Big changes are coming to the UCAS application process. UCAS announced that they will be replacing personal statements with a series of structured questions starting in 2024. This new approach aims to reduce stress for university applicants while still giving them a chance to share information about themselves.
Why is UCAS Changing Personal Statements?
The personal statement has been one of the key criteria of the UCAS application for years. However, feedback from both students and universities highlighted some issues with the current free-form format. Surveys found that 83% of students felt writing the personal statement was stressful and 79% said it was hard to complete without support.
Universities also noted it can be difficult to compare personal statements, as content varies widely depending on the individual student. With no set guidelines, students receive different levels of help based on what resources are available.
The goal of the new structured questions is to focus responses and make the process more equitable across the board. Applicants will have clarity on what information universities want to know upfront.
What Will Replace Personal Statements?
Starting with the 2025 UCAS application entry, personal statements will be replaced by six key questions identified through research with universities:
- Motivation for Course – Why do you want to study these courses?
- Preparedness for Course – How has your learning so far helped you to be ready to succeed in these courses?
- Preparation through Other Experiences – What else have you done to help prepare, and why are these experiences useful?
- Extenuating Circumstances – Is there anything the universities need to know to put your achievements into context?
- Preparedness for Study – What have you done to prepare for student life?
- Preferred Learning Styles – Which styles suit you best and how do your course choices match that?
The goal is to capture the key information universities need while allowing applicants to share relevant details about themselves. UCAS continues to refine the focus areas based on feedback.
What This Means for Applicants
Replacing personal statements will affect students definitely. For students applying in 2024 and beyond, the new questions will change how you present yourself to universities.
The good news is that the process aims to be more straightforward with a clear structure to follow. However, it still requires thought and effort to make your responses stand out.
With less space for elaborate anecdotes, choose details carefully to showcase your skills, experience and fit for the program. Follow prompts closely and focus on exactly how you meet the criteria.
The emphasis will likely shift from creative writing skills to concise, persuasive responses showcasing your abilities. Take time to reflect on experiences that highlight your motivation and preparedness.
What Happens Next?
UCAS emphasizes this change will be a process based on continuous feedback. They aim to introduce the new questions somewhere in 2024 to allow students and advisors time to adjust.
Before launch, UCAS is gathering input on areas like:
- Are there any missing question topics?
- How much preparation time would your role need?
- Perspectives on allowing different statements per university choice.
There is still time to share thoughts and help shape this update. UCAS also hints at more innovations in future cycles, such as multi-media submissions.
Postgraduate Personal Statements Remain Unchanged
The upcoming changes to the personal statement will only apply to undergraduate UCAS applications. For students applying to postgraduate, PhD and master’s programmes, personal statements will remain a required component of the application process.
These programmes will continue to use free-form personal statements, allowing applicants ample space to detail their motivations, relevant skills and experiences. Universities utilise personal statements to assess candidates’ fit and potential for rigorous further study required at the postgraduate level.
While undergraduate admissions are evolving, postgraduate applicants can expect the current personal statement format to persist across UK universities.
Final Thoughts: Personal Statement Change
The UCAS personal statement as we know it will soon be a thing of the past. While it marks a major change, the update aims to streamline the process for all involved. Students can focus on putting their best foot forward in a more structured format. With some preparation, applicants will still be able to share their unique stories.
FAQ: UCAS Replacing Personal Statements
Why is UCAS replacing personal statements?
UCAS decided to replace free-form personal statements after feedback showed the current format causes stress for applicants. Universities also noted personal statements can be difficult to compare. The new structured questions aim to make the process more straightforward and equitable.
When will the new questions be implemented?
UCAS plans to introduce the structured questions no earlier than 2024, for use in the 2025 application cycle. This timeline allows students, advisors, and universities time to adjust to the new format.
What will the new questions focus on?
Based on research with universities, UCAS identified six key topics: motivation and preparedness for the course, relevant experiences, extenuating circumstances, preparedness for study, and preferred learning styles. Applicants will need to concisely answer prompts on each theme.
How many questions will there be?
UCAS is still finalising the format, but the initial framework suggests six main questions covering the key themes. Each theme may have multiple sub-questions to guide responses.
Will the word count stay the same?
We don’t know yet. Details are still in progress, but it’s likely the total word count will be similar to the current 4,000-character limit for personal statements. Word counts may vary per question.
How should students prepare for the new format?
Students should reflect on key experiences that showcase their skills, motivation and readiness for university study. Focus responses on providing relevant details the prompts ask for.
Will universities have access to past personal statements?
UCAS has not indicated if universities will still have access to personal statements submitted before 2024 during the transition period.