For students applying to university for 2026 entry, the personal statement format will be changing. Here, we'll cover what exactly is changing, why the changes are happening, and how you can support students.

What is changing with personal statements?

Personal statements are changing from one longer piece of text to three separate sections, each with a different question to help shape the focus for students' answers. Each section will have a minimum character count of 350 characters, which is clearly labelled on the question boxes, along with an overall character counter, to ensure students know if they're on track. The new web page for submitting the personal statement will also feature helpful on-page guidance for each question.

The new questions are as follows:

  1. Why do you want to study this course or subject?
  2. How have your qualifications and studies helped you to prepare for this course or subject?
  3. What else have you done to prepare outside of education, and why are these experiences useful?
What isn't changing?
  • The personal statement will still be 4000 characters in total; this includes spaces.
  • The content of the personal statement will remain broadly the same - it will just be split across three sections rather than one longer piece of text. The expectation for what students need to cover within the personal statement is mostly unchanged from current guidance. 

The new personal statement

Sam Sykes, Customer Success Manager at UCAS, explains the changes to the new personal statement for 2026 entry.

You can also hear from students and an adviser on their thoughts and insight into the new structure, which aims to support students and advisers through the application process with a new scaffolded approach. 


Top tip
The three sections will be reviewed as one by universities and colleges, so ensure students aren't repeating information across their answers.

Supporting equal opportunities for all students

In our commitment to equity and inclusion, we believe that every student deserves a fair chance to articulate their unique journey, aspirations, and potential. Scaffolding questions level the playing field, providing clear guidance and structure for all applicants, regardless of their background or prior experience with essay writing.

Scaffolding questions offer students a roadmap, breaking them down into manageable parts. By providing specific prompts, students gain clarity on what to address, fostering focus and coherence in their writing. This ensures that each aspect of their experiences and goals is thoughtfully explored and articulated.

 

Who did we consult?

We engaged with a diverse spectrum of voices, including over 1,200 UK and international students, alongside input from 170 teachers and advisers, and representatives from over 100 universities and colleges. Additionally, we collaborated closely with governmental bodies, regulatory agencies, and charitable organisations across the UK.

To ensure the highest quality, we partnered with an external research agency to rigorously test the new template, guidance, and wording.

The results spoke volumes:

  • When surveyed during the research phases of the proposed personal statement changes, over half the students UCAS spoke to found completing the three questions "very easy" or "easy".
  • Admissions teams said it made it easier for them to assess applications and more confident that they will receive the information they need to make decisions.  
  • Applicants who don't have school support - for instance, mature students - will find it easier to complete their personal statement successfully. This will even the playing field for widening participation, ensuring consistency across all personal statements no matter what level of support students have access to.
  • Most advisers preferred the new format and said it would enable students to provide more complete and detailed statements, with the majority of advisers surveyed as part of the research stating they were "very confident" or "extremely confident" that the questions clearly convey what is needed for each answer.
Top tip
Students can use the 4,000 character count limit across all answers in any way they choose, and the amount they write for each question can vary depending on their chosen course or experience.

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Executive, UCAS

It is our responsibility - where we can - to remove barriers, both real and perceived, which might prevent those who want to pursue a university education from doing so.

What are students expected to include in their answers?

The three new questions will enable students to talk about why they're interested in the course they're applying to, linking their academic and extra-curricular experience to their chosen course. The personal statement is an opportunity for students to show admissions staff evidence that they're passionate, curious and knowledgeable about the subject area they're looking to study further and have the relevant skills and potential to be a great student who has a genuine interest in the subject and a desire to learn more. Students may feel an example could fit into more than one section — there's no right or wrong section to include something in, the important thing is to explain why they're including it and what they've learned from it.

It's important to note that any examples given by UCAS are merely guidance, and not everything suggested needs to be included in every personal statement. Requirements may differ for each university or college, as well as depending heavily on the course.

Top tip
Advise students not to waste characters on listing qualifications and subjects. Focus on giving examples depth and context in relation to students' chosen courses. Try the PEEL Method - Point, Evidence, Explain, Link.
Top tip
Students shouldn't agonise over which section to include information in; the important thing is that it's included as the statement will be reviewed as a whole.

New personal statements: What you need to know

Hear from Sam Sykes, Customer Success Manager, and Carolyn Mindos, Principal Admissions Reform Lead, as they share how and why the personal statement is changing, plus invaluable advice on what students need to include in each new section.

Helen Reed, the Head of Admissions and Data Services, University of Cambridge

We welcome the proposed personal statement reforms. The changes that UCAS plan to implement will make it easier for students to complete their personal statement and the new structure will hopefully increase their confidence in properly understanding what should be included.

Internal training for the new personal statement

This presentation deck has been designed to support you through the changes to the personal statement for the 2026 cycle. 

You can copy and paste slides into your own materials and guides to support staff training and CPD. 

Adviser slide deck - new personal statement 2026 (10.75 MB)

Supporting students with their personal statements for 2025 entry?

Looking for advice and resources for students applying for 2025 entry? Take a look at our adviser and student guidance.

Adviser resources for 2025

Student advice for 2025

FAQs for 2026 personal statements

Peter Dunscome, Director of Higher Education, RGS Guildford

...this looks great. What I really like is the regular reassurance that applicants (and by association us as advisors) really don't need to agonise over whether something should be in section 1 or section 2 and that the statement is reviewed as a whole.