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How much should you actually say in a personal statement and how much should I say in the interview?

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students with graduation caps

13 September 2022

You may have heard of the phrase “put your best foot forward” – the idea being that you should try to make a good impression with others. The personal statement in your UCAS application form is much the same! Universities often use it to see if you have the desired qualities that they are looking for in a student to the courses that you are applying to.

With fewer universities and courses now interviewing than in the past, the personal statement can be really important in terms of demonstrating that you are someone suitable to study at university. (In some cases though, the personal statement won’t be used to assess your application such as with the UCL Medical School for 2023 entry.) So if you are worried about being interviewed then definitely check on university prospectus pages, and contact your choices if you’re unsure, as your course may not even interview.

Regardless, you should be providing universities with the best picture of your skills and experiences through your personal statement – i.e. not trying to save things for an interview! In your personal statement, you should be looking to explain things like:

  • Why you are interested in the course/area 
  • What relevant skills (e.g. analytical) and experiences (e.g. attending a virtual event on a certain topic) you have 
  •  Potential career plans 
  •    Extra-curricular activities (they don’t even have to relate to your course!) to help demonstrate your leadership, teamwork, or outstanding performance

Of course, we appreciate that you have a limit to what you can cover in your UCAS form so you may need to make a couple of different drafts of your personal statement and then decide which things to remove. So, in a way, you may end up leaving things for an interview! 

If your course does interview then you may well be asked about things that you have written in your personal statement. So be prepared to go into more detail about whatever you have written! 

For example, if you are applying to an English Literature course and mention a book and its themes in your statement then you may be asked more about your thoughts. This is a great opportunity to show off your knowledge and impress interviewers but usually they will be more interested in how you answer rather than exactly what you say – they want to learn more about your thought process and how you approach your answers.

Finally, if you think you need help with your personal statement or interview preparation then please do speak to a teacher or adviser at your educational institution, or even a friend or family. If you’re not able to get help from any of those people, or simply want more options, then online resources such as The Student Room can still be very useful.