How do I write a personal statement?

As if the UCAS process isn’t daunting enough, they’re asking you to write a personal statement to prove why you’re so amazing, too. Never written anything like it in your life before? Don’t worry! Career Camel is here to help. Check out our ultimate guide to writing your personal statement below, and say goodbye to writer’s block for good.

1) Format

This is definitely the most important thing to get into your head first, before you start. You can use up to 4,000 characters, or 47 lines, including blank lines and spaces. Just so you’ve got an idea, that’s roughly 650-700 words (ish). Don’t just write it straight into UCAS – use a separate word processor first and then copy and paste it in, so you can go back and edit, and re-edit (trust me, you’ll end up doing this hundreds of times). Make sure when you copy and paste your work into UCAS you check the character and line count, as your word processor may get different values to the UCAS one. Also click ‘save’ regularly online, as the form will time out after 35 minutes of inactivity.

2) Style

Make sure you write your personal statement in English (or Welsh, but if you’re applying to Welsh institutions only) and don’t use any italics, bold or underlining. Make sure you write it using a fairly natural tone, as if you’re speaking aloud. Don’t force anything too complex or waffle – it won’t sound good either way! You want to be original too, but be careful with humour or using quotes. If the person reading your statement doesn’t share your sense of humour, that could cost you a place.

3) Structure

It sounds obvious but plan, plan, plan! First of all, check out this useful mind map from UCAS. If you’re applying for slightly different courses remember you’ll need to tailor your statement to both paths – but if you’re applying to wildly contrasting courses you may have a problem, so it is best to avoid this.

It might be a good idea to put all of this information onto a mind map. UCAS suggests that you cover three main questions, the first being “why are you applying?”. This could include information about why you want to go to university and study a degree, why that subject interests you, and what you want to achieve with your qualification when you finish your course.

You should also cover “what makes your suitable?”, including any experience, achievements, skills and knowledge you’ve gained which might suit your course. This can be from employment, work experience, education, social activities and hobbies.

Finally, make sure you ask yourself “which of your skills and experiences are most relevant?”. Read up what skills and qualities your chosen institutions are looking for in the course listings, and find the things you’ve done which relate to those values. This way you can link your experiences to the things they’re looking for, and thus make your statement as relevant as possible. An admissions tutor at the University of Warwick told UCAS: “The strongest applicants are those who can link their extra-curricular activities to their proposed course of study.”

4) Check it!

Proof-read it, read it aloud, read it to friends, read it upside-down, read it until you remember it off by heart (you probably will end up doing all of these things). Draft and redraft. Get teachers and advisers to help you with it, and you’ll probably end up completely rewriting it. And all of that is fine, just ensure you’re totally happy with it, because you can’t change it once it’s been submitted! Just make sure you don’t read too many examples, or it’ll really scare you. Remember, there is no “right way” to write it, or any precise formula. It needs to be about you – no one else!

Bear the above points in mind, give yourself plenty of time to write, and you’ll be fine.