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Personal statement plagiarism: all you need to know

Writing your personal statement can be stressful - the last thing you need is to be worrying about plagiarism, too. 

UCAS do have systems which check for plagiarism. Initially an automatic program will flag up lines of text which match other documents in the database or online. This information is then passed on to the university who may decide to investigate further. 

Here are some common plagiarism worries explained:

I posted my personal statement on TSR - am I in trouble?

The short answer is yes. Posting your personal statement on TSR is likely to be an issue. If you've posted yours on the forums you're probably going to have to start over from scratch. Here's why:

TSR is a public, anonymous forum so it will be difficult for you to prove that you were the person who originally posted it. You also need to remember that anyone can read what’s written (and TSR gets millions of page views per day), meaning that someone could steal your PS to use for their own application. You never know who’s reading TSR, or any other public website. 

Remember that personal statements won't be immediately discounted if they're picked up by the automatic detector. They'll be looked over by a person first. If yours is flagged and you have evidence to show that you are the original author than you might be okay, although there are no guarantees. It's much better to avoid the heartache.

I Googled one of my sentences and it came up as similar to another PS, but I haven't copied anything!

Relax. It’s pretty much inevitable that there will be some overlap or similarities in phrasing with other personal statements. It’s nearly impossible to be completely original when there are thousands of applicants all writing about the same thing. So long as the ideas are yours and you haven't copied someone else, you'll be fine. 

However if your personal statement’s opening line is something like: “Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be a…” then you should consider using something more original. Avoid clichés at all costs, not because of plagiarism checkers, but because it will help your application.

 sent my UCAS application and the deadline is closed, is it safe to post my PS now?

No. Wait until you’ve received your offers and got a university place before you post your personal statement anywhere. That way you’ll be well out of the danger zone. 

Personal statements won't be checked immediately so you want to avoid the stress of being flagged, even if you have evidence that you are the original author. 

If you’re already through the applicant cycle and have a confirmed place you can consider adding your PS to our library which will be super helpful for other applicants

I used a plagiarism checker, will it be flagged by UCAS now?

No, plagiarism checkers are private and don’t keep a copy of your work (that would be very cruel if they did!). TSR's personal statement builder tool is also completely safe to use.

I emailed my personal statement to my parent/teacher/friend to proofread, am I in trouble?

No. Emails are private so emailing your personal statement or sending via private message won’t be a problem. 

However, don’t send your personal statement to random people who you don’t know (even if they say they’re helping you out), or to anyone that might want to use it for their own application. If they copy parts of your statement in their own then you could both get in trouble.

Remember you can’t control what other people do with your PS, so be careful about who you send it to.