10 things NOT to put in your Ucas personal statement
Remember, your personal statement has a word count. If you're exceeding the limit on your statement, cut these now...
When you first sit down to write your personal statement, talking at length about your experience, skills, achievements and interests might seem a mission, especially to meet the word count. But once you get into the swing of things – and hopefully you'll have lots to talk about – you'll find space running out, quickly.
If you find yourself having to cut words, here are ten unnecessary things students fill their statement with, which you can go ahead and delete...
Just beginning your personal statement? Our beginner's guide covers everything, from why it's important and correct length to practical tips...
Over the word limit? What not to write in your personal statement...
It’s your voice they want to hear – not Coco Chanel, Einstein, Paul Britton, Martin Luther King, David Attenborough, Descartes or Napoleon’s. So don’t put a quote in unless it’s really necessary to make a critical point. It’s a waste of your word count (and a cliche way to begin your statement).
'So many people use the same quotes and the worst scenario is when it comes right at the start of the statement with no explanation.'
'I don’t care what Locke thinks, I want to know what YOU think!'
'We ignore quotes, so it's a waste of space.'
Or as a sport admissions tutor said: 'I’m totally fed up of Muhammad Ali quotes!'
What do we wish we hadn't written in ours? Take a look...
Watch now: Which? staff read their old personal statements
2. Random lists
Avoid giving a list of all the books you’ve read, countries you’ve visited, work experience placements you’ve done, positions you’ve held. For starters, it’s boring to read. It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you think about it or learned from it that matters or how it's developed your understanding of your subject.
A dentistry admissions tutor sums it up: 'I would much rather read about what you learned from observing one filling than a list of all the procedures you observed.'
3. Over-used clichés
Avoid 'from a young age', 'since I was a child', 'I’ve always been fascinated by', 'I have a thirst for knowledge', 'the world we live in today'…etc. You get the idea.
They constantly recur in hundreds of personal statements and don’t really say an awful lot.
4. Bigging yourself up with sweeping statements or unproven claims
More phrases to avoid: 'I genuinely believe I’m a highly motivated person' or 'My achievements are vast'.
Instead give specific examples that provide concrete evidence. Show, don’t tell!
Personal statement examples – pick up tips for your own statement
5. Limit your use of the word ‘passion’
The word ‘passion’ (or ‘passionate’) is incredibly over-used. Try to convey your passion without using the word 'passion'.
See, it loses its effect.
6. Stilted vocabulary
Frequent use of words or phrases like 'fuelled my desire', 'I was enthralled by' or 'that world-renowned author Jane Austen' make you sound, well, a bit fake (or like you’ve been over-using the thesaurus).
If you wouldn’t say something in a day-to-day discussion, don’t say it in your statement. It’s even worse if you get it slightly wrong, like 'I was encapsulated by the biography of Tony Blair' or 'it was in Year 10 that my love for chemistry came forth' (or, worse still, 'came fourth').
7. Plagiarism, lies or exaggeration
Ucas uses stringent similarity and plagiarism software and your universities will be told if you copy anything from another source.
And as for exaggeration, don’t say you’ve read a book when you’ve only read a chapter – you never know when it might catch you out at a university interview.
'If you didn’t do it, read it or see it, don’t claim it.'
Watch now: Personal statement dos and dont's
8. Trying to be funny
Humour, informality or quirkiness can be effective in the right setting but it’s a big risk, so be careful.
'It can be spectacularly good – or spectacularly bad.'
'An admissions tutor is not guaranteed to have your sense of humour.'
'Weird is not a selling point.'
9. Negative comments or excuses
It can be difficult to ‘sell yourself’ in your personal statement, but don’t talk about why you haven’t done something, or why you dropped an AS level.
Focus on the positives and what you have done!
10. Irrelevant personal facts
Before you write about playing badminton or a school trip you went on in year nine, apply the 'so what?' rule. Does it make a useful contribution and help explain why you should be given a place on the course? If not, scrap it.
Still have words to cut from your personal statement to meet the word limit? Here are 10 MORE things you can cut.
Browse our full personal statement advice or try our personal statement builder to help draft yours.