Help your child think about what to write and how to structure it, with UCAS’ personal statement tool – available in the UCAS Hub.
Not only is it a great tool to get them thinking about what they should be writing about, but it also tracks the characters they use, making sure they keep to the 4,000 limit.
To get started, encourage your child to:
- think about what makes them interesting, and what makes them stand out in a positive way
- write down a whole load of words – anything that shows why they’re excited about the course(s) they’re applying for
- remember why they chose the subject
- list work experience or other activities as supporting evidence, to show why they’d make a great student
- think about skills they could use on the course, such as leadership, communication, and time management
- ask you, their teacher, and their friends for ideas and feedback
- is relevant and focused – don’t waste the 4,000 characters
- uses clear, plain English
- avoids clichés
- is original – UCAS’ software scans all personal statements for plagiarism
- is redrafted multiple times until it’s right
Taking all those ideas, and structuring them into a perfect personal statement of up to 4,000 characters, is the next
Four key parts to a good personal statement:
- First part – a punchy opening paragraph, showing their excitement for and understanding of the course. What makes them want to study it over any other course?
- Middle part – evidence to support their interest in the course. They should include:
- why it interests them
- why they’re suitable (relevant skills, work experience, and inspirational moments)
- any activities they’ve taken part in that demonstrate their interest in the course or subject area
- Final part – where they write about themselves, what they’re interested in, and how well they will fit in to university life. This could include:
- achievements they’re proud of
- positions of responsibility they’ve held
- attributes that make them interesting, special, or unique
- Closing paragraph – a concise statement which leaves the reader with a clear understanding of why they are perfect for the course.
There’s a lot more to a university – or a job – application than academic achievements.
Admissions tutors and employers want to see how applicants have built up skills and experience outside of their studies too.
Work experience and internships
Work experience looks great on a personal statement, but only if your child can reflect on what they learnt from it, and how it’s relevant to the course they’re applying for.Using a real work experience example to answer the all-important question ‘why should we give you a place on this course?’ is bound to impress. For those looking to study medicine, for example, work experience that shows an interest in caring professions would be valuable – like nursery, preschools, or care home experience.
Work experience doesn’t always have to be in a relevant industry – at this stage, just gaining some experience in the workplace is more important.
Getting some professional experience, ideally relevant to your child’s chosen industry, will be looked on favourably by employers, and will help them decide if a particular career is right for them.
A Saturday job in a shop can demonstrate potential to admissions tutors. Encourage your child to be specific and describe a situation they’ve dealt with. How did they handle the situation? What did they learn? Get them to keep
it relevant to the course, and describe how the skills link to their degree work. If they’ve developed strong communication skills as a result of interacting with customers, they should mention how they would put them to good use when presenting ideas in seminars, for example.
A part-time job can equip them with transferable skills, show they can balance work with their studies, and help cover living costs.
Doing voluntary work at a younger age shows that an applicant has drive. It's often a good way of building up communication and interaction skills too, so help your child reflect on these in their personal statement.
Volunteering could give your child the opportunity to gain more hands-on experience in a particular role than they would in a part-time job, or even through work experience. Many smaller charities are willing to give students more responsibility, as they don’t have the funds to pay lots of staff.
Clubs and hobbies
Talking about other interests or hobbies helps inject some personality into their statement. Before it goes in, they should
ask themselves ‘so what?’. Less can sometimes be more – only include an example if it’s relevant.
The key words here are moderation and motivation. They should be picky, and avoid the temptation to sign up to everything in freshers’ week. It’s far better to actively contribute to one or two societies or initiatives so they have something more meaningful to put on their CV and job applications.