In this multi-part guide, we will be walking you through how to apply and get into a UK university through a UCAS Application.
Part One: Writing a UCAS Personal Statement
The key to writing a Personal Statement is to understand and deliver what the admission office is looking for. The details may vary across courses / universities but the essence remains the same. The admission office is looking to understand your goals, interests and ability to excel and you can assist by adopting the following structure in your personal statement:
We will elaborate more on each section below.
1. Motivation – Why do you want to enroll in this course?
This is the most important section of the personal statement, and it should tell a compelling and cogent story of what motivates you as a person, and how this has culminated in you applying to this course.
There is no one size fits all approach, and it will vary from applicant to applicant. We have seen applicants write about motivations as diverse as a significant childhood event that shaped their life, an interesting book, TV show or Youtube video that inspired them, even a prominent world leader or leader in an industry that they look up to.
So much can be gleaned from an applicant’s motivation to study a particular course. Not only does it allow the admission office to better understand you as an individual, and what would drive or motivate you to succeed in their course, it also gives them valuable insights into what drives you as a person, your future goals and how/what you plan to do with this course. Think big, think 10, 20, 30 years from now. How would this degree help you achieve your grand plans in life? How do you plan to change the world, give back to society? What makes your soul tick and what drives you to achieve success in life?
An applicant who applies to law school and is motivated to understand the rule of law is fundamentally different from an applicant who is passionate about social justice and wishes to champion the rights of the less privileged, and again different from an applicant who wants to be a lawyer because he is a big fan of “Suits”. There is no right or wrong approach, and the last applicant may well prove to be the most successful lawyer of the three. Admission offices recognize this and as much as you are tempted to make up an elaborate story, don’t. Your motivation should be unique to yourself, and originality and sincerity persuade much more than a recycled story.
2. Aptitude – How you would be able to handle the rigors of the course?
Even the most enthusiastic candidate in the world will not succeed in a chosen field of study if he/she lacks the necessary aptitude and skills. Accordingly, you should allocate a fairly large portion of your personal statement to discuss how and why you will be successful in their course.
While the purpose of the Motivation section is to capture the reader’s attention and to make your personal statement truly stand out, you should not venture too far off the beaten track for this Aptitude section. Play it safe, and set out in a clear and structured manner why you will do well in this course.
There are many ways that this can be done. The trick is not to simply list your achievements, but to critically analyse and evaluate how these achievements would contribute to you being a great student.
We have set out a simple 3 step approach:
Step 1 – Identity the skills required to succeed in the course
As an illustration, if you are applying to study economics, you should first identity the key skills required to excel in the course. This would include passion for subject, critical thinking skills, the ability to postulate graphical projections and analysis and the ability to work under pressure and work well in a team.
Step 2 – Compile a list of recent experiences
Next, you should first come up with a list of your experiences that you would like to include in your personal statement. This includes both academic and non-academic experiences, and diversity is encouraged. For instance, you may include your participation in economics-related competitions, your experience interning at a bank or consulting firm, your portfolio in the stock market and various community-involvement projects.
Step 3 – How have these experiences helped you develop the skills in Step 1
Finally, think about how each of your experiences has helped you develop the skills identified in Step 1. For instance, your experience in various competitions have honed your critical thinking and oral presentation skills. You could also go on to talk about specific scenarios during your internships or elsewhere where you were thrown a curveball and had to react on your feet to bring the situation under control.
Remember, the key is to not simply list your achievements, but to always link it back to your desired field of study. If you were team captain of football, that’s great, but if being captain trained you to lead a team and formulate effective strategies, congratulations, you have just elevated your personal statement from an average application to an outstanding one.
3. Personality – X factor?
This is the last section of your personal statement. Assuming that you have completed the 2 steps set out above, the admissions tutor should have a pretty good idea of why you love the course, and why you would excel in the course.
The goal of this section is to close the deal, to let them know how much they would be missing out should they fail to make you an offer. Show them that you are an exciting and dynamic individual with well-rounded worldly interest, and the university would be a better place for it. This might be your hobby in stocks trading, the time you placed first in a regional DOTA 2 competition or the team of volunteers you ledto build schools in Cambodia.
Additionally, this is an opportunity to talk about long-term goals. The Big Picture. Where do you see yourself 10, 20 years from now and what do you hope to have accomplished with this degree? Show the admission office that you are a mature and determined individual who will maximize the opportunity to study in their distinguished university.
A Parting Note
What university are you applying to?
Based on our experience, we have noticed that different universities favour different student profiles. For example, Oxbridge tends to favour a more academic profile, while LSE tends to select students with a strong commercial bent. If you have a dream university in mind, please indicate accordingly in the comments section when submitting your personal statement to us, and we will apply our expertise to help you realise your dream.
Choice of words
Do also remember that your choice of words is of vital importance. Remember to always use active and positive language instead of passive ones. For example, you shouldn't just say that you were 'interested' in discovering more about the law, but that you were "fascinated" or "eager" etc. Small differences, but they go a long way towards leaving a bright and positive impression on the admissions tutor.
Whatever school you are applying to, do also submit your personal statement to us here and we will get an alumni from your dream school to review and provide tips to improve! As a social enterprise, we are not profit driven and our only goal is to get you into your dream school.
Sample personal statements from UK alumni to come...