Guide to UK Applications • Undergraduate

What Not to Do When Writing Your UCAS Personal Statement

POSTED ON 08/07/2018 BY The Red Pen

What Not to Do When Writing Your UCAS Personal Statement | The Red Pen

4,000 characters and 47 lines. That’s it. That’s how much space the UCAS personal statement gives you to impress admissions tutors. This is where you tell them about your academic passions and why and describe your ambitions, skills and experiences, while connecting them to the course for which you are applying. You need to evidence these with honesty and enthusiasm. So, finding the right things to say is important. But equally important is not saying or writing the wrong things!

Here are our tips on what NOT to do when writing your personal statement:

1) Do not plagiarise:

The clue is in the name itself–‘personal’ statement. It has to come from you, describing your background, interests and motivations. Not only will copying someone else’s statement fails to reveal what makes you special, but it also runs the risk of misleading admissions tutors to offer you a place at their college. Eventually, you will hate your time there, because you weren’t really a good fit for the institution and course from the beginning. If these reasons aren’t compelling enough, remember that all colleges have software to detect plagiarism and the consequences of getting caught are severe.

2) Do not use quotes from other people:

Rather than making you sound intelligent or well-read, quotes display a lack of original thought. You have a limited number of words at your disposal. Do not waste them on what other people have said when you can use them to convey your personality instead.

3) Do not lie:

There’s a fine line between presenting yourself in a more favourable light and straight-out lying. Don’t make up qualifications, grand claims that you cannot support or pretend to have read books you haven’t. Not only is it unethical, but you can get caught. Some courses have interviews where you are asked to elaborate on your experiences and discuss specific details from your personal statement. If these are untrue, you will look foolish trying to make up answers, leading to your entire application being reconsidered and likely rejected.

4) Do not be negative:

Your goal is to demonstrate why you would be a good fit for the course that you have chosen, so don’t highlight your weak points or make excuses for things you haven’t done. The key is to focus on the positives and write confidently about your achievements to demonstrate that you meet the course requirements.

5) Do not be specific to one university:

All the colleges to which you apply will see the same personal statement. It cannot be customised for each university separately. This means that no specific college or course name should find its way into your personal statement. Stating your desire to study at ‘X’ colleges won’t go down well with colleges ‘A, B and C.’ The same applies to comments about the location.

6) Do not forget to talk about the ‘why’:

If you are an international student, make sure you write about why you want to study in the UK. Or if you are applying for a joint degree, why you are interested in both subjects should be a part of your personal statement. Or if you are applying for a year in industry at all your university choices, then you need to make it apparent why that’s important to you. The why here is paramount. 

7) Do not include irrelevant lists and details:

Admissions tutors don’t want to read a laundry list of everything you have done in and out of the classroom if it is irrelevant. They want to know the significance of each point. Rather than listing the names of the five or six books you’ve read this year, you are better off including only one or two and then giving an insightful comment on what you thought about each of them and how this will benefit you in the course you want to study. Make sure you show your experiences through your personal statement rather than just telling the reader about them. For example, if you want to highlight the value of your summer internship, talk about what you learned from it and how you plan to use the skills acquired at college. Focus on building a story rather than trying to add all your activities. 

8) Do not forget to use British English:

Poor spelling and grammar are mistakes that will call into question the amount of time and effort you have put into your application. Avoid them at all costs. Read and re-read your statement and once you have done that, ask someone else to proofread it too. These are easily avoidable mistakes.

While your academic results are the most important part of the UK application process, the personal statement is also considered very seriously. In fact, in recent years, students that have been unsuccessful in securing an offer from the London School of Economics and Political Science have been informed that it was because they wrote a weak personal statement. So, spend ample time on it. It’s not easy to squeeze everything you want into 4,000 characters, so write and rewrite it until it represents the best version of yourself and there is significant evidence that you are a good fit for the course you want to study.

If you need to refresh what is the difference between American and British English, click here. For more information regarding the UK application process, get in touch with us.