Your personal statement is a vital element of your UCAS application, and if you want to write an awesome one, you’ll need to start with the perfect structure. One that celebrates your achievements and makes a compelling case for your suitability for study.
But what is the perfect personal statement structure for UCAS applications?
There are three styles of personal statement structure that are suitable for undergraduate UCAS applications. The first and most common is a traditional academic structure with an emphasis on educational achievement and potential. Creative and narrative structures can also be used successfully.
I’ve detailed each of these types of personal statement structure below and provided links to free resources that you can download and use to help you write a successful application.
Structure your info to reflect the skills and qualities the unis and colleges value most – use the course descriptions to help you.UCAS
Personal Statement Structure 1: Academic Example
Although lots of applicants are likely to be applying for creative and practical courses (see example 2 below), it’s true that most candidates applying for undergraduate study are planning to read for an academic subject.
If that’s your plan, then using a personal statement structure that allows you to highlight and prioritise your most important academic achievements is more than sensible.
In fact, it’s vital if you want to engage and compel the reader and gain an achievable offer.
What is an Academic Personal Statement Structure?
An academic personal statement structure has six essential sections, with the most important featuring at the beginning. These are:
- The inspiration for your choice of course, subject or career field. You should indicate the motivation for your choices, inspirational people or experiences that have guided you and your reasons for applying. It can be worth mentioning your ambitions briefly too, before coming back to these at the end of your personal statement.
- Your academic experiences, achievements, knowledge and potential. Outline not only your academic strengths but how you have used them in your previous educational career. This is a good place to use relevant terminology and specific skills, with examples.
- Your wider reading and research. Showing that you have undertaken reading and research beyond the taught curriculum is vital, and so is showing that you understand contemporary arguments and theories. Offer examples that fully illustrate your sense of enquiry.
- Your practical experience of the subject or field of study. Make it clear to the reader that you have applied your skills in a practical setting relevant to your application. Think about what these experiences have taught you and how these are relevant to your application.
- Your relevant transferable skills. Outline the skills you possess that add value to your application but are outside the remit of your subject discipline. These are the skills and strengths that will underpin and complement a successful course of study at university.
- Links with the course outcomes and your value to the institution. Show that you understand the demands of the course you are applying for and that your goals and ambitions relate directly to what they have to offer. Intrinsic in this is evidencing your value to the organisation you are applying to.
You can find a free, downloadable document that outlines this academic personal statement structure in more depth, along with suggested character counts for each section and detailed guidance notes here, or hit the banner below.
You can also discover how including relevant transferable skills can really enhance your application in my post here, and if you are at the start of the process, then my comprehensive post on starting a personal statement will be of great value too.
Personal Statement Structure 2: Creative Example
If you’re applying for a creative arts course or another field of study that places an emphasis on practical skills, experience and original thought, then you will need to consider altering your personal statement structure and prioritising your practical skills from the outset.
The reason for this strategy is founded purely on the values that admissions teams expect for creative or practical courses, and is in no way an indicator that degrees considered ‘less academic’ are easier or of less value.
This is fundamentally not the case, as skills and ability are measured in relative terms.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupidEinstein/Kelly/Anon
What is a Creative Personal Statement Structure?
This personal statement structure also has six key sections, although both the content and sequencing vary significantly from the academic template, with the exception of the first section.
- The inspiration for your choice of course, subject or career field. You should indicate the motivation for your choices, inspirational people or experiences that have guided you and your reasons for applying. It can be worth mentioning your ambitions briefly, too, before coming back to these at the end of your personal statement.
- Your high-level practical experience of engaging with your subject. You must show the ways in which you have participated in your subject area outside of the classroom. This could be in an amateur setting, club, group or organisation, through extra courses, formally or informally. What matters is that you can illustrate a developing and lasting engagement and skill development.
- Evidence of independent work, collaborative and creative leadership. You should be able to indicate to the reader the ways in which you have sought out and taken relevant practical opportunities, collaborated on artistic and creative projects and, ideally, generated and led/presented creative work. This can be in an educative setting or beyond.
- Your relevant transferable skills. Of almost more importance than in the academic structure, you need to explain how a range of important personal skills complement your subject expertise.
- Academic foundations that support your application. It’s important to refer to your academic strengths in this personal statement structure, although here, they are used to support your practical abilities and experience. Consider the key elements of explanation, analysis, research and evaluation.
- Consideration of your value and ambition in relation to the subject or industry. An admissions officer will expect you to understand the relevant industry or sector and have made plans for your intended career path. You should convey your strengths and ambitions in relation to the course components but also clarify your longer-term goals and strategies for achieving them.
You can find a free, downloadable document that outlines this creative personal statement structure in more depth, along with suggested character counts for each section and detailed guidance notes here, or in the link below.
Developing engaging content with the right structure is hugely important, but so is making sure that your personal statement is well-written, accurate and concise. I often recommend Grammarly to the applicants I work with, as even the free version is an exceptionally powerful and valuable tool for generating and polishing compelling and accurate writing.
And it’s the ideal way to maintain the quality of your writing once you’re at university too!
You can check out the free version of Grammarly here, or hit the banner below.
If you’re looking for more support with writing a personal statement, check out my helpful post here, or click here to discover just how personal a personal statement should be!
Personal Statement Structure 3: Chronological Example
In some cases, a personal statement structure that takes a chronological approach can be particularly effective.
It’s the equivalent of writing the story or narrative of your life but in a highly condensed format.
It’s not for everyone, but taking the reader through the relevant key events of your life in the order in which they occurred, can sometimes add clarity and authenticity to an application.
When admissions teams can clearly see how your engagement with a subject or ambition has developed over time, they can feel more confident about making you an achievable offer.
But what kind of applicant should consider this kind of personal statement structure?
Using a Chronological Personal Statement Structure
You might consider using a chronological or narrative personal statement structure if…
- You want to evidence a long-term, well-developed engagement with a subject, goal or discipline. If you are applying for a Music course, for example, you might use a narrative structure to illustrate the continued development of your skills and experience over time.
- You have a series of factors that have adversely affected your educational career or have otherwise made your journey through education unusual. If you have suffered from illness, displacement or adversity, making the chronology of this clear can be extremely important. Equally, you may have travelled a great deal or faced challenges such as war or natural disasters, and communicating this context might be wise.
- You are a mature student who has developed a wide range of relevant skills and experiences outside of formal education. If you are returning to education, then writing a personal statement with a narrative structure will give you the opportunity to show motivation, independence and transferable skills.
What is a Chronological Personal Statement Structure?
This personal statement structure also has six key sections, although they are a little more general than in the previous 2 examples. Everyone will have a different story to tell, but the basic structure will work for most applicants…
- Your earliest relevant memory or significant event. You should outline the beginning of your journey in a vivid and engaging way. Consider the longer-term ramifications of this memory or event and relate it to the details of your application. Where does your journey begin?
- Early engagement with your subject, field or goal. This important section must outline the various ways in which you have engaged with the subject of your intended degree throughout your early or middle years. It should illustrate to the reader that you have taken every reasonable opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding, showing your dedication and commitment within the context of any limitations or challenges beyond your control.
- First phase of academic or practical development. Clarify the relevance and depth of any early or previous academic experiences or achievements. Outline ways in which earlier educational opportunities led to and supported your later learning.
- More recent experiences that evidence suitability, motivation or skills. Moving further along your journey, this section should evidence the direct and transferable skills that you have gained more recently and clarify the ways in which they link to the demands of your intended course.
- Most recent and relevant academic achievements or knowledge gained. It’s important to bring your journey up to date, and this final section should clearly explain and analyse your most recent formal academic and other educational achievements. Use the relevant course descriptors to illustrate the ways in which these achievements and skills make you a suitable candidate, ensuring that you bring your chronology up to date.
- Looking to your future in relation to your past. Lastly, use the concluding paragraph of your personal statement to establish your future ambitions and goals. These might be educational, but could also be experiential, aspirational or professional. Make connections with the strengths gained throughout your life and the pathway you have chosen.
You can find a free, downloadable document that outlines this chronological personal statement structure in more depth, along with suggested character counts for each section and detailed guidance notes here, or in the link below.
You can discover more about writing original personal statements in my post here, or check out my post on stress-free personal statement writing!
Is a Personal Statement 4000 Characters or 47 Lines?
This is a common question and reflects the fact that applicants from around the world apply to UCAS every year and are often confused by the guidelines.
On first reading, they do appear contradictory.
So, is a personal statement 4000 characters or 47 lines?
A UCAS undergraduate personal statement must be no longer than 4000 characters (including spaces and special characters) and should also not run over 47 lines of text. Correct editing and formatting will allow you to successfully upload your complete personal statement.
Documents not meeting these guidelines can still be uploaded, but UCAS will cut content in order to meet the character and line counts, so you must ensure that you double-check your personal statement before and after uploading it.
Don’t be afraid to condense your personal statement into what is, effectively, one continuous paragraph in order to meet the line count.
Admissions teams are used to reading applications in this format, and removing traditional line breaks does not count against you in the selection and offer process.
There’s an example of what this looks like below…
You can discover some excellent content in my post about personal statement paragraphs, and check out some of my powerful personal statement strategies here.
Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support. You’ve got this! D
Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.