It’s fair to say that 2020 has not exactly gone according to plan. But whilst we all deal with this ‘new normal’ (apologies, all the clichés are coming out…), the world keeps on turning. And with it, the annual role out of the UCAS process.
The UCAS deadline for applications for courses starting in 2021 is 15th January 2021. Many schools and colleges however will set an earlier deadline for their students, often around November time, to submit their UCAS applications to them. Why? Well firstly there is a lot your teachers need to do – from checking things through for you to writing you a great reference (which involves many members of staff inputting into this). Secondly, how many times have you missed a deadline? Yes, quite. So giving a little more ‘wiggle’ room means that you have the time and space to get everything done, but why not get it sorted now and then you can focus on your studies and socially distanced Christmas celebrations.
Whilst there is a lot to a UCAS application, by far the biggest and most time consuming section is the personal statement (cue the dramatic music!). It is the thing you have probably been putting off for the longest time so now you need to crack on and get it done, following these simple steps/rules.
Brainstorm! Don’t worry about writing ‘the perfect sentence’ or keeping with the word count etc, just jot down some ideas of the kinds of thing to include. This is your opportunity to talk about why you want to study this particular course and what would make you a good candidate. You’re going to invest a huge amount in this degree but so is the university, so they need to know you’re the person they want.
Look at what you’ve written. Have you covered everything you need to? Topics include:
· Why you want to study the course/go into higher education.
· What you’ve learnt so far – don’t just list your ‘A’ Levels or Btec course again but talk about why that has inspired you onto further study either in this or another area. Also talk about the skills it has given you.
· More about yourself and why you’d be a good candidate – talk about other things you have done including:
o Any relevant work experience, part time work or volunteering – things like Project Trust and Step Together. Has the current situation meant you’ve done extra things like raising money for the NHS or helping your local community?
o What skills do you have, developed not just from education but other things you’ve done such as well known travel projects or organisations like DofE, ASDAN or National Citizen Service?
It’s tempting to just talk about what you’ve done in school but think about outside of that, such as clubs and activities, but also any other ways you have shown an interest in the subject and even practiced your skills. Perhaps you’ve done additional reading or been to a University summer school, or even developed skills in your own time. Designed a new character for Fortnite? Tell them about it and why! Ok so the picture below was drawn by my friend’s son Rupert, who at primary school is a way off University applications, but this is a great example of practicing skills and developing a portfolio of work which could be used when applying for an undergraduate degree (especially those more creative subjects). You don’t have to go back to your primary school years but recent examples of your work is something you may be asked to show at an interview and is something you can discuss in your personal statement.
Now it is time to start putting your ideas together in a more formal way. But remember, this needs to be your OWN words. Statements are put through anti plagiarism software so will reject statements clearly taken from the internet and likewise getting someone to write it for you, like a parent, will be very obvious – their language is different to yours. And whilst you do need to write properly – not text speak etc – don’t run it through a thesaurus to ‘sound clever’; you have a strong voice, they want to hear YOU.
When you have something resembling a statement, get some feedback. Show it to parents, teachers, or better yet, a qualified careers guidance professional. Whilst they’re not allowed to write it for you, they can read it and give you some tips. Don’t show it to more than one person at a time as they may have different opinions and that will just confuse you.
This is also a good time to make sure you are within the word count and I’ve helped a lot of students reduce theirs. Sometimes you need to take bits out but more often that not it’s a case of ‘re-jigging’ sentences, so they are written in a more succinct way. Remember the person reading is likely to be skim reading, take out all the ‘however’ and ‘therefore’ type words you’d usually use to fluff out an essay, they are not needed here. Also think very carefully about using quotes – a very short one that helps highlight the point you are making is ok but don’t include long and pointless quotes – they want to hear your words, not someone else’s.
How to start a personal statement is also tricky but go back to your first few sentences now and check what you have put. If you talk about being ‘fascinated’ (I mean, really?!) in the subject ‘from an early age’ (to them you ARE an early age still), then please think about re-wording.
Get someone who has never looked at it before to do a final check – purely for any typos and then you can happily send it off, knowing you have done a great job and wait for those amazing offers to come in!
To find out more about personal statements from UCAS themselves, click here:
Or if you want to know more about how I can help by reviewing your personal statement for just £60, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my website to find out how I support students and parents with the careers guidance and Higher Education application process here: https://www.thetalentcycle.co.uk/school-and-college-students