Planning your personal statement

Your personal statement is a crucial part of your UCAS application. It's your chance to highlight your skills, goals and experience – and sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start. That's why we've compiled this handy guide to help you write a personal statement that'll make you shine.

What is a personal statement?

When you apply for a course through UCAS you'll be asked to submit information about your qualifications and exam results, but that information doesn't tell us anything about what you're like as a person. Learning more about who you are is just as important to us as knowing how you did in your exams.

Your personal statement is the only place on your UCAS application in which you'll be able to tell us your story, and most of our courses don't include an interview stage so it's hugely important.

A personal statement generally takes the form of a short, reflective piece outlining why you've applied for your chosen course, and why you believe we should offer you a place to study on that course.

There are no rules about structure or style, but you've only got 4,000 characters – or 47 lines of text – to work with. That's why you should think hard about what you'd like to include and take your time. If you and another candidate have identical qualifications, earning an interview or landing a spot on your dream course could boil down to what you've told us in your personal statement.

What should I include in my personal statement?

There's no right or wrong way to do a personal statement – you can start it and structure it however you'd like. But when in doubt, you should always try to tell us:

  • why you've chosen this course
  • why you're right for the course
  • what makes you a good student

If you are applying for a professional or vocational degree like Nursing, Paramedic Science, Education or Social Work, you should also tell us what you know about that profession. Let us know about any relevant work experience you have and what you learned from it.

Those are just the bare bones, and a lot of students choose to take it even further. We also like to read about the skills you've learned in school, the subjects you've been taking or the hobbies you have and how those feed into your passion for whatever it is you'd like to study at university.

Finally, it's also worth talking about your long-term plans for the future. Tell us what sort of career you'd like to pursue – and above all else, tell us how you think earning a place on your chosen course could help you reach those career goals.

What should I leave out of my personal statement?

We want to know all about who you are and what you're in to, but there are also a few things you should avoid when writing your personal statement.

Here are a few things you should bear in mind:

  • Ditch the clichés and overused quotes.
  • Get rid of mistakes. Be sure to double check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. 
  • Make it original. Don't copy and paste stuff from somewhere else, because UCAS will know if you've plagiarised somebody else's work.
  • Don't be negative. We want to hear about your passions – not what gets on your nerves.
  • If it's not relevant, get rid of it. There's no point telling us about your holiday from five years ago if it's not related to why you've applied for this course.
  • Don't be funny. We love a good joke, but you should be careful sprinkling humour into your personal statement.
  • Don't repeat yourself. Remember you've told us a lot in the other parts of the application so save yourself some space.

Remember: you've only got 4,000 characters to work with and so you've got to think hard about what is and isn't important to include. When in doubt you should always ask somebody you trust to read over your personal statement in order to get a second opinion.

How do I get started on my personal statement?

Getting started on your personal statement can often be the trickiest part and there's nothing worse than staring at a blank screen. We think the best way to get started is to make a list of everything you'd like to include in your statement and then create an outline that will keep your thoughts organised and keep you on task.

If you're really stuck on that first paragraph, you can try a couple of these basic hacks:

  • Be direct. Don't waste time looking up profound quotes or anecdotes. Just cut to the chase and tell us exactly why you're making this application.
  • Write your introduction last. If you get a few words on the page, it's generally a lot easier to go back and write a brilliant opening line later.
  • There's an app for that. UCAS has created an online tool designed to help give you some inspiration and structure your personal statement.

If you try all of that and still aren't making any progress, you could try finding inspiration on one of many brilliant student forums.