Write the perfect personal statement

Getting started

Once you’ve decided what course and career is for you, the next step is to submit a personal statement through UCAS. This 47-line piece of text is your opportunity to highlight why you would be the most suitable applicant for the course and essentially sell yourself to the university. 

Something to bear in mind is that you’re only allowed to submit one personal statement. The good thing about this is that you save time and won’t need to try and sell yourself creatively five times (once is hard enough!). However, the bad thing is that this one statement will need to relate to all of the courses and universities that you apply for. Therefore it’s probably not the best idea to go on about how you really want to go to X University when it is also being sent to V, W, Y and Z, as your statement will most likely end up straight in their bin!

Another thing to consider would be to apply for the same courses – it means your statement will be tailored enough for the course you have chosen and it will make writing a whole lot easier. For health-related subjects, some admissions tutors will want to see that you are focused on one area – for example, you would be applying for only midwifery courses and not a mixture of midwifery and nursing courses.

What personal qualities do you possess that are relevant to the values of the course? What makes you stand out from other applicants? How can you relate your past experiences to the challenges of the course? These are just some of the key questions that you need to ask yourself when writing your personal statement. A big part of it is to reflect on what you have done up until this point in your life, both work- or hobby-based, that you think will aid your application to your ideal course. You can essentially use any experience that you’ve acquired in the past – if you don’t feel you have a lot, then this is the time to start looking. There are some great volunteering websites out there, such as Do-It, so have a look around and get some relevant experience.

Don't forget that even practical courses like nursing have at least 50% theory, so talk about your academic skills as well as your practical ones. This includes all study skills you have learnt at school and college, such as presentation skills, group work or knowing how to reference or write a bibliography.

Universities also want to see you evidence the research you’ve done (if you haven’t done any, then now’s the time to get reading!). There are tons of useful websites, such as the BBC and the Guardian, who have specific topic pages (like health or education) where you can find out the latest news and opinions in your chosen field of study. If you want to discover more, head down to your local library and scan the shelves for significant journals, or get online to read items such as the NHS Constitution and the 6 Cs, which are the core values that you can reflect on if you want to get into health and social care.

Forty-seven lines, or 4,000 characters, may sound a lot now, but when you start writing you’ll notice how limiting that really is. You’ll soon fill the space and realise that, maybe, you weren’t so modest after all!

Top tips for personal statements

  • Draft your personal statement on a blank Word document before starting to write anything on the UCAS website. It is most likely that you will re-write your statement once, and then again, and then probably once more before being entirely happy with it. The UCAS website times out after 35 minutes of inactivity, so this is a way to make sure your hard work is not lost.
  • The universities that you are applying to will receive hundreds or thousands of applications along with yours – ensure that yours stands out from the crowd.
  • Don’t focus on where you worked or what school you studied at unless it’s relevant. Universities want to know about the skills you learnt and the attributes you gained which are transferable to the course.
  • You have a limited amount of space so try not to waffle!
  • Read through the course page on the university’s website and write down the key skills and qualities they value most. That will give you with a rough template of what to focus on.
  • Go to open days or taster days before submitting your application. It’s amazing how much more you can find out by speaking to lecturers, current students and admissions tutors.
  • Be natural – take your fingers off of the thesaurus and use language that comes naturally to you. (Just avoid slang.)
  • Check it… again, and again, and again! Make sure that the grammar, spelling and punctuation are perfect before submission.
  • Ask your family or friends to proofread your statement – your eyes may be so frazzled that you miss key errors.
  • Take advantage of the guidance on the UCAS website.

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The interview day