What’s the Latest on the UCAS Personal Statement Changes for 2024?

26 Dec, 2023 | University Preparation

UCAS will soon be changing their long-standing personal statement regulations for 2026 entry (from October 2025). This comes on the back of a number of other UCAS changes, including a new process for references being introduced in 2024. 

As always, OxBright will keep this article up-to-date as new information is released, so you can be confident in your application process.

If you’d like more tailored support for your UCAS application, our University Preparation Report offers insights into your individual strengths and areas for improvement to kickstart your journey to your dream university!

What Is the UCAS Personal Statement?

Writing your personal statement is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd and tell universities what you can bring to your undergraduate degree. 

Your personal statement is your chance to talk about you, explain why you have chosen a particular course, and showcase your skills and a sense of your personality and interests. It can be difficult to know where to start, but the personal statement can be easily approached in four main stages:

  1. An engaging introduction
  2. An account of academic and personal experiences that demonstrate your suitability and passion for your chosen course
  3. An account of relevant extracurricular experiences, and what your future goals for your studies might be
  4. A conclusion reiterating your points

The current guidelines for the personal statement stipulate that it’s limited to 4,000 characters (roughly two sides of A4), including spaces and punctuation.

Why Are UCAS Personal Statements Changing?

The UCAS personal statement requirements are changing for university applications applying for 2026 entry. This means that changes will be implemented from October 2025 onwards, so current applications will not be affected by these changes. 

Students applying for degree programmes starting in the autumn of 2024 or 2025 will still need to write a personal statement in the typical format. October 2024 applications, for entry in 2025, will be the last round of applications using the current system. 

The decision to change the personal statement is based on findings from UCAS’s ‘Reimagining UK Admissions’ report. The report aimed to shape efforts on improving outcomes for students, gathering insights from over 15,000 students and 700 teachers from various universities, colleges, and conservatoires, as well as other educational institutions and governing bodies involved in higher education. 

The report revealed that students have very mixed feelings about the personal statement. The 2022 survey on applicant experience revealed that while 87% of respondents reported that the purpose of the personal statement was clear, 83% found the process of writing one too stressful, and 79% found it too difficult to write without proper support from teachers and experts. 

The proposed changes to the personal statement are aimed at addressing these issues, particularly offering more support for applicants from different academic backgrounds. It’s hoped that by splitting the personal statement into sections, each with a guiding question, students will be able to approach the task with greater confidence.

What Are the Latest Changes to UCAS Personal Statements?

The personal statement is being reformed, not completely removed. It will now take the form of a series of free-text questions, reflecting three key themes, to create a more supportive guiding framework. 

This will mean that students can be sure they’ve provided the same information about themselves as every other applicant and will be judged on an even field. The three key themes have now been confirmed: motivation for course, preparedness for course, and preparation through other experiences. 

How to Answer the New Personal Statement Questions?

Although this makes the personal statement much more straightforward, it’s still a daunting task. Here are some useful tips for approaching the three themed questions.

Two students sitting on grass, working on laptop and writing in notebook

1. Why do you want to study the course?

This is your chance to explain why you would be a good fit for the particular course you’ve chosen. Provide a sincere and enthusiastic response about your passion for the chosen course. 

It’s important to demonstrate your understanding of the course content and why it resonates with you, so make sure you do your research on what your chosen course entails beyond the general subject area! Don’t forget to articulate how the course aligns with your long-term career or academic goals too. 

For example, an answer in this section might begin: 

“Since a young age I have been fascinated by how history resonates in our everyday lives, from geopolitics to language. I have often been inspired to seek out the historical context to concepts I come across in class, or events and issues I see on the news. I am passionate about using History to better understand and contribute to the world around me, and studying History would equip me to do this. 

 

In the future, I hope to work in international relations, and a firm grasp of history and historical thinking would serve me well to that end. While I have enjoyed my studies at school so far, I am looking forward to the opportunity to delve deeper into a wider range of topics and time periods.”

2. How has your learning so far helped you to prepare for success on this course?

This section is your chance to stand out as an individual by highlighting academic achievements and experiences that have prepared you for the course. 

This could include things like extracurricular activities and opportunities for learning outside of school, such as OxBright’s online academic courses. Explain how such experiences have broadened your knowledge, honed your skills, and opened up new avenues for exploration in your chosen subject area. Use specific examples to illustrate how your learning has equipped you for success in this particular academic setting. 

For example, reporting your experience at a summer school might look something like this: 

“I have often sought out opportunities to continue my learning outside of the classroom and explore new areas that my school courses don’t cover. I recently attended an OxBright online course on World History and Philosophy. This gave me the chance to explore ideas and events from a global perspective, and I was particularly intrigued by the ways in which philosophical and political thought has been built in layers over time. 

 

For example, ideas like human rights, that we consider quite modern, are in fact rooted in the ideals of ancient societies. It has led me to question concepts like “progress” and “modernity” in history, and I am looking forward to studying more historiography and historical theory at university to further develop my understanding.”

3. What else have you done to help yourself prepare? How and why are these experiences so useful?

In this section, emphasise any personal growth and development gained from various experiences which will stand you in good stead on your academic journey. This could be something like time spent abroad increasing your engagement with an aspect of another culture, or an internship, like the Oxbright academic and work internships, developing your skills and understanding in a vocational field. 

Explain how your diverse experiences have uniquely positioned you to excel in the challenges of your chosen course. Outline any transferable skills you’ve gained from these experiences and how they contribute to your readiness for the course. 

An example of reporting your experience on an internship might be something like this: 

“Wanting to gain some more hands-on experience of Engineering, I attended an OxBright internship. During this internship, I had the chance to participate in designing a bridge to withstand the challenges of an earthquake. I quickly developed my mathematical and practical skills under the guidance of an expert mentor. 

 

Learning through practical application of concepts I had only seen in the classroom has really changed how I think and approach new problems. During this process, I came to better understand how I learn best, and how to multitask while doing practical work, which will serve me well when approaching the challenges of practical and theoretical work on an Engineering degree.” 

Ultimately, the good news is that the UCAS personal statement process is changing to make your life easier! 

You can keep these new themed questions in mind while you prepare for applications, making sure that you’re collecting experiences which you can use in each section. With these three simple categories to direct you, you can approach your personal statement with confidence!

alice

By Alice Spiers

Alice is an historian at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she teaches undergraduate history (predominantly medieval history and historiographical theory). She is also a freelance writer and editor, and a research assistant at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Studies.

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