The University Application Process Explained: What to Expect


You’ve decided that university is the path for you, and you’re clear on which course you’d like to take at a shortlist of universities. Your UCAS application is complete, apart from one section: the personal statement. This is important; without this, to your chosen universities you are a list of qualifications with a date of birth. In 4,000 characters you are expected to convince up to five institutions of academia that you are worth their investment. It combines the awkwardness of writing about yourself with the fear of what might happen if it doesn’t turn out well, but it is by no means an impossible task.

The advice I was given upon starting my personal statement was to split it into five categories:

  1. An overview of why you’ve chosen this subject;
  2. A brief insight into your A Level subjects, what you enjoy about them and what transferrable skills you have learned;
  3. What preparation you have done in school: are you Head Girl or Head Boy, a prefect or on the school council?
  4. What you do outside of school to show you have a ‘well rounded character’;
  5. Finally, a conclusion, explaining why a degree in this subject will help you in the future.

This is just an idea, of course, but it helped me when I didn’t know where to start. The key thing is an intriguing opening line to draw in the reader. Avoiding pretention and clichés is also advice that needs to be reiterated – if you wouldn’t say it in real life, do not write it on your application. Comprende?

The thing you’ll realise when the majority of people around you are writing personal statements is what works for one person may not work for another. My personal statement took me a good few weeks and several drafts, but for others it took one coffee-fuelled night and an hour of editing the following day – neither hindered our chances at receiving offers. Your personal statement is viewed alongside your predicated grades, what qualifications you have already achieved, and the interview you may be expected to attend (you will be informed of this upon applying). While it is a big deal, your personal statement is not the be-all-and-end-all of the university application process.

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