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What To Avoid In Your Personal Statement

You hear a lot about the things you really should do when it comes to your UCAS personal statement. We’ve even done a top five about it. But you don’t always hear what you shouldn’t do.

As Deadline Day draws in ever closer, take a look at our top five things to avoid for UCAS personal statements.

1. Free templates

Your personal statement is just that: a statement that’s personal to you. So just like the essays you’ll write at uni, it needs to be all your own work.

It might be tempting to “borrow” a template from a website and change a few of the details, but with UCAS’s Big Brother-esque “Similarity Detection Service”, it will still get flagged up as plagiarism.

UCAS run all statements through a programme that checks them against a library of previous personal statements (so no adapting your big sister’s), sample statements from websites and a huge trove of other publications. That means if you were able to find it online, so will they.

Resist the easy route and start with a blank document, then type what comes to mind. Sure there are a few things you should include, but do it with your own words, not with some copy/paste work.

While we’re on the topic, don’t let anyone you don’t trust read your statement either. If they copy parts for their own, you’ll both be flagged up by UCAS.

2. Generic, meaningless clichés

It’s dog eat dog with personal statements and the winner takes it all. When you have many fingers in many pies and your back is against the wall, you might have blazed a new trail with some blue sky thinking and want to show you can teach an old dog new tricks.

At the end of the day, what it boils down to, when all’s said and done and the cards are on the table, is that you’re just wasting some of your 4,000 character limit. Cut to the chase, get to the point and keep it short and sweet, otherwise you’re just cutting your nose off to spite your face.

3. The names of specific universities

Remember you only have one personal statement, even if you’re filling up all of your course slots. That means you need to make it as general as possible while meeting the criteria for each subject.

It’s a challenge, that goes without saying, but one of the quickest ways to slip up is to include specific names of universities and courses. Not only does it use up vital characters, it’ll hurt the feelings of the other four places you’re applying to.

Like a busy Don Juan writing one letter for two lovers, keep it generic, avoid names and hammer home why you’re the perfect person regardless of the final choice.

4. Really long drawn out sentences that don’t really get to the point and waffle on about irrelevant things like that time you taught your dog to skateboard.

See what we did there?

Your character count is 4,000 and each letter is precious. It’s a personal statement, not an episode of Family Guy, so don’t go wasting them with non-sequiturs and tangents that aren’t focused on your main point.

5. Your year 6 prefect badge

Same goes for swimming badges. Your mum may be proud, but no one outside your school really cares.

What the admissions team want to hear is about your real world achievements that are relevant to the course and show you can apply yourself to a range of situations and circumstances like volunteer work and Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

For more help and advice, find out what makes the perfect personal statement by watching our Personal Statements Webinar, where you will hear from Newcastle University admissions staff and current students.

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