6 tips for a successful UCAS personal statement

Student typing on a laptop at a desk

When applying for universities, the UCAS personal statement is an opportunity for students to highlight to university admission officers their key skills and abilities, as well as their personality traits. Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham, shares some helpful tips on what to include in a successful personal statement. 


When it comes to completing a UCAS application it might feel a little unfair that the grades students work so hard to obtain aren’t the only thing that universities take into account. The reality is that universities want students to bring more than just a qualification to the table.

Based on the results from our admission officers research conducted in 2017, I’ve collated the most important things to consider when completing your UCAS personal statement.


1. Positivity is key

Today’s students must demonstrate that they’re ready to knuckle down and work hard. That they’re not just applying to university for the social side but they will be able to cope with the workloads of their chosen degree course and thrive at a higher level of education. 

It’s not only about good grades, you can demonstrate a studious attitude in your personal statements by presenting personal projects you’ve taken on to expand your knowledge. Showcasing time management skills and the ability to manage workloads is really important. For example, universities want to know that applicants have a good work ethic and are prepared to put in the hours.  


2. Show your passion

All students need to demonstrate a passion for their chosen subject to help secure a place on their desired course. Independent extended interest in a subject that goes above and beyond what’s required in the classroom, personal achievement and extracurricular activities can all help to highlight your passion for a subject.


3. Demonstrate determination and commitment

According to the recent survey, almost half of admission officers in the UK feel students aren’t ready for the step up to higher education. Nine out of ten officers cited students’ inability to think and learn independently; while three quarters believe new students lack social skills and, even more worryingly, a lack of common sense.

The best universities look for personality as well, so it’s important to demonstrate commitment and determination in the statement – 91 per cent of university admissions officers actively look for evidence of these qualities in applications.

Involvement with any committees or school councils are all worth mentioning, as this shows a sense of commitment and taking responsibility for tasks.

You could also highlight any additional qualifications you have, such as music grades, or courses such as lifeguarding or first aid. All of this information gives the university admissions officers a better idea of what the person behind the application is like and if they’d be a positive addition to the institution.


4. An inquisitive mind

Almost all university admissions officers (91 per cent) actively look for evidence of an inquiring mind in student applications – showing intellectual engagement via independent study, personal interest or specialised knowledge.

For example, have you taken the initiative to read around your subjects outside of the classroom? If so, then talk about in your personal statement – it not only demonstrates a curious mind but a positive attitude for study, a passion for their course and an ability to think and work independently.


5. Attention to detail

The most important part of perfecting a UCAS application, is to check, check and check again. Every sentence needs to make sense and be grammatically correct.

Students have lots of people they can ask can to proofread their personal statement – especially teachers who have a lot of experience in helping with university applications. Admissions officers will notice mistakes and this could suggest a lack of attention to detail and care.


6. Teamwork makes the dream work  

Being able to work well in a team is a skill everyone needs to have throughout their life and university is no exception to this rule. Nearly three quarters of university admissions officers have said they look for evidence of an ability to work well in groups, so if a student has an example of being part of a sports team, committee, club or any other group where it’s required to work with others, this should be included in their application to show they’re a well-rounded team player.  

Many courses require group work and universities will also want to see evidence of how students can contribute to the institution overall. Whether that’s being a part of the students’ union, joining a society or starting up a new club.

There’s a lot to consider here, but the most important thing to remember is that your personal statement is the one opportunity you have to showcase yourself and impress your chosen university – so it’s vital to make the right impression. 

Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham
Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham


About the author: Jeremy Lewis was educated in England and South Africa and holds a Masters Degree in International Education from Bath University. Jeremy has worked within the British and international educational system for over 30 years where he has taught English, Drama and Theory of Knowledge. Over the years Jeremy has acquired considerable experience of all four IB programmes. As Head Teacher at ACS Egham, he is deeply committed to establishing a school culture that recognises and promotes international mindedness and excellence within and beyond the classroom.