Help with writing your UCAS Progress personal statement – what to include about yourself, and some dos and don’ts on how to write it.
Writing about the course
Why are you applying for your chosen course(s)?
Explain why you want to do your chosen course(s). For example, someone who wanted to work with animals might write 'I would like to study a BTEC in animal care as I am passionate about looking after animals. I already look after two dogs and it will help me in my future career plans.'
Why does this course interest you?
You can write about anything you've read about the course(s) that you find interesting and would like to find out more about.
Why do you think you are suitable for the course(s)?
In this section, you can write about any experiences you have had that are related to the course(s), or any skills you've learnt that might help you. For example, if you have done any related volunteering or work experience, or if you have a part-time job such as babysitting, which shows more general strengths such as responsibility or commitment.
Do your current studies (e.g., GCSEs) relate to the course(s) you have chosen? If so, how?
You can let the provider know how much you enjoy a subject by writing about a course you have already studied that you found really interesting or you were good at.
Skills and achievements
Write about anything you have done that might help with your application.
- Write about anything you are proud of passing, for example, grade 2 in piano, or being selected for a sports team.
- Include any awards you have done, such as Duke of Edinburgh, or through ASDAN, for example.
- You can add any positions of responsibility you have held, for example, being a prefect or helping with young students at school.
Hobbies and interests
Make a list of your hobbies, interests, and anything you do socially.
- Think about how they show your skills and ability.
- Try to link them to skills and experience you might need on your chosen course(s).
Include details of placements, work experience, voluntary work, or jobs, especially if it is relevant to your chosen course(s).
- Try to show how this experience gave you new skills or made you think about your future plans, for example, things you really enjoyed or were good at.
- Also include any part-time work you are still doing, like a Saturday job or babysitting.
Use this section to tell the provider what you might like to do in the future as a career after completing the course. Explain how you would like to use the course(s) you have applied for to help you reach your goal.
Dos and don’ts when writing a personal statement
- Do use your best English and check your spelling and grammar are correct.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show your interest in the course, it will help your application.
- Do ask people that you trust, like your teacher/adviser or parent/carer to read through what you have written and give you feedback.
- Don’t exaggerate – you might be asked about what you have written if you attend an interview with the course provider.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute – it's a good idea to give yourself time to think about what you write to make sure you don’t forget anything.
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However, as Williams says, don’t go overboard. “The mistake people make is to mention too many clubs,” he says, “it makes us question how dedicated you’ll be to your study or work. Pick some key extra-curricular activities and think about the skills they give you and feed that into what you are doing.
“Avoid the vacuous statement,” he adds, “the statement that seems to say a lot, but actually says nothing at all, for example ‘I am a people person; committed to doing my best at every opportunity’.”
Stock phrases should be avoided at all costs, and applicants should also be careful not to exaggerate their achievements. Be warned; if you are invited to interview, you should expect to be quizzed on what you have said in your statement. White lies won’t impress anyone and can become pretty obvious pretty quickly under pressure.
Applicants should also avoid copying anyone else’s statement or taking inspiration from the internet, says Balnaves. Ucas uses a program called Copycatch to identify similarities in statements and notifies the universities if it picks up anything suspicious.
Balnaves also urges students to review their statements for spelling and grammar and to apply in good time. “We probably get about 10 per cent of our applications in the last week,” he says, “but it’s best to give yourself some breathing space. The best advice you can get is from a family member or a teacher, read it aloud to them so you haven't missed any crucial bits.
“Write about what makes you unique," he continues, "only you know your unique selling points. Ask yourself ‘what makes me different, what will I bring to the university and what will I get out of it?’”
It’s important to remember that not only will your personal statement be used in the initial process of making an offer, it could also be used at the end of the application cycle if you miss the grade requirements.
As Hunt says: “The personal statement is something tutors will use to remind themselves why they made you the offer in the first place if things don’t go to plan - they might give you the benefit of the doubt.”
With this in mind, it’s worth putting in the extra effort now, to give yourself every chance of success.
Dos and Don’ts of personal statement writing
DO check for spelling and grammar - get your parents to double check and then check again
DO link your extra-curricular pursuits with your course choice
DO show your teachers a draft first – so you will know what to change in plenty of time
DON’T leave it until the last minute – try to submit the application before Christmas
DON’T use suggested synonyms unless you’re sure what they mean
DON’T be tempted to exaggerate what you’ve done
DON’T talk about specific universities, only talk about the subject