Perfect your UCAS personal statement

Your personal statement is a key part of your UCAS application. It gives the institutions that you are applying to a deeper insight into you as an individual and your suitability for the course. So it is important that you give it time, attention and care to ensure that it is a strong representation of you. If you’re unsure about how to tackle the process, here are the steps that I took when I was writing mine whilst at Sixth Form.

Write deadlines in a diary

Dates are important; if you miss the deadline you will have to wait another year to apply. So you should get into the habit of writing key dates in your diary and keeping to them. Go onto the UCAS website to check the submission dates and make a note of them. Do the same for Student Finance as you will have to fill out a variety of documents in order to get any tuition fee or maintenance loan money that you require.

Research career options

Choosing the right course to study at university is a vital decision which will impact your future career.  So it’s vital researching your chosen career and looking for relevant work experience to add to your personal statement. Even if you don’t choose to follow that path it’s still not a waste of time because you will learn more about yourself from doing placements as well as developing transferable skills.

Use the Course Finder tool on the UCAS website to explore different universities

If you already know what you want to study, conduct some research into the different universities that offer this. You’re likely to find a number of institutions offering your course, so try to use the filters to narrow down the search results.

I would also recommend writing down the key points that stand out for you and compare your notes at the end of your search. The ways in which you are assessed can be different too – exams, assignments, practical tasks – so it’s a good idea to make a note of these and think about which methods suit you best.

Research the course on the university’s website

Once you’ve decided which universities stand out for you, go onto their websites to learn more about the course and the university in general. Make notes as you do this; this should help you to narrow down your options further.

Ring/email universities with specific questions/queries

Your research is likely to raise questions about the course or university, so make a note of these and contact the university to get your answers. Even though you may think that you’ll remember what they’ve said, it’s still best to have a notepad and pen ready as they may give you websites, contact numbers or email addresses for further help.

Go to open days

(see previous blog https://blog.derby.ac.uk/2017/05/making-university-open-days/)

Open days are the best way to get a feel for the university and learn more about your course.  You should aim to attend at least one for each university that you’re applying to.

Brainstorm your skills/qualities/experiences that you have

A key part of your personal statement is to convey your qualities, skills and attributes to the reader. Take some time to brainstorm these and link them to examples of experiences that you can use for evidence.

Plan personal statement – introduction, main points, conclusion

Planning is key to success. If you don’t think about the structure of your statement and what you’re going to put into each paragraph it can end up being repetitive and incoherent. Remember, the character count isn’t high so choose your words and phrases carefully to make the maximum impact.

Write personal statement

Once you’ve planned out the structure, start writing. Remember not to waffle or make it seem too flowery as you’re limited for characters, and don’t use unnecessary jargon. Try to stick to the limit because it’s a lot harder to cut it down than it is to write it.

Redraft

You need to redraft your personal statement, even if it adheres to the word count. Reading it with a fresh pair of eyes will help you to improve the structure as you may notice certain sentences that could be phrased better or implemented into another paragraph.

Get it checked

The best people to check your personal statement are your teachers, tutors and parents/guardians.  Your teachers and tutors will know you from an academic perspective and have the skills, knowledge and experience of guiding pupils through university applications. Your parents will always have your best interest in mind so will be able to advise you on how to improve it. But be careful who you show it to, especially your peers who are also applying to university as plagiarism is a big issue. Even if a sentence is copied UCAS will be able to detect it. By all means Google search exemplar personal statements, but always make sure that you don’t copy anything., The risk of being caught is extremely high and isn’t worth it.

Proofread before submitting

Before sending your application off make sure you proofread it. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are very important so there’s no harm in checking for any last-minute errors.

Remember to keep calm during this process. It may seem lengthy, stressful and time-consuming but it’ll be worth it in the end and you have your teachers there to help, support and guide you.

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