
  • Write several drafts!
  • Reference any research or articles you have referred to
  • Avoid clichés and generalisations
  • Structure your statement well so it’s easy to read, with a punchy introduction and conclusion.
Practice makes perfect...

Practice makes perfect…

…and the Don’ts
  • Include specific details about one university – your personal statement covers all five choices. UCL does not want to hear that your dream university is King’s College!
  • Plagiarise! UCAS has software to detect when you have copied from the internet or someone else
  • Leave it until the last minute.
  • Forget to ask a teacher or friend to check for spelling and grammatical errors.
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