UCAS & personal statement

UCAS - what is is, what it does and why you need to know.

If you’re thinking about heading into higher education, you’ve likely heard of the organisation called UCAS, and likely, you’ve no idea what it is.

UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and is used by all prospective students across the UK. They’re the centralised service that handles your applications. Each year, UCAS processes around 2.7 million applications from around 700,000 UK, EU and international students who aim to study at 395 different universities and colleges across the country.

UCAS’s online services will allow you to research, select and apply to a maximum of five university courses, all via the ‘Apply’ function. With this, you’ll submit all the required components of your applications (components here) before UCAS forwards it to your chosen universities.

The organisation, as whole, is designed to support students in finding the right university for them, and in turn, helping universities find the right students. Visit the UCAS website to find out more about the organisation and explore the wide range of courses available to you.

Your personal statement is a vital part of your UCAS application and plays a significant role in whether you’re offered a position at your desired university. This also leads to conditional and unconditional offers, which we’ll get into shortly.

Essentially, your personal statement is a brief, reflective essay directed at universities explaining why you’re the right candidate for the course you’re applying for. It’s a chance for you to showcase what skills, knowledge, and experience you have in relation to your passion and suitability for your desired subject.

Don’t forget, you’re only writing one personal statement, which is sent to every university you apply to.

The word limit is a strict one too – consisting of 40000 characters, or just 47 lines! This means you need to make every word count.

  • Understanding your course

    Does your course involve extensive reading lists, frequent practical tasks, external placements, or lab work? Understanding the details of the course and what that entails will help you tailor your personal statement to that specific course even more, and will show the university your dedication to your chosen field!

  • Influence: Do's and Don'ts

    Is there anyone that has inspired you to pursue your chosen course? If so, that's great! Including anybody within your chosen industry that has inspired you in your personal statement shows the universtiy that you've done your own research and feel passionate about the career you may be pursuing. On the other hand, including any influences outside of your chosen industry can often have a negative affect, so try to avoid things such as "my friends are doing it" and "I was told I would like it by..." as it shows the university you may not be so sure that your chosen course is for you.

  • Drafts!

    One of the best things about starting your personal statement early is because you can create drafts, as many as you want or need. The truth is, any succesful personal statement will be the product of a decent couple of drafts that have been proofread, checked and edited multiple times. The best part about this method is that your tutors can help you with your drafts, either to help you with any difficulty or to reassure you on the quality of your piece as a whole.

There’s no specific formula that makes a perfect personal statement, but we have some helpful tips for you to bear in mind. The first thing to think about is that before you begin writing, it’s really important to have your specific course or subject in mind, as without this specific focus it can become a difficult challenge to write a clear statement.

Also, having an enthusiasm surrounding your chosen course will prove vital to the success of your statement. Being able to convey this passion and drive, by outlining any relevant activities or experience you’ve had (such as work experience, volunteering, or any extracurricular activity), and talking about what you’ve gained from those experiences as well as how they relate back to your course will set you on the right path to crafting a successful personal statement.

Any successful statement will also take a bit of time to write, so make you allow yourself plenty of time by starting the process fairly early on to avoid rushing and potentially missing out important information is vital. Giving yourself plenty of time will also allow you to write different drafts of your statement that can be looked over by teachers or tutors who can then provide valuable feedback.

The personal statement is a vital aspect of your UCAS application, but that’s not all. Your application also needs to include your personal details, your educational and employment history, your higher education course choices, any special needs or disabilities, as well as references from your school or college.

At the end of the application process, you may receive an unconditional or conditional offer from your chosen university(s). The unconditional offer essentially means you have a guaranteed place on your chosen course, should you want it. The conditional offer, on the other hand, allows you a place on the course depending of if you can meet their conditions – which usually consists of certain grade levels or UCAS points. UCAS points, also known as UCAS tariff points, is a system that translates you qualifications and grades into a numerical value. Many higher education courses require a certain amount of UCAS points for entry.

For more guidance on writing your personal statement (including structure, course specific guides, and the regular do’s and don’ts), check out ‘Which University Personal Statement Guide’ and ‘UCAS’ Personal Statement Guide’.


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