How to Write the UCAS Personal Statement
The College Essay
If you want to study in the UK, a strong UCAS personal statement is a must. This single essay will go to almost every British school, so you want to follow the guidelines and present yourself in the best possible light.
Writing a personal statement for university admissions can be intimidating. Don’t let it be! The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll have a draft that you can work with. This guide will help you figure out exactly how to start and how to end a UCAS personal statement that shows you’re ready to study in the UK!
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Before you start writing….
Take some time to brainstorm and organize your thoughts. If you know exactly what you need to include, the writing process will go much more smoothly!
Step 1: Determine your academic focus
List your courses, and decide what they have in common. For students who have already decided what they want to study, and are applying to the same course across several schools, this step is very simple!
However, if you are applying to a variety of different courses, you should think about what ties them together. Perhaps all of your courses involve hands-on laboratory work, or perhaps you’re intrigued by history and political science courses that will help you understand more about how human power comes into conflict.
Step 2: Gather information about your experiences
For the UCAS essay, you’ll want to offer proof that you are prepared for your courses. Sit down and list experiences in two categories:
- Academic: This is the most important! Think about classes you’ve taken and special projects you’ve completed that directly relate to your courses. Don’t forget about awards, summer courses, or any study you’ve done on your course subjects alone, in your free time.
- Extracurricular: This can include club leadership roles, charity work, after-school jobs, or anything else that shows you have the initiative and drive to succeed at university.
Need help brainstorming about your experiences? Sign up to get our free application guide.
Step 3: Why Britain?
If you are an international student, your UCAS personal statement needs to cover a couple of key points:
- Why the UK? Try to find a specific reason related to your course. Perhaps you want to study Irish literature in Dublin, or perhaps you are looking to build business connections in the city of London. You can also think about why you want to pursue international study in general rather than attending college in your home country.
- Your background in English: They want to know that you’re prepared to study in an English-speaking country. List all of the courses and qualifications you have as an English speaker (including informal qualifications, like growing up in a bilingual household.) If you are from a country where the primary language is English, you can skip this part.
Step 4: Find Your Guiding Message
In this step, you’ll define your motivation for pursuing this course. List:
- Your goals. These can be goals for your career, or just goals for college. What’s important to you? What do you want to do in life? How will your proposed courses help you accomplish your goals?
- Your values. What do you like about yourself? What makes you proud? When you face a challenge, what qualities do you rely on? How will these qualities help you succeed in your proposed courses?
Then, tie it all together in a single sentence. See if you can fill in these blanks:
“Because I _____, I plan to study ____ in order to ____.”
Now that you’re done brainstorming, it’s time to write! Let’s look at a basic outline that you can use to organize your UCAS essay.
- Consider starting with a “hook,” just one or two sentences that will grab the reader’s attention and help them get to know you as a person. It’s important that your hook directly relate to your course of study.
- For example: “I couldn’t believe it! I had correctly predicted the results. For a 16-year-old armed only with excel spreadsheets, this felt like an unbelievable accomplishment.”
- Then, summarize your courses/ academic focus, using what you wrote for Step 1.
- Finish your introductory paragraph with a version of the guiding message that you created in Step 4
- For example: “By pursuing university courses in data science, I hope to understand how to analyze the complex events that will shape my future.
- This is where you can include the information about your experiences that you gathered in Step 2. The exact order will depend on what you came up with, but you should include at least one paragraph on your academic experience, and at least one paragraph on your other experiences.
- If you are an international student, include a brief section on your motivations for studying abroad in the UK, and your qualifications in English.
- Many students have no idea how to end a UCAS personal statement, but if you’ve really thought about your guiding message, it’s simple! State your goals, then use your conclusion to reflect on how your proposed courses will help you accomplish those goals.
A note on length
- There is no actual word limit; instead, you have a maximum of 47 lines or 4000 characters to work with. (This tends to be about 500 words.) Luckily, UCAS's personal statement tool will count your characters as you go, so it's easy to see when you are close to the limit.