Sue Thompson helps you get yourself noticed

It can seem quite daunting to sit down to write your UCAS personal statement. Don’t worry, if you write it in stages and follow these guidelines, you should make a positive impression on any admissions tutor who reads it. Remember, the golden rule is quality, not quantity.

Getting started

A student on her laptop giving a thumbs up

Source: iStock

Write your statement offline in Microsoft Word and save it regularly. When you are finished, paste it into the online UCAS form. The form times-out after 35 minutes, so this will help to avoid losing any of your precious work.

  • The aims of a personal statement are to show the admissions tutor why you should be accepted on your chosen course.
  • Read some examples of good personal statements, but do not copy them as UCAS uses a plagiarism checker.
  • Make a rough list in three sections:
    1. Reasons for choosing the course
    2.  Personal achievements and relevant experience
    3.  Hobbies and interests that show your skills and abilities.

A first draft

Now put this together but remember, you have limited space – 47 lines or 4000 characters.

  • Use language which makes you sound enthusiastic and interesting.
  • Be concise and be yourself – don’t use long words you would not usually use.
  • Steer clear from trying to be funny – admissions tutors may not share your sense of humour!
  • When discussing your experience say why you did it or what you have learned from it.
  • Be honest and specific – only write things that you would be prepared to discuss in an interview.

Polishing off

  • Good spelling and grammar is essential – don’t rely on a spellchecker.
  • Structure is important. Begin with why you want to study your subject and finish with why you want to go university, or your career aspirations.
  • Show your statement to other people you trust and make changes.
  • Expect to produce a number of drafts!

Choosing your chemistry course

The university you choose to study chemistry at is important. It needs to be an informed choice and suit what you hope to achieve. Check university and college prospectuses, websites and entry profiles. These will tell you the criteria and qualities universities want their students to demonstrate. Finding the answers to these questions should help you to focus:

  • If the course is not pure chemistry how much chemistry is there relative to the other subjects throughout the degree? Eg is there a difference between ‘Chemistry and….’ and ‘Chemistry with….’ courses?
  • How much maths/physics support is there if I need it?
  • How many hours are spent in the teaching lab?
  • Is there a choice of modules to study? Do they interest me?
  • What is the format of practical work in the final year ie what is the amount of independent research compared to other lab based activities?
  • Can I do an external placement?
  • Will this course help me to develop transferrable skills?

Handy tips

  1. Up to half of the statement can be reasons for your choice of course.
  2. Don’t use repetitive language eg ‘I like’.
  3. Avoid using clichés.
  4. No formatting is allowed by UCAS (except capital letters) so any bold, italic or underlined words will disappear!
  5. When working online remember to regularly save your work as UCAS Apply will time-out after 35 mins of inactivity.

These handy websites will help you to compose the perfect personal statement:

Originally published in The Mole