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The UCAS Personal Statement is a core part of your application to UK universities. Unlike the US university's application process, where there are specific essays to write for each university, the UCAS Personal Statement is the main essay that will be sent to all 5 UK universities to which you are applying. Hence, writing a good UCAS Personal Statement is crucial to your admission chances to your reach, target, and safety schools in the UK. Given that the admissions officer already has information about your grades, the UCAS Personal Statement is an excellent chance to impress the officer and show who you are. This blog aims to help you write a perfect UCAS Personal Statement.
According to the UCAS website, the UCAS Personal Statement is “a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.”
The Personal Statement allows you to showcase your knowledge and enthusiasm for your degree of choice and convince the admissions officer as to why you would be an excellent fit for this university degree.
The Personal Statement is meant to be degree-specific instead of university-specific, given that the same essay will be sent to all 5 universities. In terms of length, UCAS limits the Personal Statement to 4000 characters or 47 lines. That will roughly be around 500 words in total.
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To write a good UCAS Personal Statement, you have to include three main pieces of information – you can structure your Personal Statement based on these three things:
To convince the admission officer that you will be a good fit for the degree/ course, you must explain why and how you decided to study this course.
For example, if you are applying for a law degree, which is largely vocational, you should be prepared to explain why you like the legal profession and why you think this career is right for you.
If you are applying for an academic degree (e.g., sciences or humanities), you should explain what you have enjoyed about the subject and why you would like to dedicate three years to studying this subject, mainly when it entails a lot of readings and hard work.
Many people can articulate their interests or motivations for choosing a particular course. Admissions officers differentiate those who are more genuine by looking at what the applicant has done over the previous years to prepare themselves for life as a university student studying that particular degree/ course.
This part of the Personal Statement is where you choose and elaborate on relevant extra-curricular activities you have done during high school to support your application. The admissions officers want students who go above and beyond their school curriculum to explore a particular subject.
For example, if you are applying for a law degree, you may want to write about your law internship experience here and how that sparked your interest in particular areas of the law which you wish to study at university.
If you are applying for a science degree, you may want to write about a research project that you have embarked on outside the school curriculum and what you have learned from that particular project.
If you have any relevant achievements, such as academic competition prizes, please include them here as it would show the admissions officer that you have an aptitude in a particular subject. This part of your Personal Statement should take up the bulk of your essay.
Understandably, not all your extra-curriculars may be related to your degree/course of choice.
For example, students may be engaged in basketball, piano, leadership positions in student council, etc. You may include these activities in your personal statement. However, unlike US application essays, the UCAS Personal Statement is more geared towards demonstrating how you would be an excellent academic student for a particular course in the next few years.
Hence, even as you elaborate on these non-academic activities, you have to link them to specific soft skills (e.g., time management, juggling responsibilities, etc.) that would demonstrate that you will be able to be an excellent university student.
Oxford Strategist on UK Personal Statement Advice | College Tips Podcast
You will only have the chance to write one Personal Statement in an application cycle for five universities. Hence, it is essential to prepare early and go through several drafts to ensure your work’s quality. You should seek feedback from your school’s career counsellor, teachers, and friends to ensure that your personal statement is clear, coherent, and convincing.
When you apply to UK universities, you are applying for a particular degree/ course. Hence, it is essential to pick and choose the information you include in your Personal Statement carefully. Be sure to phrase most information to your chosen degree/ course and leave out fun and quirky aspects of yourself. The Personal Statement is meant to convince the admissions officer of your potential academic ability instead of showcasing your personality.
Additionally, it is essential to ensure that the Personal Statement is phrased broadly enough to be applicable to all five universities. You do not want to be caught in a position where admissions officers can tell your preference for one university over the other.
It is essential to use simple English when writing the Personal Statement. For international students, the Personal Statement is also an avenue for admissions officers to assess your English language ability, given that most, if not all, UK university degrees are offered in English. Even for native English speakers, it is important to avoid complicated, verbose language that requires one to re-read your sentences to get your point. Ideally, you want admissions officers to get your point as easily as possible, given that they must read thousands of Personal Statements during the application process.
There are many examples of good UCAS Personal Statements online. However, it is important to note that you can only draw inspiration from these examples but cannot copy wholesale. Copying any parts of anyone’s Personal Statement will constitute as plagiarism, which is a severe academic offense in tertiary education. If you are caught for plagiarism, university offers will likely be revoked. It is important that your Personal Statement is genuine and is your piece of work.
Especially for the university admission process with an interview element, it is important not to lie in your interview. Applying to Oxbridge requires an interview, and your interviewer may ask you for details in your personal statement. There have been instances where interviewers quiz applicants over what they have written (e.g., they have read XXX book,) and it is easy to tell whether students were truthful or not in their Personal Statement. You don’t want to be caught lying in your Personal Statement, which will risk your chances of admission.
Check out Crimson student Bluebelle’s personal statement for Philosophy which was accepted by Oxford University
Being torn between the arts and sciences has made me a person who uses mathematical equations to paint pictures and sees my physics lessons as an excuse to discuss the music of the spheres. It is no real surprise, then, that my first serious approach to philosophy was that of a mathematician.
After attending the ESU Debate Academy’s Logic course, I saw logic as the linguistic iteration of mathematics and so decided to study it further, becoming an avid logical positivist after reading Halbach’s ‘The Logic Manual’, Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ and Ayer’s ‘Language, Truth and Logic’. I was drawn to the promise of bringing the chaos of the ‘real’ world closer to the certainty I felt that maths provided, but despite this I could never resist the allure of a passionate metaphysical debate about morality or the nature of time whenever such topics arose.
This conflict was resolved, somewhat ironically, by a paradox. The podcast Radiolab informed me of Godel’s incompleteness theorems, which state that any consistent set of axioms contains necessarily unprovable statements. With my view of absolute truths shaken, I began to carefully consider arguments opposing logical positivism and found ontological relativism more in keeping with how we relate to the complexity of everyday life. My new viewpoint still considers logic, but I now know how many alternative methods there are to explore and want to work to consider them all. For example, when writing on ‘what is disappointment?’ for the Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition, I presented both possible evolutionary perspectives and the more subjective origins of the emotion.
Resolving the false dichotomy between my scientific and artistic approaches was also vital in progressing my understanding of linguistics. Bloom’s ‘Open Yale’ series and Pinker’s ‘The Language Instinct’ taught me that to be worthy of debate a language must be restricted to a structured human system capable of expressing abstract thought. While my scientific leanings told me the universality of maths made it superior to other languages, I also saw how close this came to Orwellian Newspeak and had to accept the value of the multivalent nature of poetic language. I worked to resolve this when writing on bilingualism for the Trinity College Cambridge Linguistics competition. I initially argued that speaking multiple languages aids a person in understanding the logic of all linguistic systems, but then went on to explore how each language’s inconsistencies gives it cultural merit.
As a keen reader and aspiring author, the first place I looked to understand language subjectivity was literature. In preparation for my school’s Poetry By Heart Competition, I analysed many translations of Baudelaire and saw just how crucial an authors’ lexical choice is on the overall impact of a piece. Language subjectivity is just as prevalent in science, as I saw when assisting UCL Professor David Lagnado as he searched for a reliable way to convey DNA or drug results in criminal trials. Even in such a seemingly concrete area as star-spectrum analysis, preparing to present my schools ‘Star Seekers’ project at the National Astronomy Meeting showed me just how many questions a single word can raise. If I didn’t understand the impact of my words, I doubt I would have been successful in the Camden Youth Council, competing or running debating competitions or founding the refugee pen-pal charity ‘Words not Wars’.
I have, in turn, committed myself to being an artist, mathematician, author, physicist, podcaster, psychologist, philosopher, linguist and much more besides. My future goals range from founding a grass-roots radio network supporting free speech to reforming state education, but I also know that each passing year gives me more ambitions and plans. This course promises to teach me how, rather than simply what, to think, thus enabling me to go on to fulfil every ambition I have and have yet to find.
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The UCAS Personal Statement is a crucial part of your application. With over 600,000 applicants each year, admissions officers use the Personal Statement as a way to differentiate between stronger and weaker candidates. Hence, the Personal Statement can “make or break” your application. Hopefully, this blog has given you some insights into how to write an excellent Personal Statement. Good luck!
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