The UCAS personal statement is an important part of your university application. With the summer holidays on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about what to write. It’s also an ideal time to prepare for your Oxbridge or Medical School interviews. For more info on preparing for your Oxbridge interview, read our blog here.
When should I start writing my UCAS Personal Statement?
The sooner the better. Allow yourself plenty of time to write your first draft. You will find that you write multiple drafts before you have a final version that you’re happy with. This will give you ample time to reflect, review and make any changes. The earlier you start, the less need there will be to rush the process. It’s rare that a personal statement is written in one go.
How should I reference my personal reading?
Make reference to your personal reading and how this relates to the areas that interest you on the course. Don’t just list books and articles – anybody can do this. Instead, explore deeply what the book/article made you think about, how it relates to other areas of the course or wider subjects and world views. A multidisciplinary approach is fantastic and admissions tutors love to see how you can make links and connections between other subjects and disciplines. Your personal statement can be a space for you to briefly discuss theories that have drawn you to your subject.
How should my Personal Statement be structured?
Ensure that you include a strong, memorable introduction and conclusion. The admissions tutor will be trawling through thousands of statements. You want yours to stand out. In the structure, a rough guide (and it is only a rough guide, as your statement is personal and therefore personal to you) is 70-75% focus on the course you are applying for and 20-25% on your interests, hobbies and responsibilities outside of your chosen subject.
The Course (20%)
In the main body, focus on why you want to study the subject you are applying to read at university. Familiarise yourself with the course description and weave your own interests in the subject in with this.
Why you are applying (30%)
Try to explain why you are passionate about your subject, the specific areas within that subject that particularly fire you up. For example, if you are applying to read English, this could be how Shakespeare explores gender and how this is relevant to transgender issues, sexuality and society today. If you are applying to read Neuroscience, you could explore your interest in language and how the brain processes certain words. For Politics applicants, the implications of Brexit on the world stage is an obvious choice and how the Coronavirus has implicated global political relationships is another.
Why you will be a good fit (20%)
This is your opportunity to expand on the qualifications and areas of interest that show how you would cope with the demands of the course and how you would be an asset to the academic department.
The remaining 20-25% will cover the more personal aspects of you. Try to make these sections balanced. You don’t want to use up 300 words talking about your captaincy of the hockey team and realise that you have very little space left to focus on your other achievements.
Clubs, Societies and Hobbies (5%)
These can be clubs, societies or hobbies you have taken part in, both in and outside school. Include any positions of responsibility and any ways that these might link with your subject.
Work or Volunteering Experience (15%)
This can be useful, but don’t panic if you don’t have work experience. If you have done no volunteer work, you can expand the hobbies, summer school or another section instead. If applying for medical courses, you will, of course, relate your work experience to these.
Summer School or something similar (5%)
It can be tempting to try to squash in everything about yourself. Keep it simple and relevant. A few carefully chosen examples are much better than trying to squeeze your whole life story into a few hundred words.
I have no work/volunteering experience. Is this an issue?
Work experience is not a requirement for many courses. So, this should not be an issue. However, applications to Medical School really need to show that you have demonstrated your commitment by volunteering, for example, in a care home, hospital or for St John’s Ambulance.
Enjoy drafting your personal statement. It’s your direct communication with the university and, as such, is very personal to you. Let your voice come through and communicate your passion for your subject.