Writing a personal statement for your UCAS application

Why do we ask you to write one?

The personal statement is your opportunity to tell your admissions tutor why you’re the right student to be offered a place on your chosen course. We don’t interview all our applicants so this is your one chance to sell yourself for courses that don’t require an interview.

If you do apply for a course that does invite candidates to interview, your personal statement may also form the basis of your interview.

What are we looking for?

The personal statement supports your academic qualifications because we don’t just want students who can meet our entry requirements – we also consider whether the applicant is suitably motivated to complete their chosen course.

We want to be sure that you will enjoy and get the best out of your chosen course – it’s important for your personal statement to show that you’ve done your research and understand the course you’re applying for.

What should you include?

The main aim of your personal statement should be to tell us more about yourself and demonstrate your academic ability in ways that your overall grades do not. This information will really help us to build a picture of how you are as a potential student.

  • What are your academic strengths?
  • What academic aspects are you passionate about?
  • Why do you want to study your chosen course at university?
  • Have you developed any skills through schemes or initiatives such as Duke Edinburgh or Young Enterprise?
  • Have you gained experience in work?
  • Are you involved with any sports, societies or musical/creative activities?
  • Have you ever volunteered?

When I read your personal statement, the first thing I look for is enthusiasm about the subject. Your statement should paint a picture of why you want to study your degree. If you know what you want to do after the course, that is great but it is not essential.

Your outside interests and work experience can show more about you – which topics have already engaged you and which books have you read? Have you been a trusted person at work? Have you volunteered to help others learn at school? Have you trained people in a sport? Any of these things makes you a stronger applicant.

Dr Martin Lavelle, Associate Head of School and Admissions Tutor (School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics)

How long should it be?

The online UCAS form does have a limit – you can only write approximately 47 lines (roughly 4,000 characters or 500 words), so use the space wisely. The best thing you can do is to create a plan of what you want to say before you start writing – this will help you to develop a clear and concise structure to your writing. 

Spelling and grammar

The online UCAS form can’t check for spelling and grammar and times out after 35 minutes, so we advise you to complete your statement in Microsoft Word or similar, then copy and paste it into the online UCAS form only when you’re 100% happy.

Bad spelling and grammar can undermine any good points you make in your writing, so double and triple-check your statement to ensure its accuracy.

Proofreading aloud can be a good way to find mistakes and see whether your intended meaning is well articulated – don’t just rely on Word’s squiggly red and blue lines. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a family member or teacher to check over your work if you have to.

It’s all about you...

“Don’t write what everyone expects you to write.”

“Be yourself and express your individuality – have your own thoughts and ideas.”

“You can’t sell yourself and your academic achievements enough.”