UCAS Criteria

UCAS applications can be a nightmare with thousands upon thousands of students trying to apply for courses at their dream universities. Once they have trawled through countless universities, discounting hundreds and falling in love with five, students then have the difficult application process to follow through.

In this application process is the personal statement. The UCAS criterion is difficult and specific but very hard to explain as one admission tutor may have a slightly different view from another. What is for sure is that you should ensure that you write a detailed explanation about why you are applying for your chosen course and why you are suitable for this course. Make sure you sell yourself and do not forget to mention any work experience, hobbies or personal attributes that show how suited you are to the course.

It is important to think about why you want to study this course and why you are applying for university in the first place. You then need to write this down succinctly. It may be to progress your career and broaden your horizons, for example.

Admission tutors like to see real enthusiasm in your application. They are highly interested in seeing how much you want to go to university and how you will appreciate it when you are there. Express specific motivation for your application and explain thoroughly why in particular you have chosen the course you are applying for.

Demonstrate Enthusiasm for the Course

Your UCAS personal statement must show that you know something about the subject you are applying to study at university. This may sound obvious, but the most common failing in personal statements is the inadequacy in this area. The admissions tutor is looking for people who are going to do well on his or her course and respond positively to the subject they are studying, so he wants to see in your UCAS personal statement that you really know something about the material in the course and that it really interests you. Of course the admissions tutor does not expect you to know very much at this stage, but he wants to be able to see evidence of your genuine curiosity about the subject.

If you are applying to do English, then, in your UCAS personal statement you should try to show what you have read recently and which authors have impressed you most and why. You might say something like “I particularly enjoy the 19th century novel because of its psychological realism and depth, and I am very interested in the way that novelists at the beginning of the 20th century clearly felt that they could not write like that any more and needed to experiment with techniques and forms.” Perhaps you might say “It is Shakespeare’s presentation of evil characters I find most interesting, particularly as his ideas seem so different from our own.”

The History student can use his A-level courses to show his or her interest. He or she might say in the UCAS personal statement “I was particularly interested in the reign of George III, especially in the British reactions to the French Revolution, both among the intellectuals of the time and the ordinary people” or “the great interest in the Napoleonic era for me is in the way it prefigures so much of twentieth century European history, both before and after 1945″.

The engineer might write about machine design, e-manufacturing, advanced manufacturing technology and the analysis of engineering failure. The politics student should show an interest in the key concepts in political theory – the state, democracy, national identity, the extent of rights, the concept of freedom as well as the ideologies of right and left. The would-be pharmacist needs to show in the UCAS personal statement an interest in the science of the formulation of medicines, as well as a knowledge of cell and molecular biology, systemic physiology, the associated disease pathology and the pharmacology of appropriate drugs.

Whatever your subject you must do some research to be able to show that you know what you are letting yourself in for in applying to do a three-year degree course, and your UCAS personal statement is the one chance you have to show that knowledge. You can show your enthusiasm within your application by talking about future plans and goals and how you see your university achievements benefiting your career plans.

Beyond Academic Achievements

Admissions tutors will see your grades and predicted A-level grades on your application but they want to see what sets you apart from all of the other applicants so you need to detail this very obviously in your personal statement. In your UCAS personal statement part of the information you provide about yourself will be the sort of achievements and experiences you have had which might be relevant to your application. You will only need to mention non-examination successes and the like in this part of your personal statement. Proportion is needed here. The admissions tutor reading your personal statement will not be very interested in your sporting achievements – unless of course you are applying to study sports science or the like. Don’t fill up half of you UCAS personal statement with details of which netball team you have played in. If you have room, it might be worth mentioning that you have represented your school at various games, but a sentence is enough, unless you have captained a team and want to make a point about your leadership skills. You must consider carefully, though, whether this is of any significance to the course you are applying for. If you are applying to study business management, then ability to lead and guide people might be relevant. If it’s English or Physics, say, then it is of no importance at all.

Some achievements might suggest that you have the powers of perseverance which are important in a candidate for a long and challenging course. D of E, particularly Gold Award, is worth mentioning, as is BSES, which involves raising a substantial amount of money first and then living for six weeks in primitive conditions in the Arctic or in darkest Africa. Any long-term voluntary work is something worth boasting about. Courses relevant to your subject should be mentioned if they show a dedication to that subject beyond the limits of your school curriculum. Travel is relevant if your experience goes beyond two weeks in the sun.

Work Experience

For mature students, or those returning to the academic world after an interval, work experience should figure in your UCAS personal statement. It is usually the case that mature students make their minds up about the courses they want to apply for and the careers they want to follow as a result of experience in the working world, so that experience will be of the first relevance in your personal statement.

The business manager wants to do an MBA, the auxiliary nurse wants to do a nursing degree, or the classroom assistant wants to do a PGCE – all of these need to give detailed information about what they have done and how much they know. The school-leaver, however, will not add to his or her attractions by mentioning proudly in the UCAS personal statement that he or she has worked in Macdonald’s on Saturdays. You have to remember all the time what the admissions tutor is looking for in your personal statement. It is very important to mention any hobbies and interests, which show your commitment or a dynamic element to your personality. Explain why you choose to take up hobbies and what you have achieved by doing them. You can link this to how these hobbies help your studying if you are feeling clever!