Personal Statement: Getting more words on the page

You may find that your personal statement is just a little too long to fit in the space provided in the UCAS form.

Assuming you've edited it down as much as you think you can, and it's still a little too big, there are a few things you can do to make it fit.

In general the more you use these techniques, the harder your personal statement will be to read - you need to strike a balance between having a great personal statement and one that will fit on the page.

A personal statement that doesn't fit on to your UCAS form is no good, but then neither is a statement that fits but is almost unreadable. You need to play around with your word processor and find something that fits into the space you are given.

Whatever changes you make, be sure to do a few test copies first - sometimes small adjustments can have bad effects that you might not notice until you come to print out your personal statement.

Lower the font size

Though UCAS recommends you use a 12pt font, though you should be able to get away with 11.5 pretty easily.

Some word processors give you a lot of control over the font size and let you set it to 11.25 or 11.225, which allows you to find an optimum font size for your personal statement.

It's not recommended you use a font of 11 or less because when the universities receive your UCAS form it is shrunk to A5 size rather than A4.

If you want to use a font of 11 or lower, make sure you try reducing the page to A5 just to see if it is readable or not.

Remember, if you find it difficult to read, so will the admissions tutors, and they will end up looking at your personal statement for less time.

Change the font

Though the most common fonts are Arial and Times New Roman, you may find that using a different font from these allows you to get more words on the page.

Don't use a decorative or script type font - go for something close to the one you are already using.

Many fonts also come in a narrow option, where the characters are slightly thinner. The disadvantage is it may make your personal statement harder to read.

Change the line spacing

Many word processors let you specify exactly how much space is used between the lines in a paragraph.

By lowering this slightly you will be able to fit more lines on a page. However if it is lowered too much, characters will start joining together, making your personal statement harder to read.

Change the page margins

The template provided to write your personal statement in gives you margins which are a little wider than the space on your statement - you may find that you can alter these slightly, and it will still look fine.

Be very careful when doing this, as you can easily end up with a personal statement that runs off the page in one direction.

Word processor settings

If your word processor is unable to use the Microsoft Word personal statement template, or you just want a bit more control over your template, you can use the settings provided here and type them into your word processor.

The first two will probably be set for you but you need to check that your word processor is set to use A4 paper, and it is set to portrait orientation. Also set the measurement system your word processor uses to centimetres.

Apart from that you only need to set the page margins. Margins are the blank borders around the edge of the page measured from the edge of the page to where the text starts.

For third page of the UCAS form, you need to use the following margin settings.

Top margin: 8.7cm
Left margin: 1.3cm
Right margin 1.3cm
Bottom margin: 4.2cm

If your word processor has the setting "gutter", you need to make sure this is set to 0, as it normally lies outside of the page margins.

As always, do a few test prints to make sure the settings work before using the real UCAS form.