Wondering what you should avoid putting in your UCAS personal statement

A while ago we talked about the things you should include in your personal statement. This included non-academic interests, your reasons for wanting to study a particular course and previous experience. 

Those were the Do’s, but what are the Don’ts? What should you absolutely avoid putting in your personal statement? Follow our tips below to make sure your UCAS application is a success.

1. Poor spelling and grammar

A personal statement riddled with grammatical mistakes and typos just comes across as careless and rushed. This is not the best impression to give prospective universities.

If you don’t want to receive five rejection letters make sure you read and proof-read your personal statement.

Then ask at least two other people to proof-read it too. It doesn't matter who looks at your statement - family, relatives, friends or tutors - but the more people you can circulate it to for feedback on spelling, grammar and other issues, the better.

2. Clichés

Avoid clichés like the plague.

They are overdone, a bit tacky and often meaningless.

You may be hoping to impress with your “thirst for knowledge” but do you know who else is hoping the exact same thing? Everyone.


This is another outrageously overused tactic; quoting the likes of Shakespeare, Martin Luther King or Einstein. But why quote other people when you can speak for yourself?

A lot of students believe quotes make them look well-read but unless you’re quoting something very obscure (or very important) it doesn’t quite work that way.

This is because the same quotes are used by thousands of students every year, and you want your statement to stand out - not blend in.

4. Exaggeration and Lies

We don’t have to tell you why lying on your personal statement is a very bad idea.

Just know that if you do lie about or exaggerate your achievements and experience, you will get caught out eventually, espcially if you're applying for a subject where you could be invited to interview.

5. Personal Exploits

We all know that university is as much about having a good time as it is about academia, but your personal statement is not the time to discuss any shenanigans you've been involved in.

Don’t write about all the crazy nights out, lads’ holidays or football banter you’ve taken part in; keep it strictly professional.

Admissions tutors expect you to have a social life, but they don’t need to know the how, what, where or why. 

If you’ve travelled or have any unique (but relevant) hobbies however, feel free to include the details, as these can enhance your application.

6. Negativity

Don’t talk about bad educational experiences like why you dropped an AS level or failed an exam; it’s really not important. Your achievements, skills and positive experiences are important, however. 

Although selling yourself can be hard and feels a bit unnatural, admissions tutors want to see the best of you, not the worst.

7. Repetition

Saying something once is enough.

You don’t have enough space to repeat yourself and admissions tutors don’t have enough time to read the same thing again and again.

Remember - you only have 4,000 characters to convince the university you will make a great (and successful) student on their course.

Organise your statement so it covers everything you want to say in a strategic, logical way. That way you won’t waffle, stumble or repeat information.

8. Humour

Unless you’re applying to a comedy writing course or similar, leave the jokes and puns out of it. You don’t know your audience so any jokes you do tell might fall flat (or worse, offend!). 

Trying to be funny or informal is a huge risk.

Don’t jeopardise your university career with an inappropriate comment. 

Further information

For more advice on writing your personal statement, please see:

You may also find our eBook guides useful, all available on Amazon Kindle:

If you have any comments, questions or feedback on my post, please pop them below!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated in 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.