You’ve spent weeks refining your personal statement – and there is now only one thing standing in the way of you and hitting send on your UCAS application: the UCAS character count.
One of the most frustrating parts of the university admissions process is cutting down the personal statement to less than 4000 characters and 47 lines. Trying to retain as much content as possible whilst remaining under this character count is a difficult process, so here are a few easy ways to make it slightly easier!
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Every year, admissions tutors stress that there are a few personal statement mistakes to avoid, yet year after year, people continue to make them. Perhaps the most common of these mistakes are clichés and quotes.
Go through your personal statement and remove any clichés – for example, ‘I’ve wanted to do medicine since I was young’…
The same goes with quotes: unless they add true value to your personal statement (and most of the time they don’t!) it is usually a good idea to remove them. You only have 4000 characters to let the admissions tutor know who you are, don’t waste it by giving them somebody else’s words!
A good way to cut words is to make sure you are never losing focus by using the “so what?” rule. For each sentence in your personal statement, ask “so what?”.
Does this sentence make me seem even more suitable for the course? If not, it is probably best to cut it. This often happens when people write long lists of their extracurriculars in a desperate attempt to fit everything in.
Universities, however, want to see reflection and what you have taken away from your experiences; this means it is usually better to just talk about a few extracurriculars and reflect on them, instead of listing a lot which someone reading it is likely to skim over.
This is a quick tip, but an easy way to see where you are losing most of your characters is to highlight sections of your personal statement.
For example, if you put each of your sections – work experience, volunteering, extracurriculars and so on – in different colours, it is suddenly a lot easier to identify which section is particularly heavy in terms of characters.
If one section is much longer than the rest without there being a good reason for this, it is usually a good indication that you should start cutting there.
We often spend a lot of time looking up big words on thesaurus.com in the hope that it will make our work sound more impressive. However, in light of the UCAS character count, this is not always the best approach.
Long, “impressive” words can often hinder meaning and make it more difficult for the person reading your work to follow, especially after they have already read many personal statements that day. It is often best to cut these words in favour of more simple and concise sentences using straightforward language.
If you are still looking to remove characters, it is helpful to look through your personal statement for adverbs and adjectives. Often, we use these words as filler words which do not add much value to our writing. Go through all the adverbs and adjectives you have used and check whether they actually add any value or are merely taking up unnecessary characters.
Once it’s down to the last few characters, there are a few small things you can do to push your personal statement down to the 4000 character mark. Firstly, some ‘and’s can be removed in favour for full stops to make shorter, crisper sentences.
Another thing to note is that it is not necessary to use names, for example of hospitals or of places you volunteer, which can remove those final few characters from your count.
Don’t worry that cutting it down will make your personal statement worse – universities know that you can’t write about everything you want to in 4000 characters!
I hope these tips have been useful and good luck with your personal statements!
Written by: Cambridge Medicine Student
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