What do Admissions Tutors actually look for in a personal statement?

Generally, they are looking for applicants who are enthusiastic, motivated, passionate about their subject and keen to learn. Birmingham University has produced a very interesting and useful video with a number of Admissions Tutors for different subjects on it and they give a good insight into what they look for. (See the link on the right hand side of this page.)  There are common themes.  You will see from the video how much the content and style of the personal statement matters!

How long will it take me to write my UCAS personal statement?

Quite a long time if you want to do a really good job!  Before you even start to write you will need to have done some solid research and have established some clear aims.  For example, which course(s) you are interested in and which universities you would like to apply to.  You will also want to visit some universities. Once you have a purpose, you will find your personal statement easier to construct. UCAS has a very helpful question sheet which is excellent for preparing your thoughts prior to writing.  So, to answer your question, realistically, I would allow about  20-24 hours (excluding research) of your own time to get from a blank sheet to the finished statement – which will be about 6-8 drafts.   Don’t be put off by this – if you start drafting the statement early in the summer holidays after the Lower VIth/Year 12 – then you will be relaxed and have time to produce something outstanding and ready to discuss with school when you go back for the Autumn Term.  Working to this timetable is especially important if you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge or to do medicine, veterinary science, dentistry or law as the deadlines are much earlier.  I usually help people with their UCAS statements for between two and four hours.

Six steps to liven up your CV and get you noticed.

Far too many CVs lack personality, verve and vitality.

These six steps will inject liveliness and enthusiasm into your CV and grab the attention of employers.
1. Layout: Clutter is claustrophobic. Make sure there is plenty of white space to allow your reader to ‘breathe’. Achieve this with clear headings, spacing between paragraphs and an open font (like this one). Bullet points are brilliant.
2. Lively words and phrases: use verbs and adverbs with movement and feeling. Say what you ‘enjoy’, ‘look forward to’, are ‘good at’, ‘find rewarding’, ‘have achieved’. This is a much livelier and more interesting way of writing about your work than merely stating what you do – such as ‘deal with’, ‘handle’, ‘administer’, ‘file’, ‘manage’.
3. KISS – the old adage Keep It Short and Simple: two pages is the maximum for a CV – one page is even better.
4. Use plain English: plain English is saying what you mean using short sentences, simple language and words with fewer syllables. It does not mean writing like a child but it does mean the reader can understand something the first time they read it. Your prospective employers will quickly read your CV on paper or on a screen – so make it easy for them. Use plain English and your CV will be crystal clear and concise.
5. Be relevant: we all have stories to tell – but your CV is not the place to tell them. Don’t give all the background – give the outcome or result. An employer is going to be interested in how you make a difference. If it’s a customer service job – write about how you improved customer service. If it’s a team leader’s job – write about how you increased the productivity and morale of your team.
6. Activities and Hobbies: we tend to use ‘safe’ outside interests – like reading, cinema, football – because we don’t want to be controversial. That’s sensible. You can, however, add detail to an interest that will catch someone’s eye and make them think of you as someone with a bit more about you. For example, ‘enjoy reading, particularly books on famous leaders’ or ‘enjoy running and am preparing for my first half marathon next month’ or ‘chair the school PTA and raised £5000 this year towards a new minibus’.


Follow these six steps and transform your CV! Good luck with your job hunting…

Struggling with your UCAS personal statement?

Most of you are back at school or college now and beginning the experience of the Upper Sixth/Year 13.  I am sure you will enjoy it.  It is, however, a busy time for those of you doing A2 exams next year, perhaps also having to retake some AS exams – or working towards the IB, Diplomas and Certificates.  If you are interested in applying to university, you will have the additional task of identifying universities and courses – and completing your UCAS personal statement.

The UCAS personal statement is a 4000 character, 47 line piece of writing which you include in your university application form.  The purpose of the personal statement is to tell the university Admissions Tutor about yourself – particularly what interests you and motivates you towards studying your chosen subject at degree level.  You can include how the subjects you are working on at school or college support your application, what work experience you have had and what you learned – and how any extra curricular activities link to your course of study.  It is also, though – and this aspect is very important – a chance for you to sell yourself and set yourself apart from other applicants.  For degree courses that are over-subscribed, many applicants are of a high standard and will probably have similar grades and academic background.  The UCAS personal statement  is an opportunity to set yourself apart from others and to explain why you are an excellent candidate. For other courses, where competition may not be as fierce, the university Admissions Tutor will still need to be convinced that you understand the nature of the course you are applying for, that you have thought through studying at degree level and that demonstrate a keen interest in the subject.

There is no need to write in flowery language or to adopt a style which is different from your own.  Your personality must come through and your statement must be honest and sincere.  When clients come to me to seek advice, I suggest they write as if they are explaining to someone they don’t know very well why they want to study the course and what they feel they have to offer.  They should give examples of things that have interested them that are relevant to the subject and mention that they do things outside school or college which directly relate to the subject – showing motivation and commitment.

There is a lot of information available on the web about personal statements.  The UCAS personal statement page is a good starting point.  UCAS provides a form with questions to prompt your thinking and this helps you gather together all your qualifications, interests and activities.  Other sites have examples of completed personal statements;  by all means have a look – but don’t use them as it wouldn’t be a personal statement then, would it?   (There are also methods used to check copying of statements – so don’t use anyone else’s work.)  You may find you don’t like a lot of these ‘model’ statements anyway.  I find many of them overblown, arrogant and pushy – and therefore irritating.  You can sell yourself much better by writing in a measured, confident manner, using good examples and showing the thought you have put into your statement. Check that it is interesting to read, concise and correct (grammar and spelling!) and your Admissions Tutor will be much more likely to warm towards you and invite you for interview or make you an offer.

I am able to help with your UCAS personal statement using Skype, phone or email – or coming to my home office which is six miles from Junction 14 of the M6 at Stafford – and six miles from Newport in Shropshire.  I don’t write your statement for you, but I guide you through the process, giving you feedback and support, until we have a statement you are delighted with. I have many happy clients, of whom I am very proud, and some of them are on my Testimonials page.  You are welcome to phone for a preliminary chat on 01785 284849 or 07837 917803 with no obligation to make a booking.  My clients say I am friendly and approachable – so don’t worry about getting in touch!