It was announced by UCAS in January of 2023 that traditional Personal Statements will soon be removed from the university application process in the UK.
Since 1993, UCAS has required university applicants in the UK to submit a 4,000-character Personal Statement during the application process, which would then be accessed by university admissions teams to assist in the shortlisting process.
However, it has been confirmed by UCAS that this process will be changing as soon as 2024. Here, we dissect the announcement, discuss what we currently know about this change and explain how this could affect your university application. Let’s begin:
In short, this is what you need to know:
What are Personal Statements Being Replaced with?
With the announcement that the current system for UCAS Personal Statements will be getting replaced, it is only natural to be asking what will be replacing it. Thankfully, we have already been given some idea of what to expect.
Unlike the other major shake-up to the 2024 admission process, the removal of various admissions tests including the BMAT, the official announcement has provided us with an explanation of what UCAS is seeking to implement instead of traditional Personal Statements.
Put simply, the current format of providing a 4,000-character piece of writing will be replaced with a series of specific questions which applicants must answer. These questions will still allow you to write your answers out, but you will be answering set questions instead of having to plan and structure a full statement from scratch.
The specifics of this system have not been announced yet, including the number of questions and the character limits. We also don’t know what the questions will be yet as they are still being developed. However, we do know the key areas that these questions will focus on (all points are taken directly from the UCAS report):
Of course, this is all subject to change as UCAS is still actively working with universities to determine what they want most from applicants. However, it seems that they are aiming to cover the same ground as traditional Personal Statements while also allowing applicants to discuss more personal factors such as motivation, preference and extenuating circumstances.
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When Are UCAS Personal Statements Being Replaced?
The announcement states that these reforms to the Personal Statement system will be introduced in the 2024 admissions cycle for 2025 entry. Therefore, applicants looking to apply for university through UCAS after January 2024 (October 2023 for Oxbridge and Medicine applicants) will be facing the new system.
It’s worth mentioning that these plans have been in place for a fair amount of time, with discussions of reforming the application process starting in April 2021. However, this change still won’t be implemented for another year, so applicants applying for 2024 Entry will still need to submit a traditional Personal Statement.
Why Are UCAS Personal Statements Being Removed?
The announcement of these reforms was made on January 12th 2023 via a blog post on the official HEPI website. This post highlights the amendments being made to the Personal Statement process and the research that was conducted to influence this change.
Interestingly, the data quoted in this post states that the majority of applicants surveyed were happy with the current Personal Statement process, with 72% feeling positive about it. However, the same survey indicated that 83% of applicants found the process stressful and 79% felt unable to complete theirs without support. This is the data that most likely influenced the changes.
The post’s writer, Kim Eccleston, states that they are aiming to provide better support for both applicants and universities, creating “a more supportive framework” that allows applicants to write about what the universities need to know in a less restrictive way. It is also stated in a more detailed outline of the announcement that both students and teachers preferred the use of specific questions instead of free-form writing.
However, a previous post released in November 2022 provides even more insight into the reasoning behind this decision. Based on data featured in HEPI Debate Paper 31, various industry professionals had commented on the challenges facing applicants of certain background when it comes to the current style of Personal Statement.
Within the quotes featured here, the traditional UCAS Personal Statement was described as “ambiguous”, “unfair” and “barometers of middle-class privilege”. These comments may potentially be in reference to the current importance of work experience, which can be difficult to obtain without connections in certain industries, as well as additional experiences which may not be available to all applicants.
Therefore, this new system should presumably reduce the barriers for disadvantaged applicants by shifting focus to each individual’s own interest and abilities within their chosen subjects.
Other Changes being Made by UCAS
Personal Statements are only one of five key areas being altered by UCAS, as highlighted in the blog post. This is certainly the most significant action taking place, but other changes to the application process include:
Overall, it seems these changes all have the same intent; to level the playing field and make university applications more achievable for everyone.
How will this affect my university application?
As previously stated, if you are applying to university this year for 2024 Entry, you will not be affected by these reforms and will need to submit a traditional Personal Statement to UCAS like previous years.
For applicants applying for 2025 Entry and beyond, your application will follow this new process, meaning you won’t have to submit a full Personal Statement but will instead need to answer a series of questions relating to your application and abilities for your chosen course.
When hearing that the whole process will be changing, this typically instils a feeling of dread as you’ll be treading new ground that no one else has experienced before. However, it’s important to understand that UCAS states these changes are being made for the benefit of both the applicants and the universities.
As we’ve already discussed, a key part of the reason this change is being implemented is that a high percentage of applicants found writing a traditional Personal Statement stressful, which is counterintuitive to what UCAS is trying to achieve. By providing applicants with a strong framework, in the form of specific questions, this new process should allow more applicants to provide better quality statements for universities.
This change is also set to be particularly beneficial to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as the process will allow them to better express their ability regardless of any areas that may be lacking due to factors out of their control. Essentially, the new process should allow more people to stand a better chance of making a good impression despite limitations.
How Can I Start Preparing?
If you’re starting your preparations early, the main barrier you’ll face at this stage of preparation is not knowing what the questions will be, as they have yet to be announced. There are no resources available currently that cover this system, so you’re going to have to be independent with your preparation here.
Since we have a rough outline of what the questions to focus on, you should still be able to practice your responses. Although they won’t be as relevant any more, it would still be helpful to check out Personal Statement guides and examples as these can help you pin down the language and writing style you use.
With all this information now available to us, you should be able to get a sense of what to do for your application in the coming years. The initial introduction of this system in 2024 will act as a test of its effectiveness, so elements could be changed in the years following. However, the important thing is that you understand how things are changing from the current system and how you can make the most of the new system.
If you are applying for university in 2023 for 2024 Entry, you will need to make sure you’re ready to write your Personal Statement. Thankfully, UniAdmissions have plenty of resources to help you through it, including our Ultimate UCAS Personal Statement Guide and our collection of successful Oxbridge Personal Statements.
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