Help with writing your UCAS Progress personal statement – what to include about yourself, and some dos and don’ts on how to write it.
Writing about the course
Why are you applying for your chosen course(s)?
Explain why you want to do your chosen course(s). For example, someone who wanted to work with animals might write 'I would like to study a BTEC in animal care as I am passionate about looking after animals. I already look after two dogs and it will help me in my future career plans.'
Why does this course interest you?
You can write about anything you've read about the course(s) that you find interesting and would like to find out more about.
Why do you think you are suitable for the course(s)?
In this section, you can write about any experiences you have had that are related to the course(s), or any skills you've learnt that might help you. For example, if you have done any related volunteering or work experience, or if you have a part-time job such as babysitting, which shows more general strengths such as responsibility or commitment.
Do your current studies (e.g., GCSEs) relate to the course(s) you have chosen? If so, how?
You can let the provider know how much you enjoy a subject by writing about a course you have already studied that you found really interesting or you were good at.
Skills and achievements
Write about anything you have done that might help with your application.
- Write about anything you are proud of passing, for example, grade 2 in piano, or being selected for a sports team.
- Include any awards you have done, such as Duke of Edinburgh, or through ASDAN, for example.
- You can add any positions of responsibility you have held, for example, being a prefect or helping with young students at school.
Hobbies and interests
Make a list of your hobbies, interests, and anything you do socially.
- Think about how they show your skills and ability.
- Try to link them to skills and experience you might need on your chosen course(s).
Include details of placements, work experience, voluntary work, or jobs, especially if it is relevant to your chosen course(s).
- Try to show how this experience gave you new skills or made you think about your future plans, for example, things you really enjoyed or were good at.
- Also include any part-time work you are still doing, like a Saturday job or babysitting.
Use this section to tell the provider what you might like to do in the future as a career after completing the course. Explain how you would like to use the course(s) you have applied for to help you reach your goal.
Dos and don’ts when writing a personal statement
- Do use your best English and check your spelling and grammar are correct.
- Do be enthusiastic – if you show your interest in the course, it will help your application.
- Do ask people that you trust, like your teacher/adviser or parent/carer to read through what you have written and give you feedback.
- Don’t exaggerate – you might be asked about what you have written if you attend an interview with the course provider.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute – it's a good idea to give yourself time to think about what you write to make sure you don’t forget anything.
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Applying to universities to study law is difficult enough without taking into account the UCAS personal statement word limit.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! There is a word limit for the UCAS personal statement?”
Technically it’s a character limit, but yes, in short there is a limit to the length your UCAS personal statement can be. But it’s nothing to worry about. In fact wouldn’t you rather have a limit than be constantly worried that you’ve rambled far too much and focussed on non-important matters?
Dealing with the personal statement character limit
Regardless, the ‘word’ limit is 47 lines of text, or 4000 characters. This equates to (roughly) 500 words. UCAS recommend that you write out your personal statement in a word processor before copying and pasting it into the online application. This is because some word processors get different values if they don’t include spaces in their character count.
So, 4000 characters to sell yourself and earn your place on a competitive law course. Easy, right?
What to include in a law personal statement
In short, you should address two broad points in your personal statement – why you are applying for law and what makes you suitable.
When writing your personal statement remember that you need to address up to five universities. Generally, prospective university students tend to apply for the same course, or similar courses, so checking prospectuses and course profiles for the qualities universities look for in candidates.
For example, to study law at the University of Nottingham, students must “wish to study law as an academic discipline”. Therefore, you must outline in your personal statement what interests and motivates you to study law at university. The university also outline how you can “specialise in areas of law according to your own interests and future career plans”, prompting you to explain what areas of law you find most interesting, and where you see your career heading after you’ve finished your degree (*cough* vacation scheme and training contract *cough*). This covers the ‘why you are applying’ point.
As for what makes you suitable, as well as talking about your academic record and work ethic, you should also spend a bit of time speaking about your extracurricular activities. Universities want to take on students who have a personality, not just A* machines. Link your activities with valuable legal skills such as leadership, timekeeping (for all those 9am lectures) and the ability to work as part of a team.
Using your words wisely
“But how can I communicate all of my achievements and ambitions in just 500 words?” Being succinct is a skill. You will have word limits throughout your university studies, so see this limit as your first test. It also tests you to cut out information that isn’t wholly relevant.
UCAS personal statements are a toughie, but drafting and redrafting is part of the process, and you won’t get it absolutely spot on first time. Remember to stick to the limits and don’t forget to proofread!