A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing the UCAS Personal Statement

The first step to a good UCAS Personal Statement is to have chosen the subject you are applying for, consistent across the (up to) five choices you have. Often, when students struggle, it is because they are trying to make the statement work for a couple of different subjects. With a clear focus on one subject, the statement can do the job it is supposed to do. You are limited to 47 lines or 4000 characters, so this has to be concise and make efficient use of words.

To work out what information to include, my favourite brainstorming activity is the ‘Courtroom Exercise’. Imagine that you are prosecuting a case before a judge, and the case is that should be admitted to a university to study the subject you choose. You have to present your case, with evidence, to the judge, in a 47 line or 4,000 character statement. The judge won’t accept platitudes or points made without evidence, she needs to see evidence. What evidence will you present in your statement?

In a good statement, you will make an opening and a closing point. To open your argument, can you sum up in one sentence why you wish to study this subject? Can you remember where your interest in that subject started? Do you have a story to tell that will engage the reader about your interest in that subject?

Then you will present a number of pieces of evidence, laying out in detail why you are a good match for this subject. What activities have you done that prove you can study this subject at university?

Most likely, you will start with a class you took, a project you undertook, an internship you had or an extra-curricular activity that is directly relevant. For each of this activities, you need to then write a paragraph following the ABC approach:

A: What is the activity?

B: How did it benefit you as a potential student for this degree course:

C: Link this benefit to the skills needed to be successful on this course.

With three or four paragraphs like these, each of about 9 or 10 lines, you have the bulk of your statement done. Typically two of these will be about classes you have taken at school, and two about relevant activities outside of school.

In the last paragraph, you then need to demonstrate wider skills that you have, which you can probably do from your extra-curricular activities. How do you show time management, or perseverance, or teamwork? Briefly list a few extra-curricular activities you do and identify the relevant skills that are transferable to university study.

Finally you close your argument, with a brief restatement of your points and a closing sentence linking to your desire to study this subject for the next three or four years of your life. Case closed!

UKDavid Hawkins