AI Writing & UCAS Personal Statements: What You Need To Know

When it comes to writing in the 2020s, AI-Generation has become one of the most important issues for many industries, including education. AI tools can now potentially write Personal Statements for applicants, but is this allowed and should you use it? This guide will explore these questions and more.

Last Updated: 28th February 2024

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With the advancement of AI tools over the past few years, many industries have been impacted by new programmes that can easily and efficiently generate content. This includes the education sector, which has seen a rise in AI-generated essays, projects and Personal Statements. 

As this technology has become publicly available so recently, schools, universities and even the government are still trying to catch up in order to regulate its usage and protect the education industry as a whole. Currently, many issues surrounding AI are still very much in a grey area. 

These tools have been of particular concern to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), who process all UK university applications, including Personal Statements. In this guide, we’ll explore the current state of AI in Personal Statement writing, including if you’re allowed to use it, if it’s a good idea to use it and more. We’ll also take a look at an AI-generated Personal Statement to see if it offers a viable alternative to handwritten work. Let’s get started:

What Is AI-Generated Writing?

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, which is the name given to any form of independent intelligence displayed within machines. While the details of how these machines function are complex and vary from example to example, AI will typically use man-made code or learning algorithms to complete set tasks without input from a human. 

While it may seem like a recent development, the history of science is longer than you may think with initial developments occurring in the 1950’s. AI was being explored during the development of the first computers during this timeframe, although not much progress was made until the 1980s when computers became more powerful and user-friendly.  

Although many now think of AI-generated content and machine learning when hearing about AI, one of the most common uses of the technology that consumers would have experienced was its usage in video gaming, allowing non-player characters such as enemies to make decisions and react to player actions. Starting from the original versions of Pong, this technology has advanced to the point where an AI and human player could be indistinguishable from one another.

Pong Video Game Screenshot

This same level of accurate human replication is now being seen in AI tools designed to generate content, which has spurred many debates and concerns about worker’s rights, scams and more. A famous concern with AI is its ability to act independently and potentially cause harm to humanity, but many scientists agree that the technology currently has not reached that stage (and may never). 


The boom in AI-generated writing properly began in November 2022 when Open Ai, founded in 2015, publicly launched the first iteration of Chat-GPT. This is free-to-use software accessible on internet browsers that can act as a chatbot, search tool and AI writing tool all in one. 

The system simply requires users to input a prompt into the text bar, be it a question, a request or just a conversation starter, to which the AI will generate an appropriate response. There are limitations in place relating to issues such as hate speech, politics and medical advice, but most users should find that they receive a relevant and coherent response. 

After the launch of Chat-GPT, many companies moved forward in launching their own AI writing tools, including Microsoft, Google and Meta. Many of these tools are designed to appeal to different industries and use cases.

AI writing tools lead the charge for AI content, but now tools are widely available to generate images, video, audio and more. Many of these tools have extremely practical uses, but the advancement of these technologies that were previously believed to be impossible has heightened all of the concerns mentioned previously. 

As things stand, the technology could still be considered in its infancy, so the rules and regulations for its usage are still very unclear. However, one organisation has made a fairly concrete stance on the issue; UCAS.

AI-Generated Image: University of Oxford on a sunny day
AI-Generated Image (from Deep AI)
Prompt: University of Oxford on a sunny day

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Can I Use AI To Write My UCAS Personal Statement?

UCAS has published an official guide relating to AI usage in Personal Statements, in which they clarify their stance on using AI to both write and support your Personal Statement. 

In short, UCAS does not allow applicants to submit Personal Statements that have been fully or substantially written by AI. For years, UCAS has required applicants to declare that their work is original, meaning it’s written by themselves and not copied from another source. Plagiarism has always been an issue in academia, with Personal Statements being no different, so systems have long been in place to detect plagiarised content. 

While AI writing is technically a different case, the general principle still stands; an applicant’s Personal Statement must be written by themselves. AI writing would be considered copied from another source and thus is not allowed to be submitted. 

However, this isn’t a black-and-white issue and UCAS hasn’t outright banned AI usage within the Personal Statement writing process. AI writing programmes are tools – tools that can be used for a variety of purposes, some of which UCAS agrees are helpful to applicants writing their statements. So how do we know what the right thing to do is? 

Are AI Personal Statements Cheating?

This is a question posed within the official UCAS article and does not have a solid answer. Some people within the industry do believe that AI usage should be considered due to its potential power. 

Those who use AI in any capacity when writing their statement may likely have an advantage over those who don’t. However, it’s important to consider that AI is widely available to the point that almost anyone writing a Personal Statement could utilise it if they wish. Therefore, the advantage couldn’t really be considered unfair as the vast majority of applicants could choose to use it themselves. 

Another consideration is that, in most cases, applicants are using AI to write their Personal Statements because their writing skills may not be advanced enough to create a compelling and convincing piece of work. For many degrees, writing skills like this are not necessary for success, so the only reason that applicants would need to learn these skills is to help their Personal Statement stand out more, regardless of the quality of the actual content. 

Applicants with a wealth of relevant experience in their field may not be able to articulate points in the most engaging manner, which is something that AI tools can help improve. If a highly qualified applicant writes a less engaging Personal Statement for a course that requires very few creative writing skills, should it be considered cheating to make their work a bit more readable with the support of AI? These are questions that still have not been fully answered.  

Are AI Personal Statements Immoral?

Another argument against AI usage is that it is immoral and takes away from the integrity of one’s work. It’s certainly true that generating major portions of your work with AI is a bad practice and will generally result in lower quality and less personal output, but is this the case for all usage of AI?

As previously stated, AI is a tool that can be used to varying degrees. Where one applicant may use AI to write a full paragraph of their statement, another may use it to rephrase a clunky sentence that they are having difficulty with. AI writing tools offer more than just writing from a simple prompt, as they can be used to check, edit or suggest changes to one’s handwritten work.  

When used in this context, would the use of an AI tool be considered any more immoral than the use of an automatic spell-checker? People have different stances on this issue but it appears that UCAS themselves not only condone this use of AI tools but potentially even encourage it. 

Now that the technology has been made available, applicants are going to use it either way, so some may suggest that it is important that applicants explore its uses in a reasonable manner to stay competitive. 

Are AI Personal Statements Plagiarism?

While it may seem like these AI tools are creating brand-new content from scratch, it’s important to understand that the algorithms that power these tools learn from millions of pre-existing pages across the internet. By scanning this wide array of content, the technology is able to rearrange and create seemingly new content based on what it has learnt. 

However, this content always runs the risk of featuring plagiarised work that has not been altered enough to avoid detection. Unlike typical plagiarism, in which the culprit will know where their work has been copied from, it is next to impossible to know the original source of an AI-generated piece of work without running it through a plagiarism checker. Even then, the programmes that are available publicly are generally less powerful than those used by UCAS and other organisations. 

Beyond plagiarism, programmes have now been introduced that can detect AI-generated content specifically. All of this is to say that, if you do choose to use AI at any point in the Personal Statement writing process, it’s always safer to alter any output you receive in order to avoid detection. 

Example AI-Generated Personal Statement

Below is an AI-generated Personal Statement for an Economics & Management applicant at the University of Oxford:

Example Oxford Economics & Management Personal Statement

As an aspiring student at the University of Oxford, I am driven by a profound passion for knowledge and a relentless pursuit of academic excellence. It is with great enthusiasm and commitment that I present my application to study Economics & Management at one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.

My fascination with E&M was sparked during my early years of secondary education. As I delved into the subject, I was captivated by its intricate complexities and its profound impact on various aspects of society. This initial curiosity has only grown stronger over time, as I have actively sought opportunities to expand my understanding and engage with the subject on a deeper level.

One of my most significant academic achievements has been the completion of an extended research project on the government’s budget in 2021. Through this endeavor, I was able to develop critical thinking skills, conduct thorough research, and present my findings in a concise and articulate manner. This experience not only solidified my passion for academic inquiry but also demonstrated my ability to engage with complex ideas independently.

Beyond the classroom, I have actively pursued extracurricular activities that complement my academic interests. For instance, I have been a member of the school debate club, where I have honed my communication and analytical skills. This involvement has taught me the importance of constructing persuasive arguments based on rigorous evidence—a skill that I believe will be invaluable throughout my academic journey.

Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to participate in a community service project that involved teaching money management to underprivileged teenagers. This experience allowed me to witness the transformative power of education and reinforced my belief in the importance of knowledge-sharing. It also highlighted the need for accessible and inclusive education—a value that I believe Oxford champions.

Studying at Oxford represents not only an opportunity for academic growth but also a chance to contribute to the vibrant intellectual community that thrives within its walls. The university’s esteemed faculty, extensive resources, and rich academic traditions provide an environment that is conducive to pushing intellectual boundaries and nurturing a passion for lifelong learning. I am eager to immerse myself in this unique atmosphere and embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

In conclusion, my unwavering passion for Economics & Management, coupled with my academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, leadership experiences, and commitment to making a positive impact, make me an ideal candidate for the University of Oxford. I am ready to embark on this transformative educational journey, and I am confident that Oxford’s renowned academic rigor and vibrant intellectual community will provide the perfect foundation for my personal and intellectual growth.

As you can tell, this is far from a high-quality Personal Statement. This statement has not been altered in any way from the original output, but there are still many fundamental issues that couldn’t be fixed without major rewrites:

The statement comes in at under 3,000 characters. Remember that the character limit is 4,000 and most competitive applicants will find that they need to cut their statements down in order to fit in this limit. Leaving this much space is never a good sign as it demonstrates you do not have a lot to discuss about yourself or your experiences. 

This statement specifically references Oxford on multiple occasions – something that should never be done in a Personal Statement. You can only submit one statement with UCAS which gets sent to all of your university choices, so referencing a specific university will likely disqualify you from all of your other options. 

This statement was generated using Chat-GPT, which originates in America. Therefore, various examples of Americanised spelling can be seen throughout the statement, such as “endeavor” and “rigor”. While not always a deal-breaker, these errors can mount up and look suspicious for UK-based applicants. 

The overall tone and structure of this statement are very generic, hitting the necessary points without providing the deeper reflection that is required in high-quality statements. The experiences here are all made up from scratch, and while they could be replaced with your actual experiences, this still wouldn’t fix the issues found without a major rewrite. 

When Could AI be Used In Personal Statements?

The discussion around using AI in your Personal Statement has been fairly negative so far, but as UCAS suggests, there are uses for the tool that can be very beneficial and help elevate your work to a much higher standard. These are three ways in which AI could benefit your Personal Statement in small but effective ways:

Creating an Initial Personal Statement Skeleton

If you have absolutely no idea where to start with your Personal Statement, you may find it helpful to generate a statement similar to the one seen above. 

Of course, you shouldn’t expect this to be usable or act as a foundation for your work, but it will allow you to study the basic structure of a Personal Statement that matches your requirements. You can review the structure, see what works and doesn’t work and begin to brainstorm how all of your discussion points could fit into a similar structure.  

There are guides and example Personal Statements available that may offer more helpful advice, but some applicants find it helpful to also see an example that demonstrates what they’re aiming to write, which is not always easy to find for all subjects. 

Rephrasing Sentences

As we’ve already discussed, Personal Statements need to be well-written to stand out and grab the attention of admissions tutors. Regardless of the quality of the actual content, a boring, clunky or generally poorly written statement is going to impact your chances of being considered for an offer. 

These creative writing skills and techniques can take months or years to learn and perfect, especially for applicants whose first language is not English. When so many courses have no need for these skills after the Personal Statement is written, sometimes it can be easier just to tidy up your writing with the help of an AI-writing tool once you’ve crafted the overall structure. 

In this use case, the AI isn’t generating new content for you but simply using its understanding of language and literature to make sentences more compelling (at least in theory). What is and isn’t compelling to read is still subjective and requires a human element, so you shouldn’t assume the output is perfect and copy it straight into your statement. 

Review the work and make any changes you feel appropriate. Alternatively, give it to someone you trust and ask for their feedback. Anything generated from an AI should be taken as a suggestion rather than a replacement, so avoid using too much-unaltered content from the tool. 

It’s also important not to overuse the tool. AI rephrasing is best used to perfect key phrases within your statement, including the introduction and conclusion. Rephrasing the entire statement will put you at risk of plagiarism and failing to meet the UCAS standards of original content. 

Shortening Your Statement

If you have a lot to write about in your statement, then you may find that you exceed the character limit by a good amount. Cutting out major portions of content is never easy to do, but it’s possible to use AI to suggest a series of smaller edits that make your writing more concise. 

AI writing tools allow you to request a piece of text be shortened, sometimes by a specific amount. While the quality and effectiveness of the output can vary, most of the time the tool will be able to point out where words can be cut and phrasing can be altered to reduce the character count. 

With enough edits made throughout the statement, you should find that you have made a significant reduction in length without cutting out any major discussion points. 

In some cases, an applicant may wish to extend the length of their statement using AI to get closer to the 4,000-character limit. While this is possible using the same principles as shortening text, this isn’t something we would recommend. Doing this will make your statement longer, but it will do so by adding unnecessary fluff and overly long phrases without adding meaningful content. If you need to make your statement longer, it’s always better to include an additional discussion point or expand on your reflection within your content. 

When Should AI Never be Used In Personal Statements?

We know how AI could benefit our Personal Statement, but let’s review three use cases for AI writing tools that should never be considered: 

Writing All or Most of Your Personal Statement

It should already be clear by now that AI should never be used to directly write a significant portion of your statement. Whether you submit it unedited or with minor changes, the result is always going to be lower quality and at risk of being detected for plagiarised or AI-generated content. This will put your entire application at risk, so it’s not worth it just to save some time on the writing process. 

Creating Fake Content

It may be that you haven’t engaged with your subject as much as you should have, be it through work experience, wider reading or extra-curricular activities. In cases like these, it may be tempting to boost your application by making up some discussion points either yourself or with AI.

It should go without saying, but telling any sort of lie in your Personal Statement is not permitted and will typically end with disqualification if found out. Embellishing truths is also a risky move, so it’s always a good idea to stick to the truth instead of trying to write what you think the admissions tutors want to hear – what they actually want to hear is your truthful, personal experience and motivations.

Rewording an Existing Personal Statement

There is a wide variety of Personal Statement examples available online and in books, many of which were actual statements submitted by successful university applicants. These examples are extremely helpful to analyse, especially if they include feedback and suggestions, but it’s also easy to use these examples for more dishonest purposes. 

We’ve already seen how the Rephrase function available in AI writing tools can help your statement, but it’s also theoretically possible to take an existing Personal Statement and rephrase it until it’s not recognisable while still featuring the qualities that made it good. 

However, this is a very risky move that will most likely not pay off. Although AI is capable of rephrasing text to make it unrecognisable to the average human, plagiarism detectors are far more advanced and have a much wider scope in terms of knowledge of existing content. These detectors are designed to pick up on similarities in structure and patterns within work, so even if every word has been changed in a Personal Statement, there is still a chance these detectors can pick up on the similarities. 

The only way to circumvent this is to go through and manually make significant alterations to the wording and structure. At that point, you may as well start from scratch as you’ll have a much more personal piece of writing that will likely perform better. 

With that being said, we still highly recommend looking at as many example Personal Statements as possible in order to inspire your own work and potentially learn new writing techniques. Our Successful Personal Statement library features over 20 successful statements from Oxbridge students, complete with a full analysis of the content and writing.

The Future of AI and UCAS Personal Statements

As things currently stand, AI technology has advanced incredibly quickly and will likely become an everyday part of our lives (if it hasn’t already). However, there is still a lot of progress to be made so it’s likely that, in a few years time, AI usage in Personal Statements will look very different from how things are now.

Programmes like Chat-GPT are constantly learning new information by crawling the internet. As these programmes learn more, they will become better and better at replicating human language and accurately answering very specific prompts. As this technology advances, it may become harder for organisations like UCAS to keep up with regulating and detecting AI work. 

This isn’t helped by the fact that UCAS is planning major changes for the Personal Statement writing process within the next two years. It was confirmed in 2023 that UCAS were looking to move Personal Statements from a single free-form piece of writing to a question-based system. The currently proposed series of questions cover all of the major areas that universities are interested in from their applicants, including their experience at school, additional engagement with their subject, extenuating circumstances, preferred learning styles and more. 

It’s currently unclear when this will launch but it is suggested that it may implemented for the 2025/26 or 2026/27 admissions cycle in the UK. It is also stated that the proposed questions are still receiving feedback, meaning they will likely be changed in their final iteration. 

Will the rise of AI affect these plans, however? While UCAS states that these changes are being implemented to level the playing field and reduce the advantage of applicants who receive additional support, moving to a more linear format may also make it easier to implement AI-generated content in submissions. 

When considering the potential growth and improvement of AI writing tools within the next two years, it may well be possible for applicants to generate full and convincing answers for most of the proposed questions with less risk of being caught. However, with no details confirmed, these concerns remain as speculation for now. 

The world of university applications is always changing, be it from new technology, new processes, new admissions tests and more. It’s hard to keep track of them all, but AI writing is one of the most important issues to consider right now. We hope that this guide has helped inform you about the potential of AI and how you can use it effectively and safely within your own work. 

The most important thing to remember is that a Personal Statement is personal, and no amount of technology will be able to replace the thoughts, experiences and ideas that you hold. Writing a Personal Statement can be tough, but admissions tutors will be able to tell when an applicant has put the effort in to write something truly meaningful. 

With that being said, AI isn’t the only way to support your Personal Statement journey. At UniAdmissions, we have spent over a decade developing the formula for Oxbridge success, which includes writing the perfect Personal Statement through one-to-one tuition, unlimited feedback and a vast array of comprehensive materials. If you would like to boost not only your Personal Statement but your entire application, then discover our Oxbridge Programmes today and book a free admissions consultation to learn how you can enrol. 

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