Help with writing your UCAS Progress personal statement – what to include about yourself, and some dos and don’ts on how to write it.
Writing about the course
Why are you applying for your chosen course(s)?
Explain why you want to do your chosen course(s). For example, someone who wanted to work with animals might write 'I would like to study a BTEC in animal care as I am passionate about looking after animals. I already look after two dogs and it will help me in my future career plans.'
Why does this course interest you?
You can write about anything you've read about the course(s) that you find interesting and would like to find out more about.
Why do you think you are suitable for the course(s)?
In this section, you can write about any experiences you have had that are related to the course(s), or any skills you've learnt that might help you. For example, if you have done any related volunteering or work experience, or if you have a part-time job such as babysitting, which shows more general strengths such as responsibility or commitment.
Do your current studies (e.g., GCSEs) relate to the course(s) you have chosen? If so, how?
You can let the provider know how much you enjoy a subject by writing about a course you have already studied that you found really interesting or you were good at.
Skills and achievements
Write about anything you have done that might help with your application.
- Write about anything you are proud of passing, for example, grade 2 in piano, or being selected for a sports team.
- Include any awards you have done, such as Duke of Edinburgh, or through ASDAN, for example.
- You can add any positions of responsibility you have held, for example, being a prefect or helping with young students at school.
Hobbies and interests
Make a list of your hobbies, interests, and anything you do socially.
- Think about how they show your skills and ability.
- Try to link them to skills and experience you might need on your chosen course(s).
Include details of placements, work experience, voluntary work, or jobs, especially if it is relevant to your chosen course(s).
- Try to show how this experience gave you new skills or made you think about your future plans, for example, things you really enjoyed or were good at.
- Also include any part-time work you are still doing, like a Saturday job or babysitting.
Use this section to tell the provider what you might like to do in the future as a career after completing the course. Explain how you would like to use the course(s) you have applied for to help you reach your goal.
Dos and don’ts when writing a personal statement
- Do use your best English and check your spelling and grammar are correct.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show your interest in the course, it will help your application.
- Do ask people that you trust, like your teacher/adviser or parent/carer to read through what you have written and give you feedback.
- Don’t exaggerate – you might be asked about what you have written if you attend an interview with the course provider.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute – it's a good idea to give yourself time to think about what you write to make sure you don’t forget anything.
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Think carefully about how you want to structure your personal statement. If your argument flows naturally and follows a logical order, this will impress admissions tutors and show them that you will do well on their course. After all, it’s a skill that will come in very handy when it’s time to write your essays and sit your exams over the next three or four years.
Basic personal statement structure tips
- Use paragraphs. This can be tricky as it will eat into the 47 lines available to you so don’t use lots of paragraphs but try to have a few. This will make your personal statement easier for the admissions tutor to read than one large block of writing.
- Have a clear beginning, middle and end. This will make help your personal statement flow naturally. For help with how to begin your personal statement, read our article on writing your opening sentence and, for help with the rest of your personal statement, read our article on what to include in your personal statement.
- Use the ABC method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, what skills and qualities have come from it and how does it relate to the course?
- Keep it short and sweet. You’re limited to 4,000 characters (47 lines) so use short, concise sentences and delete any unnecessary words.
Structure your personal statement to best show off your examples
There is no one set way to structure your personal statement. However, consider putting the most relevant and unique examples of your skills and experience towards the start of your personal statement. This can be more effective than working through all your examples in chronological or reverse chronological order.
For example, if you’re applying to study history you’ll probably want to make sure the school trip you went on to Auschwitz in year 12 has centre stage, rather than feeling you need to start with examples from year 13 or from when you were doing your GCSEs.
Read our article on what to include in your personal statement for more help on what to write about.
The three section approach to your personal statement
If you’re still not sure how you want to structure your personal statement, you might find it helpful to loosely split your personal statement into three sections. Jonathan Hardwick is a former head of sixth form and now a professional development manager at Inspiring Futures, a provider of careers information, advice and guidance to young people. He explains: ‘Your personal statement should cover three things. These are:
- why do you want to study the course?
- what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
- what else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university?’
Section one: why do you want to study the course?
You need to explain to the admissions tutor your reasons for wanting to study this subject. If it’s a vocational course, such as nursing, think about what you like about this profession and why you think it’s the right career for you. If it’s an academic degree, such as geography or chemistry, why do you want to spend a long time studying this subject in detail? Think about what you’ve enjoyed so far and what you want to learn more about.
Section two: what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
This is the biggest part of your personal statement. You’ll need to draw on your experiences to explain why you think you’d be a good student on the course and how you’ve developed the skills and knowledge needed.
If it’s a vocational course, think about what you’ve done that shows you’re engaging with the profession. Now is the time to mention any relevant work experience or voluntary work that you’ve done.
If it’s an academic subject, show that you’re going beyond what your teacher is telling you to do. If you’re doing an EPQ (an extended project) or you’ve done lots of extra reading, for example, tell the admissions tutor what you’ve done and how this has prepared you for the course. Or if you’re applying for a creative course, such as drama or music, write about what you’ve done outside the classroom. For example, for a creative writing course you could mention your blog or the poetry competition in which you were shortlisted for a prize.
Section three: what else have you done?
‘As a rule of thumb, 75% of your personal statement should be about your studies and your justifications for applying and 25% should be about your extracurricular activities,’ says Emma-Marie Fry, an area director at Inspiring Futures. Emma manages the careers guidance team in London and the south-east and goes into schools to deliver support to students.
A quarter of a personal statement is 1,000 characters (around 11–12 lines), so aim to roughly devote this amount of space to what else you’ve done. This is your chance to write about what you’ve done that perhaps isn’t so related to the course but makes you an interesting and well-rounded person. This could include any hobbies you enjoy in your spare time, paid employment or volunteering.
‘It’s important that you demonstrate why these interests and experiences are relevant to your application (for example, to show that you are able to balance your studies with your commitments) rather than just listing them,’ says Dr Helen Moggridge, a lecturer in geography at the University of Sheffield. Use your examples to show that you’ve developed important skills that will help you thrive at university. Good skills to highlight include independence, time management and organisation. So, for example, a Saturday job as a waitress may have improved your communication skills as well as your ability to work under pressure and prioritise urgent tasks. These skills will help you communicate with your lecturers and peers on your course, as well as juggling your coursework and exams.
Don't forget to use our course search to find the courses you want to apply to.