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It’s all about you

Image Credit: UCAS

For most courses, the personal statement forms the core of the application process and enables you to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Effectively, you should be reflecting on how your academic and extra-curricular experiences to date have helped you develop the skills and qualities to set off on the right trajectory as an undergraduate student in your chosen field. It is, therefore, critical to start the process early, and craft a well-structured piece of writing that uses specific anecdotal evidence to support these reflections. In the first instance, we suggest pupils identify key skills required for their course and try to map these to their own experiences which they reflect on using the ABC approach form UCAS:

A – Activity: What did you do?
B – Benefit: How did you benefit from the activity?
C – Course: How does this relate to the course you are applying to?

Introduction

“Rightly or wrongly, it is highly likely that your personal statement will be remembered by its opening paragraph” (Agarwal and Salt, p22, 2017).

The opening paragraph should be a high-level, punchy overview that provides compelling evidence of why you want to study your chosen course, as well as an insight into who you are. For the first part, what (specifically) is it about the course that interests you? Avoid cliches like ‘passion’ or ‘ever since I was 7…’ and instead chose a recent anecdote. You could draw on current affairs, work experience, commerce, or, alternatively, explain how the degree will help you achieve your longer-term goals, such as setting up your own company. As far as injecting personality is concerned, you could demonstrate creativity, by eschewing mainstream firms such as Apple, Tesla or Amazon, and instead reference an innovative start-up such as Gymshark.

Academic

Reflect here on your academic experience to date and make connections between your current studies and the course. For some subjects, such as Business, you can demonstrate your existing understanding and analysis by summarising a piece of coursework, or a case-study you have examined, which should contain subject-specific terminology. For others, such as Law, you may not have formal experience, however, you should refer to relevant skills from other subjects, for instance summarising a History essay to demonstrate research and analysis.

Enrichment

The second academic section is what will distinguish you from other applicants and, for vocational subjects such as Medicine, is paramount: what have you done outside lessons to gain additional insight? Reflections on work experience are fantastic, but not necessary (apart from Medicine), as you could also reflect on independent reading, MOOCs or analyse a topic from current affairs.

Extra-curricular and summary

Less is more for this final section, which should comprise approximately 20% of the overall statement. Rather that listing every sport and activity you have ever participated in, be concise and choose 2-3 in which you are most able to demonstrate the skills required for your chosen course. Widely understood programmes such as Duke of Edinburgh and the National Citizenship Service require no introduction so, instead, you can reflect on the key skills and qualities you learned from the experience. We encourage pupils to finish with a sentence that summarises how these skills, together with their subject knowledge, will stand them in good stead to succeed as an undergraduate.

References

Agarwal, R. & Salt, D. (2017) ‘UCAS Personal Statement Guide’.

Schwarz, B. (2004) ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. New York: Ecco

Sinek, S. (2014) ‘How Great Leaders inspire Action’, TED https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en accessed 19/01/19

Stannard, I. (2016) ‘How to write a winning ucas personal statement’.

The Times (2018) ‘Goodbye, student debt. Hello, bursary bonanza’. January 21st 2018.

UCAS (2018) ‘The past, the present and the future’ UCAS Teachers and Advisors conference.