Most people are somewhat familiar with the United States college system. You choose your universities and then tailor your college application essays to the particular institution. At United Kingdom universities, where you choose your major before studying, the focus of your personal statement is primarily on your course.
With this in mind, and a passion for your selected subject, you should be ready to begin tackling your UCAS application. To help you out along the way, here is some key advice to get you started.
Write the whole thing yourself
It goes without saying your personal statement should be… well, personal. If your mum, friend or some stranger on the Internet writes the entire thing, you will find yourself struggling to answer questions at interviews. Even if you study the text inside out, it still won’t sound like you.
There will be thousands of students with the same grades as you but what will stand you apart is your writing. It may be best to avoid reading too many other statements of a similar subject so you don’t risk accidentally plagiarising.
Copy and paste is also an obvious no-go. UCAS use stringent software to weed out any plagiarised content from the Internet and their huge database of personal statements.
It’s easier said than done (excuse the irony), but writing a unique statement is crucial. If your personal statement reads exactly like those of the other 100 applicants they have looked at that day, you can bet it is going straight in the rejected pile.
Focus on why you love the subject
This is one of the most defining aspects of a UK university application. The department is looking at your personal interests in the subject.
You have decided to study in the UK and so you know the score. You have a real passion for a subject and the university wants to hear all about it (because they have the same passion).
Show off any experience you have
Any experience which shows you are actively involved in your field of study is going to be of interest. This only furthers your assertions that you love your subject.
Additionally, any transferable skills from other activities such as a part-time job are also worth a mention. A job, for example, shows you are responsible and reliable. But don’t get too hung up on experience which isn’t relevant. Use the skills you gained and make them relevant to your course.
Apply in plenty of time
It won’t come as a surprise that writing a personal statement takes time. UCAS applications are also pretty strict with deadlines. If you miss the deadline, you will have to wait until ‘clearing‘ which launches after UK A-level results day in August. It is cutting it a bit fine for September entry.
Check the deadline and check again. Make sure your statement is written in good time and you apply long before the last minute.
eh so like the ucas deadline is this week n am still yet to write a personal statement, couldn’t hate myself more
— megan (@megannixon_) December 4, 2017
Read university websites
The information is out there if you look for it. Chances are, by scouring your chosen universities’ websites, you will be able to find some details on what they are looking for in their applicants. Make a check-list and ensure you tick every box.
Get as many eyes on it as possible
Never underestimate the power of proofreading. When it is your own writing, it is stupidly easy to miss a word out, misspell something obvious or even to write something which makes absolutely no sense. Human error is inevitable, but a poorly-written statement will reflect badly on you.
Ask absolutely anyone who will read it to do so. Get them to be as picky as they like and mark up anything which is incorrect or trips them up. You will be all the better for it.
I'm so close to turning in my nyu personal statement without anyone proofreading it. So close. But no
— roz (@rosaIindfarrell) January 1, 2016
Your personal statement is a chance to show off all the brilliant things about you. Universities want to hear about your passions, what drives you, what makes you curious and quite simply who you are. All you have to do is tell them.