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How to write a great UCAS personal statement

Writing a personal statement can be the most daunting aspect of applying to university.

Students are frequently given lots of advice from family, friends, teachers and careers specialists, telling them to ‘stand out from the crowd’, ‘sound interesting’ and ‘appear knowledgeable’.

But what is the best way to go about this?

The Admissions Tutors at St Mary’s read thousands of statements each year. They've shared with us what they look for and how they make decisions when sifting through applications.

Focus 75% on the subject you want to study

Why are you applying for the course?

Discuss why you’re applying to study the course, identifying any specific areas of interest within the subject area that you’d like to develop as part of your studies. You should also link your present studies to the degree you're applying for.

Show enthusiasm for the subject

Clearly demonstrate a good understanding and enthusiasm for the subject you've applied for. Present your academic reading by mentioning a favourite author, researcher or academic who shares your interests or inspires you.

Related extracurricular activities

Mention extracurricular activities that are related to your chosen subject area. These activities can help illustrate engagement in the subject. For example you may want to mention:

  • Participating in competitive athletic events if you're applying for a sport degree
  • Editing or writing for a school newsletter/blog/website if applying for a journalism degree

Understanding of the subject

Demonstrate that you understand the skills needed to succeed. Alongside the specific skills required for the degree that you have applied for, also consider analytical, research, communication and organisational skills and motivation. You will need to support these claims with evidence, using examples to demonstrate how you have used your set of skills to achieve the desired outcome.

Your plans for the future

Give an indication of what you hope the degree will allow you to do in future. Mention any specific career aspirations that you may have, as this indicates commitment to the subject.

Focus 25% on on what you do outside of the classroom

Your interests

What do you enjoy? How does this link to the subject that you want to study, or show your readiness for university?

Your personality

The Admissions Tutor will be looking for your potential to succeed and a real interest in the subject -  especially if the course is vocational - alongside evidence that you can work hard and learn. They are also looking at what you will contribute to the course, the degree and to university life.

Some quick and easy tips

  • Be concise and make it easy to read.
  • Check spelling and grammar. 
  • Start early.
  • If you have an interesting life story then only tell it if it is relevant to your application and course choice

To summarise...

In short, you need to demonstrate that you understand the course you have applied for and the demands it will place on you, and that you will be an interesting and enthusiastic student to teach.