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Personal statements: frequently asked questions

We tackle some of the most-googled personal statement queries, including how to end a personal statement and whether spaces count.

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Haven’t begun your personal statement yet? Start with our how-to guide including what you should write, how to approach it and more.
 

Can a personal statement go over 4,000 characters?

No, 4,000 characters is the limit given to you in Ucas Apply when you copy your statement into the system. Therefore anything you’ve written over this will either not be copied over or allowed to be submitted. 

You should get an error message telling you that you’ve gone over the limit, but be careful that nothing has been cut off before you click ‘submit’.


Pick up a few pointers from these personal statement examples
 

Does a personal statement have to be 4,000 characters?

Not necessarily, but it’s recommended that you use the full word count available to you: 4,000 characters or 47 lines, whichever comes first.

While this might sound like a lot of space, once you begin drafting your personal statement and getting down everything you need to include, you’ll find space filling up very quickly.

Plus, hopefully you’ll have lots of experiences and skills to talk about.


Personal statement builder | Which? University

 

Are spaces included in the Ucas character count?

The character limit for your personal statement is 4,000 characters and does usually include spaces. This includes any spaces you leave between paragraphs.

You can check how your personal statement will look in Ucas Apply by using Studential’s length checker tool.

Learn more about how long your personal statement should be, plus more statement tips.


Watch now: How to write a Ucas personal statement
Get started with our top guide to writing a personal statement including what to include and more:
 

What font and font size should you use for your personal statement?

It doesn’t really matter what font type or font size you choose to write your personal statement in because all formatting is stripped out when you copy it into Ucas Apply.

The only things you need to watch out for are your line spacing and character count, as these will contribute towards the limit in Ucas Apply.
 

Can you reference in a personal statement?

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to reference or include a citation to something such as a book, journal or research paper in your personal statement (especially if you’re applying to an undergraduate course straight from college/sixth form – it should be quite easy to talk about these without doing so). 

While we have compared a personal statement to a short, reflective essay, it’s not quite the same as an essay you’d write at college or university, where you reference a long list of texts and materials to back up your points. 

And while Oxbridge personal statements are often more academically focused, even then your personal statement shouldn’t be a long list of things you’ve read. It’s more about picking out a few texts that have shaped your understanding of your subject, and talking about these. 

If you still find yourself needing to cite something you’ve mentioned in your personal statement, the University of Sheffield has a guide to the Harvard style of referencing. This is one of the most popular citation systems in the world. 


What else should you avoid in your personal statement? Here are 10 items you can delete right now. 


 

How many personal statements can you write for Ucas?

You only write one personal statement, which you then submit to Ucas via its Apply system. All of your Ucas choices on your application will see this one personal statement.

This is why it’s a good idea not to make any references to specific universities or courses in your personal statement, such as:
  • a specific professor at a university you’re hoping to be taught by
  • a particular university’s alumni that has inspired you
  • if a particular course has a work placement or study abroad option that others don’t
  • where a university is located if it’s significant for your subject.

In short, stick to talking about your subject or course generally in your personal statement.

That said, you should try to find common themes across courses for your subject (or across your Ucas choices). These could be modules they have in common or the language they use when talking about the types of students who would excel on the course, for instance. 

Simply search for a course or subject and take a look at a dozen or so specific courses to see what they have in common.

This can help you understand what to highlight in your personal statement, so regardless of which university is reading it, you’re still ticking the right boxes.

The same goes for getting an idea of what entry requirements you should aim for. Again, take a look at what a few different universities state (especially if you’re at the stage of choosing your A-levels and you have a degree in mind).


Writing a personal statement for more than one subject or course is tricky, but not impossible. Learn how to do it.


Watch now: Five biggest personal statement struggles
We asked students what they struggled with most – sound familiar?
 

How do you end a personal statement?

You should use the conclusion of your personal statement to summarise some of the key points you’ve talked about already, but without repeating yourself word-for-word or waffling on longer than you need to – what you don’t want to do is go out on a whimper.

These key points may be specific work experience that’s developed your understanding of your subject, what you want to learn more about, or a key moment in your life that inspired you. Returning to these can help structure your personal statement.

You may also end your personal statement by talking about any future goals you have (eg career paths) and how studying this course will help you fulfil these.

Finally, it can’t hurt to end by saying that you look forward to meeting them; this shows great enthusiasm and confidently (yet subtly) puts the idea of inviting you to an interview in an admissions tutor’s head.

Remember, this is the last impression an admissions tutor will have of you before deciding to make you an offer or not – so make it a strong one.

Not sure how to start your personal statement? Learn how to write a killer opening and find out what not to write.
 

Need more personal statement help?

Browse our entire personal statement advice section to find the answer to your query, including some helpful personal statement examples

Plus, our free personal statement builder can help you draft your statement for your subject.

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