How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement

Are you writing your UCAS personal statement? Read this first.
How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement

Our guide on writing UCAS personal statements includes example essays for medicine and law, writing tips, easy-to-follow themes, and more. The personal statement is the most crucial part of your application as it is the only part of your application that shows your natural aptitude for the subject to your reviewer.

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How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement

Your personal statement should include these key themes:

  • Why you chose your subject or course – why you like the subject
  • What you have done to learn about the profession or subject – work experience, self-studying/research
  • Why you are the right candidate for their programme – your personal traits, qualities, and academic aptitude

There are no fixed formats for writing a personal statement as it should be something that comes from you, but we have a few examples below for law and medicine applicants which could give you an idea on how to go about writing yours.

Example of a UCAS Personal Statement for Law

My interest in law began when I read about the abuse of power by law enforcement officers during a peaceful demonstration. Living in Laurania where corruption is common, it was no surprise that it happened, but it made me question the role that law might play in situations like these. Following this, I decided to learn more about the profession by seeking experience at a prestigious Lauranian law firm with a track record for tackling social injustice. By undertaking an internship at Chen and Associates, I furthered my knowledge of law in action and became familiar with legal practice when I sat in on a few cases in the magistrate court. Although the cases I was able to observe were only smaller financial and contractual disputes between businesses, I was able to understand the role of the judicial system in legitimising the outcome of such disagreements. I explored financial issues further during a taster course at a local university which concentrated on tort and contract law. This offered me a great insight into the function of legal systems and furthered my passion to be a lawyer.

I learned a great deal about law when I did research for my EPQ on income inequality in Laurania. This developed my ability to critically evaluate facts and to make clear, objective judgements while considering all perspectives which I know to be essential skills for studying law. When I did research on labour laws, I discovered the case of Axme Corp, a US-based company, which was investigated over allegations of forced labour, forced overtime, and debt bondage of migrant workers in their factories in Laurania. Axme Corp generates massive profits as labour costs are low, while migrant workers often take up large loans to be able to work in Laurania and are often misled about the work they will be doing. This made me realise how the biggest injustices such as the exploitation of migrant workers are often legal albeit immoral and are multi-tiered problems linked to other serious crimes such as human trafficking. This case was an eye-opener as I learned that serious crimes do not happen in a bubble – there are always external factors from the law that lead to injustice such as poverty, capitalism, and certain political stances on the protection of non-citizens. I scrutinised how laws have the potential to eradicate inequality, but more often than not, it can cause certain groups to be treated unfairly.

My time representing my secondary school in a debate at the state level equipped me with analytical skills and the ability to think on my feet as I had to analyse evidence, evaluate the validity of an argument, and formulate a good counter-argument all while on stage. Effective arguments are always ones that are balanced and well-rounded. I still remember one of the topics I debated which was, ‘This house believes that corporal punishment is just’. My team had been placed on the affirmative which was challenging as we found few reasons to support the practice, but I think I learned more about corporal punishment this way as I was critical about every new piece of research we found which only drove me to read more about the subject.

I also volunteered as coordinator to organise a few debate meets and workshops during my A-levels, which improved my organisational and team working skills as I had to coordinate tasks and schedules with people I’ve never met before. I also took the opportunity to network and established the first inter-school debate club with two other schools as I thought it would be a great way to hone our debating skills.

I was active in the Kiwanis Club, a non-profit organisation, through which I participated in a few social action projects which benefit the local orphanage and homeless people. I play tennis twice a week which helps to hone my impromptu decision-making skills.

I look forward to being able to study law in the UK which I firmly believe will give me the foundation I need when I pursue a career as a human rights lawyer someday.

(3999 characters)

Example of a UCAS Personal Statement for Medicine

When I was playing hockey at the national levels, I had a coach who would always say, the best we can give is our all to the team. The mantra stuck with me and I always made sure to take training just as seriously as I took competitions. That was the level of dedication to the craft that I saw everyday in hospitals among doctors and nurses. I have seen how doctors find fulfillment in their work by giving the best they can to others which is what cemented my decision to study medicine.

I gained valuable insight into the industry from my time shadowing a doctor in Hospitale Markip Lula, a public hospital in Laurania. I am under no illusion about how demanding the job is – doctors are highly committed, working tirelessly despite the long hours and heavy workload to ensure all patients get the best level of care possible. In the emergency department, patients would arrive in varying states of distress and pain. A young patient had been admitted with an open fracture of his left forearm and was visibly afraid. The doctor examined the patient’s arm while talking directly to him to explain what was going to happen to his forearm, all while reassuring him about his fears of the hospital and the injury. This highlighted the importance of good communication and empathy as a doctor and I hope to emulate that. I also witnessed a patient who had fallen into a coma following a hypoglycaemic episode and the crash team’s response to regain the patient’s consciousness. The patient had diabetes with comorbidities of atherosclerosis and cirrhosis so the team had to be sure that none of the medication administered on the patient had adverse effects. This showed me the attention to detail needed in the medical field, especially in critical moments. I was in awe of the professionalism demonstrated by the medical staff which was inspiring in how they worked together for a patient’s care.

Reflecting on my time spent in the hospital made me realise that I’m privileged to be protected under the national healthcare system. While Lauranians can seek medical help for a small fee, we have shortcomings in providing refugees affordable healthcare. For many who cannot afford to pay for private healthcare, they may put off treatment which could worsen their condition. I believe that there should be universal access to the national healthcare system as is the case in the UK’s NHS. My experience in the hospital helped me understand that every system presents its challenges such as funding and policies.

Over the past year, I have been volunteering as the coordinator of an Animal Welfare student initiative. Some of us noticed stray animals in our school had been culled which is not only inhumane, we found through research that it is an ineffective method of animal population control. We formed the group to campaign to end culling and to run our own Trap-Neuter-Release programme. As the coordinator, it is my responsibility to ensure that there is a steady roster of volunteers responding to calls about injured animals, organise logistics for sending animals to be spayed, and to secure food supply from the school’s canteen for animals in our care. Not only has this volunteer work honed by communication and problem-solving skills, it has been an enormous responsibility coordinating a group of fifteen volunteers. We have seen a drop in strays recently and I feel privileged to be part of such a great team.

I have dedicated the last few years towards meeting the requirements for medical school and sharpening the skills I need to become a doctor. I have proven myself to be empathetic, an able communicator, a team player, and someone who can handle responsibilities. There is no doubt in my mind that medicine is the right career for me, even if it is one that fluctuates from being immensely rewarding to extremely challenging. My observations have only furthered my desire to practise as a doctor.

(3916 characters)

How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement Introduction

As you can see, both our examples above had very different styles of introduction. The introduction for the personal statement by the law candidate started with, “My interest in law began when…” – this is a straightforward answer and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting your essay this way! Compare this with the one for medicine which starts with, “When I was playing hockey at the national levels, I had a coach who would always say…” – this is an example of a hook which draws the reader in and retains their interest. Additionally, the author mentioning hockey immediately reveals to the reader that they’ve been involved in a team sport that involves a lot of dedication and skill.

In the example essay for law, the rest of the first paragraph had gone straight into the author’s interest in law and their work experience. The author had a lot of relevant experience to share, so it made sense to get right to the point. The first paragraph effectively highlighted the author’s efforts in learning more about law and it gives the impression that they did not choose this subject on a whim – this is a key trait that your reviewer will be looking for!

The example essay for medicine had a different approach as the introduction started with an interesting hook and the rest of the first paragraph was about the importance of dedication and what it meant to the author. This is effective for the subject because medicine is a tough subject that takes at least 7 years of hard work – this is why being dedicated is an important trait to highlight. Reviewers want to be sure that the applicant is someone who has thoroughly considered this course of study and do not have any misconceptions about becoming a doctor which could become a problem later on in their studies. In other words, they want to be sure that the applicant knows what they’re signing up for and have the right character and aptitude for it.

Body Paragraphs for UCAS Personal Statements

Your essay should absolutely include what you have learned about the profession or subject – any work experience you have undertaken should absolutely be a feature of your essay. Additionally, you should call to attention why you’re the right candidate for the programme you are applying for – this includes your academic aptitude as well as your personal qualities that would be suitable for the profession.

We strongly encourage you to have separate paragraphs highlighting your work experience (if you opted to do this – it is not mandatory) and your passion for the subject. You should also have at least one shorter paragraph that mentions the extracurricular activities you have been involved in as it shows that you have varied interests and consistently show up for an activity that you like.

How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay is just as important as your introduction. Let’s look at how each example had concluded the essay.

The concluding paragraph for law simply ended with a sentence about the author’s wish to pursue a career as a human rights lawyer and that they firmly believe this course to be right for them. Considering that the essay had nearly used the maximum allowed character length of 4000 characters, it’s understandable why they opted for such a conclusion. There are a few ways of looking at this:

  1. Could the essay be shorter so the conclusion could reiterate their experience better? Perhaps. Removing a sentence from a less important experience such as their time in debate or Kiwanis could give the author more space for a longer conclusion.
  2. The essay is full of great examples of why they’re well-suited for the programme and it doesn’t require a conclusion to reiterate these facts. A conclusion may also be pretty lengthy considering all the relevant experience the author has and will add unnecessary length that’s better suited towards highlighting their ability to organise and so on.

This is where your personal judgement comes in – it truly is up to your style. There isn’t really a handbook that states that a shorter conclusion will lower your chances of being accepted. Has the essay, overall, effectively delivered the message that the candidate is great for the course? We think so, and that’s what really matters here.

The example essay for medicine ends with a very strong and effective concluding paragraph which boldly reiterates the author’s strengths and dedication towards becoming a doctor. Each sentence reiterated an important point that the author has made about themselves in a paragraph of their essay. Although this essay used only 3916/4000 characters, every word has been used effectively and highlighted their strengths well. We felt that there wasn’t much more to be added about this candidate so we are satisfied with this essay’s length.

It’s worth mentioning that the concluding paragraph for the medicine essay used bold words – “I have proven…”, “There is no doubt in my mind that…”. This is good to have in your essay as it demonstrates your confidence in your own abilities.

Good Formats for UCAS Personal Statements

As with any type of free writing, there’s no fixed format for how your essay should look like. However, our example essays have a certain structure to them which we feel may be helpful for you to take notes from. 

The example essay for law broke down the author’s experience into paragraphs: the first paragraph was about their interest and experience in a law firm, the second paragraph was about their EPQ and what they’ve learned from it in regards to the law, the third paragraph was about their time in debate and their ability to think of their feet. The subsequent paragraphs are less important, but they do add context about the author’s involvement in other extracurricular activities which demonstrates that they’re an all-rounder student. The author also had a lot of relevant experience to share, so it was a good thing that the introduction paragraph dove right into their interest in law and their related work experiences – these are the two things that are very important to reviewers.

The essay for medicine had a slightly different approach, opting for an interesting hook in the introduction paragraph instead which also highlighted the importance of dedication, an important trait for doctors-to-be. The second paragraph was about their experience shadowing a doctor which was written in a way that demonstrated the author’s interest in medicine, awareness that teamwork is key in the medical profession, and self-awareness about how demanding the job could be. The third paragraph was critical of healthcare systems and where gaps may exist, and the fourth paragraph highlighted the author’s ability to organise and lead groups of people as well as their empathy. The concluding paragraph draws the essay to a close with bold statements that reiterates all the points the author has highlighted about themselves. This structure had a good flow which also fit the author’s style of writing. Starting the essay with a hook may be slightly unconventional, but it was done effectively in this example.

Writing Tips for the UCAS Personal Statement

Be mindful of the very basics of writing – ensure that your personal statement has been meticulously checked for errors, does not exceed UCAS’ limit of 47 lines or 4000 characters (roughly 500 words), complies with all their guidelines, and make sure it is not plagiarised. Even copying a sentence is frowned upon as plagiarism is a big academic offence. 

Work on your draft weeks before the application deadline, seek feedback from others, and amend your personal statement to your liking before you hit the submit button. 

The point of the personal statement is that it shows your reviewer who you really are. So be sure to display personal flair, academic merits, and any extracurricular activities that you have been involved in. If you have work or volunteer experience, a large portion of your personal statement should be about this. Discuss your experiences in relation to your future as a student or a professional.

It’s important, at any point in writing your essay, to check if you have used hedging statements. Hedging refers to making a statement that is cautious – for example, “I may be a good candidate for this course due to…” is hedging for a statement that should look like this example, “I am a good candidate for this course because…”. There is simply no room in your UCAS statement to sound unsure and cautious. The point of this essay is to show reviewers that you are right for the course. If you sound unsure, they would feel unsure too.

You could avoid making hedging statements by focusing on what you do know about yourself as a fact. Are you good at Biology? That would mean you have an academic aptitude for all things related to biology and that you have a love for the subject. Are you good at English Literature? That would mean that you have an aptitude for analysing texts and you are a great candidate for a course in English Literature.

Overall, be sure to use the 4000 characters well to display your best traits and personal qualities on paper. Make sure you check your essay at least twice for mistakes. Seek the opinions of others about your essay. Good luck with your application!

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