Ultimate guide to UCAS – How I got 5/5 University offers

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Quick note: The UCAS deadline is the 15th of January. If you miss this you can go through Clearing or by contacting Universities directly. 

You may be thinking

“Who are you and what qualifications do you have to be telling us about this?” 

Let me answer. I am a second year student at De Montfort University. 

“So what?”

During my last year of college when writing my personal statement it was used as an example for the year group as the ‘ideal personal statement’ #humblebrag. And as far as I’m aware it is still being used almost 4 years later. I have also been through the process twice. On results day 2017 I decided (after being accepted into all 5 choices) that I would instead have a gap year doing an apprenticeship to gain worldly experience. When the time came the next year to apply I already had a head start. I knew what I was doing. That might not make me an expert but it does give me a unique insight and some useful experience to share. 

Things to remember:

  • You only have 4000 characters and 47 lines so you must be concise with what you write. 
  • Draw connections between the course and your skills. If one of the assessment methods is a timed experiment and you interned at a Lab over the summer, mention the two together.
  • Be accurate, do not exaggerate because if you tell the University that you are fluent in German they may bring it up in an interview. If you can only mutter “wo sind die elefanten” it will not look good 
  • Mention everything that is impressive AND relevant. You don’t want to take up your whole word count talking about your brilliant Simon Cowell impression when you attended Science camp. It’s about balance. 
  • If you are applying to multiple universities, each course may have slightly different modules and course titles so change your statement according to Course. I applied for Creative Writing and English Language, Creative Writing and English Literature, English and Journalism, so I had to tailor parts of my statement to fit the course. 
  • Be enthusiastic! If you are truly excited about your course then it will show, it is important to actually want to do the course. 

What NOT to do:

  • Talking about other people, it’s your statement not theirs
  • Mention of money. Of course, some professions are higher paid which is an incentive to pursue them but do not mention this! 
  • The things you didn’t do. If you dropped an AS because it was too hard, there isn’t any need to mention that.
  • Joke around. You are not guaranteed to have a joyous evaluator. Even if you are the funniest person around just stick to straight facts. Don’t be tempted to start with “what is history? I don’t know, that’s why I want to study it.” Just no. 

The structure:

There are many ways to write a personal statement. I actually got my basic structure from a worksheet handed out to me at Winchester University on an open day. I added my own spin but the winning formula really helped me include everything that I needed. 

Introduction:

State the course title and briefly state why you are interested. If there are double honors options that you are considering include these too.

“I want to study Creative Writing with either: English Language, Philosophy, or Journalism as it is important to study something that I am passionate about. These courses will allow me to develop a depth to my writing” 

Then let the reader know what college/ sixth form you attend and what subjects you are studying. 

Main body:

  • Say what the course will allow you to develop or achieve. 
  • Include a childhood/ adolescent anecdote that explains that you were interested in the subject. 

“My interest in Creative Writing began with the summer reading challenges at primary school as they were the highlight of my year. I write poetry and had a poem published in a young writer’s anthology. During my time in A-level education I enjoyed books from different eras such as Small Island and The Great Gatsby. During my English Language A-level I composed a short lyrical story which I shared and positive reactions really inspired me to write seriously.” 

(If you can’t tell I am studying Creative Writing with English Language)

  • Mention an educational experience that is relevant and what you gained from it. this is especially important if you have attended any talks/ conferences/ competitions etc. 

“Outside of my academics I have attended: the English and Media festival at De Montfort University (2014), Dan Clayton’s English Language Conference and the English literature conference week with talks from the examiners and experts.”

if you are doing A Levels it is likely that you will only be moving forward with one or two of your subjects. Do not disregard the third (or fourth if you’re a clever cloggs) For example, I did English Language and English Literature at level which I have been able to apply to my degree. I also did Graphic Design. 

“My A Level in Graphic Design also enabled me to express my creativity. In my exam project I designed promotional and educational material for an aquarium. I also created and managed a blog, this inspired me to create my own creative writing blog which is now live with regular readers.” 

  • Try to relate your other subject to your degree subject if you can. 

Education:

  • Make sure you have an awareness of which modules will be available for you at your chosen Universities as you can relate them to modules you have studied at college. 
  • Mention the parts of your course that you have enjoyed and what skills you have developed. Mention that these skills make you an ideal candidate for your chosen course because of the similarity in module/assessment type/other link between courses 

Putting the personal in personal statement:

  • This section is all about you as a person. Include any achievements that you are particularly proud of and if you were part of DofE or NCS or the Scouts (or anything similar) then do mention it!
  • Apply the ‘so-what’ rule. If there is not a reason/tangible achievement from something, don’t bother putting it. 

This is an extract from my personal statement. The ‘so-what’s’ are underlined.

“I have always been an active member of my local performing arts school in which I have gained many awards and have taken graded examinations in which I often achieved distinction. I am also a member of the xxxx Drama Academy which helps teenagers with drama, confidence, and public speaking and has drastically improved my ability to speak publicly with clarity and meaning. To build on this, I arranged a work experience placement in a local primary school, taking small groups and supporting the teacher. It was a very rewarding experience and I learnt that could I not only work well in a team but could also lead. This flexibility is a quality I believe is important to have. I have participated in the DofE Award, and have taken part in the NCS scheme. The four weeks were incredibly worthwhile. I experienced many new things, made lasting friendships, and most importantly gave back to the community by organising charity events and raising money for the xxxxxx foundation. I balanced my A levels and interests with a part time job in retail, this allowed me to develop my social skills further while also financing my studies showing that I am not only very determined but can also manage my time well.” 

Conclusion 

  • The final few lines is what will stick with a reader when they are deciding whether to let you in or not. name drop the University and mention you are looking forward to attending. if the University in question has a particular experience or faculty feature that sets them apart (eg: DMU Global), now would be the time to mention it. 
  • Finish reiterating your passion for the subject. 

For more information on writing your UCAS personal statement click here: https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/applying-university/how-write-ucas-undergraduate-personal-statement

Photo by Muhammad Rizwan on Unsplash

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