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Changes to UCAS personal statements

Updated: Feb 8

In 2024, UCAS intends to implement a new system of testing its applicants, removing the present system of personal statements. Instead, applicants will be asked to answer a series of questions, which many will see as a blessing. However, having recently gone through the process of writing my personal statement, I cannot help but feel some degree of resentment to those who will get to miss out, and yet also a degree of pity.

My own UCAS application went off some months ago, and I spent several hours crafting my own statement into the present format of about four thousand characters. Summarising one’s life into such a short space is a somewhat difficult task, filtering out which achievements are of the most relevance. It also required my removing of the false humility I cannot help but put on when asked to write about myself, because there simply were not the letters for that. Instead, I had to appear shamelessly self-promoting. It is a skill, particularly in the British culture, we often lack. Our somewhat pessimistic outlook makes us neglect our positives, and instead elect for a dry, self-depreciating humour. Throughout my time in education, where I often became part of an interviewing panel, I saw this in full force. As an interviewer, I had to try far harder to encourage candidates to tell me what was good about them than what they saw as their negatives. By forcing me to seriously consider what is good about myself and how to portray that to someone else, it certainly taught me how to think otherwise, or at least how to appear as though I did when put in a position where self-promotion is a necessary skill, such as an interview.

On the other hand, in year 13, time is limited. Exams are barely months away, and yet some of my fellow students are slaving away at their personal statements, taking up valuable time which could be spent revising for those key exams. By removing this obstacle, UCAS recognises sixth formers are expected to work exceptionally hard whilst also being proactive in the logistical process of applying to university. On top of this, there is the issue of people’s literacy. I am fortunate to be articulate and good with words, and am not uncomfortable writing at some lengths. My strengths in history, politics and other arts puts me in good stead to write like this. The same cannot be said for some people, particularly those who excel in the sciences. Whilst they may be equally or even more capable than me, their ability to tell others about that is significantly worse. By replacing the personal statements, UCAS removes an obstacle to bright and yet inarticulate students, who still deserve a good place at university when they can work towards their talents. For these students, I have great sympathy, particularly ones who show such brilliant potential in their specialist areas.

Overall, therefore, it would be hard to argue that the removal of the personal statement is a bad thing. It is another step of making university more accessible to bright and talented students, and does not exclude which type of intelligence they must possess in order to do this. Essentially, UCAS has made the right choice.

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