What is a UCAS Personal Statement?

If you're applying to university in the UK you may be wondering, “What is a UCAS personal statement?” and, “How important is a Personal Statement in the admissions process to a UK university?”

In this blog post I'm going to:

  • Explain what a UCAS personal statement is
  • How it fits in with the other elements of your application
  • The vital ingredients of a UCAS personal statement

I'll also point you in the direction of other articles to help you with your UCAS personal statement.

But first, you might be wondering…

What is UCAS?

UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It's a charity that provides information, advice, and admissions services to help students progress into higher education.

They run an internet-based admissions system where you complete a UCAS form, including your five choices, your personal information and your personal statement and send these the information to your five choices. They then manage the offers process through their online system.

See here for more information on UCAS.

What is a UCAS Personal Statement?

A UCAS personal statement is your chance to explain why you're a good candidate for the courses you are applying to study in the UK.

It's a piece of writing that you put together to sell yourself to the universities that you're applying to – but it shouldn't come across as braggy or big-headed. Instead, it's a chance to demonstrate your passion for the subject you want to study, your intellectual abilities and your learning journey – basically, what's brought you to the point in life where you want to study this subject.

How long is a UCAS personal statement?

The personal statement is 4000 characters long and has to fit on 39 lines.

How is a UCAS personal statement different from admissions essays for American universities?

It differs from the essays that you have to write to apply to American universities in that you can only write and submit one personal statement to all five of the universities that you're applying to – which in some ways makes it easier (because you only have to write one) but in other ways makes it harder (because you have to make one piece of writing appeal to the admissions tutors on all five of the courses you're applying to study).

Cambridge University gives you the opportunity to complete a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) which enables you to say why you specifically want to study the Cambridge course, but no other universities in the UK give you this opportunity.

How does the personal statement fit in with the other elements of your application

Your UCAS application will consist of:

  • Your personal details e.g. name, address, other contact details
  • Your academic history in terms of grades and predicted grades
  • Your personal statement
  • Your reference – which is normally filled in by your teachers, if you are applying through school

Some universities will also require you to:

  • Complete admissions tests
  • Come for interview

It is only the most competitive of UK universities and courses that require you to take an admissions test – and if they ask you to do an admissions test they will probably only ask you for interview if you're not in the bottom 25% of candidates who take the test.

So, if you're not applying to a top university the personal statement is the only place in your application where you can express your passion for and suitability for your chosen course – making it very important.

If you're applying to more competitive universities the personal statement gives you a foot in the door, along with the admissions test, to be asked for interview.

What should you put in your UCAS personal statement?

There are several vital ingredients in your personal statement

1. Show your learning journey

You need to show how your passion and interest in your subject has developed over time – from an initial spark of interest to the extra work you've done beyond your school work to explore the subject in more detail – this is called super-curricular or supra-curricular activity.

2. Show how you think

When you're applying to university the admissions tutors want to see evidence that you have the intellectual ability and potential to thrive on their course. Therefore, in your personal statement, you need to not just list your super-curricular activities, but say what you think about all the things you've done.

3. Your extra-curricular activities

You should have one paragraph that takes between 20 and 25% of the characters in your personal statement that talks about your extra-curricular activities. Be mindful to make sure this paragraph demonstrates some of the key skills that are needed to thrive on your chosen courses e.g. communication skills, teamwork, resourcefulness and leadership.

If you'd like to know more about how to write your UCAS personal statement check out my blog post on the subject.

Over to you

Now you know what a UCAS personal statement is, it's time to start preparing your application by:

  • Choosing your five courses
  • Preparing to write your personal statement
  • Writing your personal statement

Check out my Personal Statement Masterclass for detailed guidance on how to write your personal statement, including a detailed introduction video which gives you more detail about what a UCAS personal statement is and what admissions tutors are looking for in the personal statement.

Click here to find out more about my Personal Statement Masterclass.


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