Top tips for your UCAS personal statement.

As Christmas looms, the holidays broaching the horizon there may be a vague sense that you can put your beslippered feet up and enjoy all the promise of the festive season. But. Whilst visions of candy canes may dance in your head and clatters be arising it is also the time of year when many of you will be turning your attention to your UCAS personal statement.

So, before you get too snug and thoroughly succumb to the delights of the yule log here are my TOP TIPS to help avoid some of the annual pitfalls of the personal statement. Naturally for a fuller and more highly decorated breakdown of everything necessary you should go and get that there book of mine, ( but as a starter for ten, this’ll help you out.

.         Quotations – Don’t squander your space (you’ve only got 4000 characters) using quotes that the tutors could read anywhere else and probably have done several times, most likely in another personal statement. They want to know about you and what you have to say.

·        Irrelevant, contextless thoughts – Listing countries you’ve been to, work experience placements, films that changed your life etc is not a fun to thing to read. Give it context, why is it relevant to the course, what did you learn from it, either about yourself, your goals, the subject and so on. Make it mean more than just something you once did.


 ·        Weird unnatural language – The personal statement is an opportunity to sell yourself but it’s also an opportunity for the reader to get an idea of who you are. Write from the heart and avoid words that you wouldn’t use in real life. There’s a risk you get it wrong and misuse a word and secondly if you have to interview and the curtains don’t match the carpet when you speak in real life it’s going to put a question mark over your head.

·        Clichés – Almost too many to mention but speak to your peers and you can pretty much guarantee at least a few of the following, ‘The world today is’, ‘Ever since I was young’, ‘I’ve always been fascinated by’ and so on. ‘Passion/passionate’ and ‘fuelled my desire to X’ are another two perennial offenders. They are a waste of characters and it’s the linguistic equivalent of a place holder. It tells them nothing and doesn’t help you.

·        Unsubstantiated lies and bragging – Bragging – selling yourself is not the same thing as making wild, unsubstantiated claims. Show, don’t tell, people want evidence and facts, not unsupported self congratulatory whooping. Secondly, lies and more importantly plagiarism – UCAS has very good software aimed at stopping people copying, you WILL get caught. Lies are easily disproved, particularly around certain experiences, speaking a language, a book you might claim to love etc, if you don’t speak the language or didn’t finish the book, don’t say you did – if you get quizzed on it at interview – there’s no way back from that.

·        Gags – You don’t know who will read your statement even if they don’t dislike the joke, is it worth the risk and the space used? Better to be slightly more conformist than throw it all away with a misjudged line.

·        Irrelevancies – Every letter counts, unless something actively enhances the essay and serves the narrative you are trying to create then bin it. As you read through try and apply the shrug test, if there’s any part of you that thinks that someone who doesn’t know you would read through this and shrug, scrap it.

·        You have to accentuate the positives – Don’t focus on things that didn’t go your way. This is a sales document, sell yourself and frame your experiences in a positive way. You want to do science, you conducted an experiment that trashed your hypothesis? That’s great! Think about all the things you learned from that, not ‘and that was that.’

So, have a head scratch on that as you sup eggnog or something less revolting, and remember a UCAS personal statement is for life not just for Christmas…

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