Word Count For Personal Statement Ucas Law

We’ve produced this little guide to ease the pain of writing a personal statement for your UCAS form. We hope you find it useful, and please let us know if you have any comments by emailing us at info@studential.com. Further help can also be found on our blog.

When should I start writing my personal statement?

It's never too early to start thinking about it! Unfortunately, UCAS deadlines have a tendency to creep up on most students.

However, you probably want a good idea of what course you're going to apply for before you launch in to actually writing the thing.

Check out our choosing a degree section if you're still deciding what subject to take.

On the other hand, don't leave it too late - you'll probably need a few weeks to write it and a week or so to get a reference written.

As a general guide we would say start writing it when you come back to school or college after the summer, though it might be worth jotting down a few ideas during the holidays.

We know some people are extremely organised and get at least their first draft done by the end of the summer!

How long can the personal statement be?

There is no actual word limit - instead, you have a maximum of 47 lines or 4000 characters to work with.

This is all the space UCAS give you on their online system, Apply. You can check that your statement will fit in the area provided by using our handy Personal Statement Length Checker.

How do I start writing my personal statement?

Most people won't be able to just start writing their personal statement off the top of their head - so it's a good idea to jot down a few notes first.

The main things to think about are:

These are the two main things to start with, and if this still doesn't help you can look at a few more detailed starting points.

Many people have trouble writing about themselves and their personal qualities.

So if you're having trouble pop down to a library or bookstore and get a book on writing CVs that will go into this process in much more depth.

What are admissions tutors looking for?

Usually the sort of things you've written about for the part above!

Obviously the things admissions tutors are looking for will differ but in general: "Do we want this student on this course?" And "Do we want this student at this university?".

The idea of your personal statement is to show this - so once you've written it, have a read through and see if it answers these questions.

Individual universities and departments often publish information on applying and writing personal statements, so surfing the admissions scetion of their website should turn up more specific information on exactly what they're looking for.

Our blog post, 8 Things Not To Put In Your Personal Statement, will help you avoid making any obvious errors. Then check out What You Should Include In Your Personal Statement to make sure you don't miss anything important.

What's the most important part of the personal statement?

From our days of GCSE English, we would say either the beginning or the end.

A good first sentence will get the reader interested and ensure they actually read your statement rather than skim it.

A good ending will ensure the reader remembers your personal statement, though it also helps to have a good middle section as well.

The first line is probably the thing to work on - most people put their reasons for studying the subject at the top, and this is generally regarded to be the most important bit of the statement.

How do I write a statement for two different courses?

There's no easy way to write a personal statement for two totally unrelated courses.

If the courses are similar (i.e. Business Studies and Economics) you may find you can write a personal statement that is relevant to both subjects without mentioning either subject by name.

If the courses are totally unrelated it may be impossible to write for both subjects without your personal statement sounding vague and unfocused.

Instead, you will need to concentrate on just one subject and just ignore the other.

Should I talk about what I want to do after university?

You could, but only if you have a good idea of what you want to do.

If you sound sure about what you want to do after university, it gives the impression that you've thought carefully about your course and what you want to do with it.

It is also a nice way to round off your personal statement, rather than just finishing on less important stuff like extra curricular activities.

If you don't have any future plans then leave it out - you don't want to be asked about them at interviews.

How should I structure my personal statement?

Most people write their personal statement in an essay style, usually starting off with the course and why they want to do it, then talking about their relevant work experience and skills, and finishing off with extra curricular activities.

However, you can use any style that you feel works best for you.

As a guide, spend around 50% of the space talking about your course and how you're suited to it and 50% on your work experience and other activities.

Exactly how you write your personal statement depends on your subject - generally people write more about work experience for vocational subjects like Medicine and Law than they would for Maths or English, where work experience is less important.

Is it worth doing loads of extra-curricular stuff to make my statement sound good?

There's no point doing extra things just to try and make yourself look good to universities - you won't enjoy it and it probably won't help much either.

From what we've seen, an interest and aptitude for the course is more important to admissions tutors than lots of extra curricular activities.

If you do want to do something to boost your application, read relevant books or do work experience related to the subject instead.

Should I talk about my qualifications?

No. There's already a section on the UCAS form for this, so don't waste space talking about them on your personal statement.

If you have something important that doesn't go in the qualifications section, ask your referee to put it down in your reference - it will sound better if it comes from them than from you.

Where can I see some example personal statements?

We have loads of free personal statement samples that you can browse through, broken down into subject categories so you can hopefully find what you are looking for quite easily!

Looking at what other students have written and submitted on their application is a great way of seeing what makes a good personal statement (and what doesn't!).

Just make sure you don't copy sentences or whole chunks of these examples though, as UCAS has plagiarism detection software and your application will be rejected if it's found you've cheated!

What should I do now I've written it?

Ask for opinions on it!

Show it to your friends, parents, teachers, career advisors, etc and note down their comments.

The most useful comments are likely to come from your teachers in the subject and the people at your school or college who handle UCAS applications.

If you have enough time, leave your personal statement for a couple of weeks or a month and come back to it - if you're not still happy with what you wrote, it's time to start redrafting.

Should I post my personal statement online?

It's generally not a good idea to post it on an internet forum or discussion board before you've started university, as anyone can steal information off a website and pass it off as their own, and with something as important as a personal statement, you don't want that to happen.

You should be OK sending it to people you trust by email - see the next question for a better way of getting people to look at it.

Can someone take a look at my personal statement?

To get people to look at your personal statement without the risk of plagiarism visit the personal statement review section.

You can also get people to look at it by asking nicely on the forums (without actually posting your statement) and a few members should be able to help you.

You can also get your personal statement professionally edited and reviewed here at Studential, through one of our very popular personal statement editing and critique packages.

We offer a range of services covering a variety of prices, so there's bound to be a package suited to you.

I'm still stuck with my personal statement - where can I find more in-depth advice?

Some people say writing a personal statement is easy – maybe it is, but it’s difficult to write a personal statement well.

As this is such a big topic to cover, we suggest taking a look at our personal statement examples to help give you some inspiration for what to write, and then read through our personal statement writing guide when you’re ready to put pen to paper.

Browse through the other information and advice we have in our personal statements section, and if you still feel you need a little extra help, you can always get your personal statement professionally edited and reviewed by one of our editors.

We offer a range of personal statement editing and critique services, so there’s bound to be one suited to your needs.

Don’t forget to ask your family, friends, teachers and careers adviser to look through your personal statement drafts, and incorporate any feedback they give you until you are 100% happy with it.

Remember - it doesn’t matter how many times you have to redraft your personal statement – the most important thing is you get it right so you give yourself the best possible chance of being offered places by your chosen universities/colleges.

IMPORTANT: When writing your personal statement, it’s vital you remember not to copy from anyone else’s personal statement (not even just a sentence!). Not only is wrong and unfair, but any plagiarism will be detected by the UCAS Similarity Detection Service.

If UCAS discover you have plagiarised your personal statement, whether you have copied someone else’s entirely or parts of it, they will cancel your application.

You can also try looking through our personal statement guide.

This takes you through how to write a personal statement step-by-step, and goes into far more detail than this short Q and A section does.

If you feel you need a little extra help, check out our personal statement editing and critique services where our professional editors will review your statement to make it a success.

A few last tips

What have you done, relevant to your subject, that is unique and no one else is likely to put down?

Many people have the same old boring interests and work experience - you need something to separate you from the crowd, and while it's a gamble to make an individual personal statement, anything individual you do related to your chosen field can only look good.

Have a think - what makes you so special? If you can't think of anything then you can't complain if you get rejected!

Finally, remember it's your personal statement, and you can write whatever you want in it.

If everything in this guide conflicts with what you've got already but you think you still have a killer personal statement, then use that.

A personal statement is about you, and you shouldn't let anyone tell you what to put in it - sticking blindly to the formula mentioned here will just stop your true personality showing through.

People sometimes think that there is a trick to writing a personal statement for Oxford, or that we are looking for some special secret formula, but this is not the case. Writing a personal statement for Oxford is no different from writing a personal statement for any other university. In fact it’s important to remember that the same wording will be seen by all the universities you apply to and should therefore focus on the course you want to study, not the universities themselves. Please read this helpful advice from UCAS about writing your personal statement.

How important is the personal statement?

Universities build a picture of you as a student from all the different information you provide, to help decide whether or not to offer you a place. The picture is made up of several different pieces: your personal statement, academic record, predicted A-level grades (or equivalent), and your teacher's reference. For most courses at Oxford you will also need to take an admissions test or submit written work as well (check the details for your course). If your application is shortlisted, your interview will also be taken in to account. This means that your personal statement is important but it’s not everything: it’s just one part of the overall picture.

What are Oxford tutors looking for?

Tutors at Oxford are only interested in your academic ability and potential. They want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university but it’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college. This can include any relevant extracurricular activities.

Try to avoid writing your personal statement as though you are ticking things off a list. There is no checklist of required achievements, and tutors will not just scan what you have written to look for key words or phrases. Tutors will read your personal statement to try to understand what has motivated you to apply for their course. It’s a good idea to evaluate your experiences, to show what you have learned from them and how they have helped develop your understanding of your subject.

Should I include extracurricular activities?

If you're applying for competitive courses, which includes any course at Oxford, we typically suggest that you focus around 80% of your personal statement on your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include discussion of any relevant extracurricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extracurricular activities.

There’s a myth that Oxford is looking for the most well-rounded applicants, and that you will only be offered a place if you have a long list of varied extracurricular activities. In fact, extracurricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course. 

Do I need experience of work and travel?

We understand that not everyone has the opportunity to do work experience or to go travelling so these activities are not a requirement for any of our courses. Tutors won’t be impressed by your connections, or the stamps in your passport, but they will be impressed by how you’ve engaged with your subject.

For example, some of our applicants for Medicine may have had work experience placements in prestigious hospitals but not be able to evaluate their time there. If you have no more experience than some simple voluntary work, or even just discussing medical matters with your friends and family, you can still write an effective personal statement by reflecting critically on what you have learned and discussed. 

To give another example, for the History of Art, tutors will not want to hear about all the galleries and exhibitions that you have visited around the world if you cannot discuss the art that you saw. You can come across more effectively in your personal statement by evaluating art you have seen, even if you’ve only seen it online or in books without ever leaving the school library.

Don’t be put off by any friends who you think have more impressive things to say in their personal statements. Remember that tutors do not have a checklist of achievements that they are looking for: they want to see how you have engaged with your subject.

I’m applying to different courses at different universities – how should I write my personal statement?

If you are thinking of applying for completely different courses at different universities (eg Physics and Accounting, or Biology and Music) we’d encourage you to reconsider. It’s important to choose a subject area that you really want to study, and focus on that one area when making your applications. Also, you can only write one personal statement which will be seen by all the universities to which you apply, so it needs to be relevant for all your courses.

If you are thinking of applying for related courses at different universities then we suggest that you avoid using course titles in your personal statement. We recommend that you write about your interest in the general course themes, and how you have engaged with relevant subject areas, so that your personal statement is equally relevant for each of your course choices. 

Does my personal statement need to stand out?

Students sometimes feel that they need to say something dramatic to stand out from the crowd and be really memorable in their personal statement but this is not true. Applying to Oxford is not like a talent show where you may only have a few seconds to make an impression. Tutors consider each application carefully on its individual merits, looking for evidence of your commitment and ability. If you use your personal statement to demonstrate your academic abilities and your engagement with your subject or subjects, then your application will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Where should I start?

Think about talking to your friends about what you want to study at university: what would you tell them? What have you read or watched or seen that has inspired you? (This might have been at school, at home, in a museum, on TV, in a book, on YouTube or a podcast or anywhere else.) Why was it interesting? What do you want to find out next? What did you do?

If you find this difficult, it might be time to think about whether or not you’ve really chosen the right course. If you can’t think of anything that has inspired you, this lack of enthusiasm will probably come across in your personal statement, or it will become clear at interview, and you’re unlikely to gain a place at Oxford. If you find it easy to answer these questions, you will have a long list of ideas to help you write your personal statement.

When you start to write, remember not just to list your achievements but show how they have affected you, how you have benefited, and what you’d like to learn next. Be honest about yourself and what has inspired you, whether that’s been text books, museums and literature, or websites, podcasts and blogs. Be sure to tell the truth, as tutors might check later, so don’t exaggerate and certainly don’t make any false claims. Don’t hold back either – this is no time for modesty.

When you've written a first draft, have a look back at the selection criteria for your course and think about the evidence you've given for each of the criteria. Have you covered everything?

How many versions should I write?

Ask a teacher to read through what you’ve written, listen to their feedback and then make any updates that they suggest. You may need two or three tries to get it right. Don’t keep writing and rewriting your statement though, as it is more important to keep up with your school or college work, and to explore your subject with wider reading. (See suggested reading and resources.)

Some dos and don’ts

  • DON’T be tempted to make anything up, as you might be asked about it at interview.
  • DON’T copy anyone else’s personal statement. UCAS uses plagiarism detection software.
  • DON'T list qualifications like your GCSE grades or anything else that's covered elsewhere on the application.
  • DON’T just list your other achievements: you need to evaluate them.
  • DON'T feel the need to be dramatic in order to be memorable.

 DO:

  • Apply for a course you really want to study.
  • Be yourself: tell the truth about your interests.
  • Sell yourself: this is not the time for modesty.
  • Reread your personal statement before an interview – the tutors will.
  • Read the UCAS guidance on personal statements.

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