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A personal statement is a student-written essay used for admissions purposes at higher education institutions in the U.K. and U.S.

Prospective undergraduate students wishing to study in the U.K. must submit their applications, including a personal statement, through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Prospective undergraduate students wishing to study in the U.S. can submit their applications, along with a personal statement and possibly a writing supplement, to a consortium of nearly 700 schools through a system known as the Common Application.

The personal statement is oftentimes one of the hardest components of the college application for students to complete. One of the issues involved with this is that although they are used for the same purpose, the requirements and guidelines in each country are different, meaning that a personal statement written for one country cannot always easily be repurposed for the other.


Admissions personnel for both UCAS and the Common Application use the personal statement as a way to learn more about the student that is not reflected in other parts of their application, such as grades and test scores.


Personal statements written for UCAS must not exceed 4,000 characters and 47 lines, while the Common Application permits a maximum of 650 words.


No specific topic or prompt is provided for the UCAS personal statement, although applicants are expected to address why they are applying to their chosen course subject, and why they are qualified to do so, by mentioning relevant activities, experience, skills, etc.

Applicants using the Common Application are required to respond to one of five provided prompts, which are revised every two years.


Students using UCAS submit a single personal statement to apply to a maximum of five schools. Therefore, applicants who apply to differing courses must be careful to ensure that the motivations they mention for studying a certain course do not conflict with their motivations for studying another course.

While the Common Application also requires the applicant to submit the same personal statement to different schools, the prompts used for the Common Application are purposely personal and general enough that applicants do not have to address their intended major as they do in the UCAS statement. Because of this, U.S. schools who wish to learn more about a student’s motivation for applying to their school and a particular major typically require the applicant to submit a writing supplement.


Undergraduates applying to Oxford, Cambridge, and most courses in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine/science in the U.K. must submit their completed applications along with their personal statement through UCAS by October 15. For other courses, the deadline is January 15.

Deadlines for the Common Application vary, but in general, applicants wishing to apply Early Decision should submit their completed application and essays by November 1, and/or by January 1 for Regular Decision.

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