Changes to the UCAS Personal Statement

The UCAS personal statement has been a stumbling block for university applicants for decades. However, UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) is shortly to introduce an entirely new process which will instead adopt a structure incorporating six questions applicants will have to answer instead.

How will the personal statement be changing?

The previous requirement was for a lengthy and potentially unstructured personal statement which would be uploaded to the UCAS Hub.

Universities would read this statement, and potentially make admissions decisions and offers based upon your statement and your predicted grades. For a lot of students, especially those who didn’t necessarily have access – either socially or financially – to a lot of the extracurricular activities their peers might, this immediately put them at a disadvantage.

Initially the new process was due to be introduced in 2024, for applicants looking for university entry from 2025. However, UCAS have now decided that it won't be introduced until 2025 at the earliest.

Currently, it is understood that the new process will ask you to answer questions on six areas related to your potential suitability for university entrance and study on your course. These are likely – but not yet confirmed – to be something along the following lines:

  • Why do you want to study this course?
  • What have you learned so far that prepares you for this course?
  • What else have you done (that isn’t necessarily directly related to the subject) that helps you prepare, and why has this been useful?
  • Are there any circumstances that the university needs to be aware of (such as personal, health, home, or other home life issues)?
  • How have you prepared/are you preparing for student life (i.e. independent living)?
  • Which styles of learning suit you best?

This structured statement will allow students to give the university admissions board a good idea of who they are and what they might offer to the course and to the institution, but also give them guided help with what has previously been a dreaded part of the admissions process.

It’s not just students that are subject to changes here; teacher references will also undergo changes, with an emphasis on objective assessment.

The changes are still in fledgling form, and feedback will be sought from end users to refine the changes even further if necessary.

When will the changes to the personal statement take effect?

If you’re applying next year for 2026 entry, the bad news is that you will still have to write a personal statement (although, of course, there’s nothing to stop you using the prototype questions to help you structure this and make the process easier!).

These changes will come into effect for students looking to enter a programme of higher education from 2026 onwards.

What will help you, however, if you’re planning to go to university in 2024, is the personalised tool.

This will allow you to see the kind of profiles that have been accepted onto courses similar to those you are interested in over the past five years. So really don’t despair if you’re in the “last of the personal statements” intake!

Why is the personal statement changing?

University entrants are changing. Applicants who wouldn’t have considered university education as being a possibility for them even a decade ago are now graduating with top degrees.

However, the personal statement – with a bias towards those who are lucky enough to have a rich social and extracurricular experience to back up their academic prowess – wasn’t adequately reflecting (or indeed supporting) the students who might have needs or circumstances that precluded wider experiences.

Current findings from UCAS show that 79% of students found the personal statement “too difficult” to write without additional and appropriate support. That’s almost 4/5 of applicants, so unquestionably shows the need for change.

That doesn’t mean, however, that students don’t see and acknowledge the value of the personal statement. The revamped, structured statement should allow all university applicants to show their worth on an equal basis.

To find out more, read the following report on the Future of Undergraduate Admissions from UCAS.