How to write your personal statement in an evening

old-fashioned clock

The 15 January Ucas deadline may be just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to write your personal statement

If you haven’t made a start on your personal statement yet, you might think there’s no way you’ll manage to get it done in time. You shouldn’t give up, though – it’s perfectly possible to write a great personal statement before 15 January. In fact, you should be able to get it done in an evening – start at 5pm and by nine you can be kicking back on the sofa.

Here’s a guide to get you through the process.

Keep your personal statement focused on answering the right questions (five minutes)

Memorise them, scribble them on a Post-It note or tattoo them on your eyelids (not really) – just whatever you do, stay focused on answering these three questions:

  • What course do you want to do?
  •  Why do you want to do it?
  • Why are you well suited to it?

Keep these in mind while you write and you should end up with the kind of personal statement that admissions officers want to see.

Check the university websites (10 minutes)

Before you start writing your personal statement, take a bit of time to check the websites for the universities you’re applying to. A lot of them have admissions statements for their courses, which often include the kind of information they want to see in your personal statement.

girl working at her laptop

Make some (very) rough notes (one hour)

Fire up your laptop and make some rough notes without worrying about word count, grammar or anything else: these notes are going to be for your eyes only, so as long as you understand them that’s all that matters. Try to write at least a page or two.

First of all, write down why you want to do the course – this can be a real brain splurge, just get out anything and everything that could possibly answer this question.

Next, write down anything vaguely course-relevant about yourself: hobbies, interests, books you’ve read, things you’ve done – anything along those lines.

Make these examples as specific as possible. Even if it feels like what you’re writing doesn’t have anything to do with the course, it might help jog your memory to something that is relevant.

If your chosen universities have published admissions statements, jot down a few examples of things you’ve done that cover these, too.

Don’t focus too much on your qualifications and grades, though, as these will be covered elsewhere on your application.

If you’re in need of a bit of extra inspiration, you can take a look at our sample personal statements by subject or by university.

Open our personal statement builder tool (five minutes)

Once you've made a decent amount of notes, you’re ready to start writing. You can use our personal statement builder tool to make this step way easier for yourself.

Once you answer the initial questions, you’ll see that our personal statement builder is built into five sections to help with your structure. Use the notes that you’ve made to fill each section out. You probably won’t use most of your notes; you’ll want to pick out three or four of the best examples of stuff you’ve done.

Remember that it’s much better to go into detail about a few specific things than to generically list out a whole load of stuff.

Get writing (two hours)

Sometimes an introduction can be the toughest part to write, so don’t let yourself get stuck agonising over it. Instead, just start writing whichever section feels the most straightforward. And it might even be easier to write your opening paragraph once you can see everything else written down in black and white.

Remember that you’re not writing an essay, so keep it snappy. You want to get straight to the point without wasting any words on flowery language.

Avoid being generic – the admissions officers want to learn more about you, and being specific will give your personality (and passion for your subject) a better chance to shine. If you mention particular qualities or skills you have, use your notes to back them up with specific examples.

When you’re writing your conclusion, pull together all your key points and make sure you answer the question: why should you get a place on this course?

student typing on laptop

Check it over (30 minutes)

Once you’ve finished, read it over a couple of times and use the checklist on our personal statement builder tool to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes.

If you have the time, leave it for a day (or at least for an hour or two) before giving it a final check. Take any feedback you can get from your teacher and let your parents take a look, too. Reading it out loud can also be helpful when it comes to spotting any sneaky errors.

Make sure it’s not too long (10 minutes)

Personal statements are limited to whichever is shorter of either 4000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines, and if you go over the limit your statement will be immediately cut off at that point. If you’re using line breaks between your paragraphs (and you definitely should do this), you’ll probably hit the line limit before the character one.

Some software like Microsoft Word won’t give you a character or line count that exactly matches Ucas, so you might want to check you haven’t gone over by copying your draft into the online Ucas form – just be careful not to accidentally hit send before you’re ready!

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