Your Personal Statement

Some students decide to start their statements start with quips, jokes, quotes or funny one-liners. This might occasionally catch the attention of the admission tutors but be careful because it often does not work as admission tutors may think that you are using the easy way out rather than using the space to write something about yourself, which is naturally eye-catching and intriguing without the help of a joke. Also remember that the admissions tutor has read hundreds of personal statements and has already seen every possible grand linguistic flourish candidates have tried in order to “stand out” or “grab attention”. He is likely to be impatient with such efforts. What he wants to know is how interested you are in the course and how well qualified you are for it.

When writing your UCAS personal statement, you need to cover:

1. Why you want to do this course.

2. What knowledge you have of the subject

3. What experiences you have which inform your decision

4. What achievements you may have which are relevant to your application.

5. What your personal qualities are.

Make an impact and demonstrate an interest in the course

You need an opening which interests the reader but avoids the rather predictable formula of “I have been fascinated by nuclear physics from my childhood” – which probably isn’t true anyway. If you have had a long-standing interest in a subject, than say so, but explain it. For example, if you have long planned to be a doctor it may well be that someone in your family has been in the medical profession and that you have been impressed by your relative’s professionalism or by what he or she has told you about the doctor’s job. Perhaps your ambition has developed out of aspects of your A-level courses, in which case, say so. In your UCAS personal statement say that you love the science in medicine, but also try to give a human dimension as well. For example, “My ambition to study medicine has developed partly out of the way the physiology aspects of my Human Biology course have caught my imagination, but also out of a real desire to pursue a career which could make a difference to people’s lives.”

The second item on the list of essentials for your UCAS personal statement, the evidence of your knowledge of the subject you are applying for, is usually the least well done part of the personal statement in most candidates’ forms. If you’re applying to read Chemistry, for example, the admissions tutor is not very interested if you’ve been in the first fifteen, but wants to know if you know anything abut Chemistry.

Your personal statement needs to offer evidence of a real enthusiasm for the subject, or some particular aspect of it, and preferably an aspect which is not just a basic part of the A-level syllabus. You must show curiosity about your subject. Of course you must actually have curiosity about it, or your university career is unlikely to be very fulfilling. If you can show in your UCAS personal statement that you are really interested in some aspect of your subject, and that you have followed up that interest with some research of your own, the admissions tutor will take your application seriously. So, to continue with the example of the aspiring chemistry undergraduate’s UCAS personal statement, it would be good to mention that you know something about Boyle, Faraday and Dorothy Hodgkin, and the development of the science of the three-dimensional structures of biological molecules. The UCAS personal statement should show that the candidate knows something about the role of chemistry in the modern world, the discovery of antibiotics, the new materials used in high-tech electronics, and the fertilizers and pesticides that allow the world’s population to be fed. With this sort of content, your UCAS personal statement will stand out.

Conclude with personal qualities and other achievements

Just as the opening to your UCAS personal statement seeks to impress the reader, the admissions tutor for the course you are applying to, so should the end be efficient and stylish. The last part of your UCAS personal statement should quickly deal with any other information about yourself and your interest in the subject which you have not covered so far, but this is not the place for extensive accounts. Note any languages you have. If you can claim an ability in more than one it is always impressive, no matter what subject you want to study. The world is an increasingly international, globalised place, and languages are a great asset in such a context. Note also any research or reading you have done around the subject you want to study, and make some sort of comment on any book you mention (i.e. don’t just list titles), and make it clear that you always try to keep abreast of new developments in your subject area, by following stories in the media.

You need now to sum up your own personal qualities as best you can, and this is an area in which it is easy to slip into clich – which means that the admissions tutor will skip that part of your UCAS personal statement. Try to avoid the management-speak platitudes, such as describing yourself as a “good team player”. You may well want to say that you like working with others, but try to find a more original way to describe it. Probably, too, the admissions tutor has never encountered a UCAS personal statement in which the writer does not have “good communication skills” and such like. Using phrases like this, which come out of the handbook of management clichs, is ultimately uninformative. Everybody will say the same things. The underlying advice, as in all aspects of the writing of your UCAS personal statement, is to tell the truth about yourself as you see it, and to try to find your own words to express it. What do you really think are your qualities? The admissions tutor will be impressed by honesty and clarity.
If you are still unhappy about writing your UCAS personal statement, it may be a good idea for you to go to the professionals in a personal statement writing service, where an experienced writer will use the information you give him or her to create a model UCAS personal statement for your use. The writers on these sites often have years of UCAS personal statement writing behind them. They may be university teachers, who know what it is like to have a huge pile of UCAS forms on their desks to read through, or they may be teachers in schools who have spent years advising their own pupils on the right approach. Their knowledge and skill are invaluable, and you are unlikely to be dissatisfied with the resulting UCAS personal statement they produce for you.