How important is a UCAS personal statement?

If you're applying to university in the UK you might be asking, “How important is a UCAS personal statement?”

Personal statements have changed in their nature and importance over the last twenty or so years. In this article, I'm going to let you know how important they are for different types of courses and different universities in 2020.

Before you read this, though, you may want to read my article What is a UCAS personal statement?

How important is a UCAS personal statement?

The importance of a UCAS personal statement depends on these factors:

  • How many stages there are in the admissions process of the universities you're applying to
  • How competitive it is to get a place at the universities you're applying to

The importance of a personal statement in the overall admissions process

The slide below shows an overview of all the steps that could be included in the admissions process of a UK university.

As you can see, the boxes outlined in pink are the steps of the process that every applicant to a UK university will need to go through. The first of these in the UCAS application, which includes the personal statement.

There are also several other steps that you might be required to go through:

  • An admissions test
  • Submitting your own work
  • An interview

The number of these steps you're required to go through depends on:

  • The competitiveness of the courses and universities you're applying to
  • How many of the applicants are achieving the required grades
  • How well standard school exams e.g. GCSEs and A-Levels predict students' success on the course

When universities need more than a UCAS application

If you're applying to a top ten UK university it's highly likely that you'll be asked to do both an admissions test and, if you do well enough in the admissions test and your predicted grades and personal statement are good enough, you'll be invited to interview. This is the same with competitive courses at other universities, such as medicine.

In this context, the personal statement is just part of the picture that the universities look at. However, top institutions such as Cambridge are indicating that the admissions test is exceeding the personal statement in its importance in their admissions process. If you are in the bottom 25% of candidates taking the test, it's incredibly unlikely that you'll be asked to interview.

How much effort should you put into your personal statement when you're applying to competitive universities and courses?

If you're aiming for the top, you can't afford to slack on any part of the admissions process, even if the signs coming from the universities are that certain things are more important than others.

Basically, if you want to study at one of the best, you have to be one of the best in every single respect. And, if your admissions test results are borderline they may just look at your personal statement to make the final decision about whether to invite you for interview. And, it has been known for the only weakness in a student's application to be their personal statement, and the conclusion you can draw about why they were rejected is that the personal statement let them down.

If you want to study at one of the best, you have to be one of the best in every single respect. #Oxbridge #UCAS Share on X

So, if you want to get into Oxford, Cambridge or another top UK university you can't afford a lack-lustre personal statement.

When universities just want a UCAS application

If the universities you're applying to don't ask for you to take admissions tests or attend interviews, they fall into one of these two categories:

  • They're still high-quality universities which are using the personal statement as an important part of the selection process – particularly for candidates where their predicted grades are borderline
  • They're quite a low-ranking university which is desperate for students so that they have the fees to keep the university afloat. These universities will probably offer to anyone who applies, no matter what the personal statement is like.

So, how important is a UCAS personal statement?

It depends very much on the university you're applying to, but the key thing to remember is in your application to many universities it's your one chance to convey something about yourself other than your grades. The personal statement gives a real opportunity for you to connect with the admissions team and sell yourself to them. For universities with more complex application processes, the personal statement is less important than it used to be, but if it's not up to scratch it can still be the single point of failure in your application.

My advice is to get your personal statement done quickly and get it done right. This will mean that you:

a) Don't waste a lot of time on something that maybe isn't that important (and concentrate on preparing for the admissions tests or interviews instead)

b) It won't let you down if it is important

I can help you get your personal statement done quickly and done very well with my Personal Statement Masterclass. No more second-guessing about what you should write or re-drafting twenty times. The Personal Statement Masterclass will guide you every step of the way. Click here to find out more.

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