Your Ucas personal statement is one of the main ways universities will assess your application. It needs to be based what you’re good at, why you’re good at it, and how that makes you an ideal candidate for the course. So what exactly should you write and what should you avoid? We asked admissions tutors for their dos and don’ts.
- Don’t waffle. “Use one sentence for the intro and conclusion. The rest of the personal statement should focus entirely on the criteria they’re looking for,” says Simon Atkinson, who interviews medical students at Bristol.
- Do keep it simple. In some cases, personal statements are read numerous times – particularly at results when a student misses their required grades. “The admissions director needs to read them swiftly. Straightforward and confident language works best,” says Alix Delany, head of admissions at UEA.
- Do get a proofreader. Atkinson advises making friends with your English teacher and having them check it for you. “Show it to as many people as possible – especially if you know anyone with a background in human resources.”
- Do focus on what the university says it wants. Universities usually publish admissions statements which outline what they’re looking for in their candidates. Each uni will be looking for something a little bit different: some will focus entirely on your academic activities, others will also pay attention to your hobbies.
- Do show that you’ll be active at university. Any personal examples of work experience, weekend jobs or school activities can be of use. Almost any hobby can be relevant in some way. Be sure to relate them to your studies. Playing an instrument, for example, shows application, stamina and the ability to study and practice, as well as teamwork if you play with other people.
- Don’t try too hard to be funny – it doesn’t always come across well in writing. “You’re not a professional writer and the person who reads it won’t be looking for that. All they’re looking at is whether you fit their criteria,” says Atkinson.
- Don’t bother with quotes. Julie Tucker, from the applicant services team at Falmouth University, says the statements that get an academics’ attention are less formulaic. “Avoid using well-known quotes from famous people, and avoid stating the obvious,” she says. “If you are applying to join a fashion design course, steer clear of Coco Chanel quotes. If you’re applying to study film, don’t open by saying you’ve watched films from a young age.”
- Do use your own voice. “Personal statements are largely scored in an objective way. You need correct English, without looking like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus,” says Atkinson. “I would avoid grandiose or highly idealistic statements such as ‘from the moment I was born I was destined to cure people’. That’s the kind of thing people write. Keep it prosaic and to the point.”
- Do be honest. For courses that interview their applicants, academic teams often use the personal statement to guide their questioning. “With that in mind, applicants shouldn’t use anything they’re not comfortable talking about in detail,” says Tucker. Dr Sam Lucy, director of admissions at Cambridge, agrees. They often refer to personal statements at interview. “We’re checking that their enthusiasm is genuine. In particular, we should get an idea of where within your subject this enthusiasm lies.”
The personal statements is where you should describe the ambitions, skills, and experience that will make you suitable for the course.
Where to start
Firstly, leave plenty of time to write it. You’ll have up to 4,000 characters of text to show why you’d make a great student – so it might take a few redrafts until you’re happy.
- Course descriptions mention the qualities, skills and experience the conservatoire would like you to have – take note of these to help you decide what to write about.
- Remember it’s the same personal statement for all the courses and conservatoires you apply to. They’ll be able to see where else you’ve applied, so explain why you’ve chosen those courses.
- Have a look at our personal statement mind map for more ideas, or use our personal statement worksheet to write down answers to these questions and more.
What to write about
- Why you are applying – your ambitions and what interests you about the subject, conservatoires and higher education.
- Your reasons for choosing the courses you have listed. Remember that each conservatoire will be able to see the other conservatoires and courses you've applied to.
- What interests you about your chosen study area (playing an instrument, acting, singing, conducting, stage design or another specialist area).
- Your experience within your chosen specialist area and in any other activity related to the course(s) for which you have applied.
- What makes you suitable – membership of national/international orchestras, choirs or chamber groups (such as NYO, EUYO or National Youth Theatre) and any other relevant skills and achievements gained from education, work or other activities.
These are great ways to prepare for higher education. If you do or have done any of these before, they could be ideal things to mention in your personal statement. You might be able to organise or start a new activity before you send your application.
International and EU students
As an international student there are a few extra things you should mention.
- Why you want to study in the UK.
- Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken.
- Why you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country.
Here’s where you can mention any alternative entry requirements you’ve used – like an Access course or APL – demonstrating the skills and knowledge you’ve gained through your previous experiences.
How to write it
- Structure your info to reflect the skills and experience the conservatoires value most.
- Write in an enthusiastic, concise and natural style – nothing too complex.
- Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes or anything unusual – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
- Proofread aloud and get your teachers, advisers and family to check – then redraft until you’re happy with it and the grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct.
We recommend you write your personal statement in a word processor first, and then copy and paste it into your online application when you’re done. Check the 4,000 character and 47 line limits though – some word processors get different values if they don’t count tabs and paragraph spacing as individual characters.
When you do add it to your application, make sure you save it regularly, as it times out after 35 minutes of inactivity.
International and EU students
It’s not possible to apply in an alternative language, but you can use some European characters in your personal details, personal statement, employment and referee details.
What happens to personal statements that have been copied?
We screen all personal statements across Copycatch our Similarity Detection system – so make sure your personal statement is all your own work. Don’t copy from anyone else or from the internet and don't share your personal statement with other applicants.
If we find any similarity in your personal statement, your application will be flagged. Then we’ll email an alert to you and your conservatoire choices and this could have serious consequences for your application.
Was this page helpful?