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How to write the perfect UCAS personal statement

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As soon as you get back to school for Year 13, you’ll probably be right onto the UCAS personal statements (if you haven’t been told to start over the holiday). As a former UCAS adviser, here are the most useful pieces of advice I can give you.

Don’t

1. Start by saying you’re “passionate” about something

I guarantee that 90 percent of your peers are writing the same thing, and 100 percent of admissions tutors are sick of the word. Same for “passion”. It’s unoriginal, almost meaningless, and probably over the top as well.

2. Let mum or dad write it for you

The worst statements I’ve seen are bad because they show nothing of the student and sound all wrong. Admissions tutors will spot it a mile off.

3. Overblow things

You need to really think about what you’re writing and how it will look to someone else; my favourite example is when a student showed me his statement for a Business Studies degree, which included the line “I know how to make lots of money, and most of all I love taking risks in business”. Had he made lots of money in business? Did he have experience in taking financial risk in the corporate world? At 18, probably not. No matter how much you mean it or how enthusiastic you are, keep it sensible!

4. Use a thesaurus

Nobody says “defenestrated” in real life, although it is a good word.

5. Beat about the bush

Be precise and as clear as possible why you are a good candidate; the admissions tutor is having to read hundreds or even thousands of these things, and they won’t be picking over your every word or reading between the lines. Don’t be scared to say upfront “I am good and this is what I have done”. They’ll thank you for it (and you will, too).

Do

1. Get as many people to look at it as possible

This doesn’t mean your friends (well meaning as they are) or your parents (while it’s great if they can read it once, they can’t be your only pair of eyes). Take it to teachers and tutors. They’ve seen it all before and know what works.

2. Talk about all your achievements

If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. Even things not relevant to your subject, like volunteer work or sports, deserve a mention.

3. Mention what applications you think your subject has in real life

For example, “I believe that Geography tells us about the processes of globalisation, which is increasingly important in an overpopulated world”. In fact, something like this makes a great introduction if you start with “I have applied to study this subject because…”.

4. Have a good structure

As a general rule, in your statement make it 80 percent about your subject (e.g., for English what books you have read, the poets you admire, that writing course you went on) and 20 percent ‘extracurricular’ (sports, volunteer work, and other things). Give it a one-or-two sentence introduction and conclusion. Too much will waste space, but having a little something makes it polished and pleasant to read.

Follow the tips above and you’ll be on your way to the perfect personal statement for UCAS. Good luck!

Do you have any more tips for students writing their UCAS personal statement? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: dotmatchbox / Flickr

Would-be YA author, avid reader, employee of many places and part-time student. Looking to break into any career that doesn’t involve an office cubicle.
Charlotte SalterHow to write the perfect UCAS personal statement

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