This is perhaps the most important aspect of your UCAS application, besides your reference that your teacher or another person who knows you academically writes. You need to be careful with this part of your application, as universities and colleges look at this to determine whether or not you receive an interview offer from them. It’s a long process in my opinion, because you have to get this part right. It’s best to start writing it as soon as possible. Your personal statement can be up to 4000 characters with spaces and 47 lines. It isn’t a lot really (though it may seem it!) so make sure everything you say is important and relevant. You should write it in Microsoft Word, so you can spell check it and make sure that it is gramatically correct. Though don’t rely on this, always proofread it and get other people to read it, as you may find something wrong or another person may find something you’ve missed. You can look at personal statements written by other people who have been accepted onto Social Work degrees on various sites, such as Studential and the Student Room but you MUST NOT copy anything as UCAS will detect this on their plagiarism system.
It may be useful to start with a mindmap: Why do you want to do social work? What skills do you have that relate to Social Work? What research have you done? What experience do you have relating to Social Work? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself. The most important one is why you have chosen to study social work. Use a piece of paper to jot answers down to these questions, I read somewhere that you should carry a piece of paper and a pen around with you, just incase you think of an idea for your personal statement. This is important in this stage of the application, as you want your personal statement to be the best it can be.
Once you have answers to the questions above, start the first draft of your personal statement.
I personally recommend the following structure for personal statements as it worked well for me, though you don’t have to use this:
- Opening statement – most likely why you want to do Social Work.
- Your course – What course/courses are you studying now? How do they relate to Social Work? What skills have you gotten from them that relate to Social Work and studying at university? (If you aren’t in education, how has your past academic study prepared you for the degree and university?)
- Your experience – This can be life experience, work experience, voluntary work or having a paid job. How does it relate to social work? What skills have you got from the experience that relate to Social Work?
- Research – What research have you done? What have you learnt from it? – You should also include in here anything different you have done relating to Social Work – perhaps you are on Twitter and talk to other social workers, have reviewed a book or something similar.
- GAP YEAR – If you are taking a gap year – explain why. Is it to gain more experience, gain employment related to the area, gain money?
- Hobbies and Interests – Do you have any hobbies or interests relating to Social Work such as being part of the debating club, being head of your sports team or playing a musical instrument. You may have gained transferable skills from your hobbies and interests such as negotiation, organisation etc. I would only add this part in, if you have space. It isn’t as essential as your experience.
- Closing statement – this should include your motivation for studying at university and should show you are willing to undertake the degree in Social Work. You could say that you hope they consider your application, or provide a summary of your personal statement, whatever works best for you, it’s your personal statement.
You will probably find that you are redrafting your statement a lot, this is normal. It took me 16 drafts to get my personal statement where I wanted it to be.
Once you have your final personal statement, put it into your application by copying and pasting it. You can then do a final spell check. Note: Microsoft Word adds “curly” quotation marks and other characters like é or ü, that won’t show up on your UCAS form. Proofread it on UCAS before submitting it fully to ensure it is how you typed it.
- Use paragraphs.
- Check for spelling and grammar.
- Don’t use big words (if you don’t know what they mean!) Universities/colleges just want to see that you can write well in English.
- Get as many people to read your personal statement as you can. The more advice you have, the better it will be.
- Do your research on the profession – I found reading a job profile and case studies from social workers useful. For the skills part, using a skills set of a social worker is helpful when linking skills and experience to Social Work. For example: a social worker needs to be able to understand theory and apply it to practice – you could have gotten this skill from completing your studies and volunteering at the same time.
- Do a mind-map to start off with. It will help you get a clear idea of what to include. You don’t have to include everything you put on your mind-map.
- Take your time with it, you need to take your time to get it right. It may take months, but you’ll know that your personal statement is the best it can be.
- Make yourself stand out.
- Relate everything you say in your personal statement to Social Work. You haven’t got that many lines or characters so make sure you write well.
- Read example personal statements (but remember not to copy them otherwise your application can be cancelled).
- Back up your personal statement on a memory stick or do a handwritten copy, you don’t want to lose your personal statement and have to write it all again!
- Extra spaces for indentation are removed on UCAS, so keep this in mind when writing your personal statement.
- You might be asked about your personal statement at interview so: DO NOT lie, DO NOT over-exaggerate, DO put things you are prepared to talk about at interview in.
- Be reflective – show what your experience/course has taught you. Being able to look back at experiences is important in Social Work.
Good luck with your personal statement.