Will Ucas scrap personal statements?
The uni application process is changing, but personal statements will not be affected until autumn 2025 at the earliest
Anyone submitting an application to start university in 2024 or 2025 will still need to write a personal statement in the existing format.
The long-form personal statement could then be dropped - and replaced with a new approach - in time for applications for 2026 entry.
But Ucas says this will only happen if teachers and other people who support students with their applications say they are ready for those changes.
In January 2023, Ucas published plans to replace the current free-form personal statement with a series of questions.
At that time, the admissions service had suggested the changes could be in place as early as 2024. But Ucas interim CEO Sander Kristel tells The Uni Guide the removal of the current personal statement requirement will now happen later.
“We plan to introduce the structure adjustments no earlier than 2025 for 2026 entry, and only when we have assurances from those who support students that they are ready to adopt these changes," says Kristel.
Question-based approachIn its Future of Undergraduate Admissions report, published at the start of 2023, Ucas outlined plans to replace the current personal statement where applicants are asked to write up to 47 lines (or 4,000 characters) to support their application.
In its place, applicants would be asked to provide written answers to a set series of questions about their plans to study at university.
Ucas had proposed six categories for these questions. The six categories included in the original proposals were:
- Motivation for course: why do you want to study these courses?
- Preparedness for course: how has your learning so far helped you to be ready to succeed on these courses?
- Preparation through other experiences: what else have you done to help you prepare, and why are these experiences useful?
- Extenuating circumstances: is there anything that the universities and colleges need to know about, to help them put your achievements and experiences so far into context?
- Preparedness for study: what have you done to prepare yourself for student life?
- Preferred learning styles: which learning and assessment styles best suit you – how do your course choices match that?
“We have engaged widely with students and the sector, including governments, regulators and the charity sector," says Kristel.
“Following the consultation, three themes have been confirmed for inclusion in the personal statement section: motivation for course, preparedness for course, and preparation through other experiences.”
Why is the current personal statement being scrapped?Ucas proposed changing the personal statement based on feedback it received from students.
In its applicant research, Ucas found a majority of students (72%) felt positive about having the personal statement as part of their application.
But it also found 79% of students said the personal statement was difficult to write without support and 83% found writing a personal statement to be stressful.
The removal of the personal statement in its current form is intended to make applying to university more inclusive and supportive, says Kristel.
“Ucas is continually working to improve the admissions service to serve applicants better and broaden participation for all students, regardless of their background or whether they are pursuing a traditional undergraduate degree or an apprenticeship," Kristel tells The Uni Guide.
“Personal statements give students the opportunity to express themselves, and in their own words they can describe the ambitions, skills and experiences that will make them suitable for the course they are applying to.
“By framing the personal statement as a series of questions, we believe this will create a more supportive framework."
Will your application be affected by the changes to the personal statement?The current personal statement requirements will not change until autumn 2025 at the very earliest.
That means the very first people who could be affected would be those who are submitting an application in the autumn and winter of 2025, to start university in 2026.
The changes mean that those people would not be asked to write an essay-style personal statement.
Instead, they would answer some questions about their plans to study at university. The answers to those questions would form the content of the new-style personal statement.
However, that autumn 2025 date remains the earliest time for those changes - it is not yet confirmed. So the changes could very well happen later.
How are teacher references changing?As well as its plans to change personal statements, Ucas has made changes to the reference that your teachers are asked to write as part of your application.
These changes to the teacher reference have already been put in place. They simplify the level of detail required from teachers, asking them to provide detail on three topics.
- A general statement about the student’s school or college
- Any information about extenuating circumstances that could have impacted the student’s education and achievement
- Any other supportive information specific to the student and relevant to the course that the university should know about
Looking for help with your personal statement?
If you are currently working on your university application personal statement, you'll find plenty of help and support on The Uni Guide and over on The Student Room.
- How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps
- What to put in your personal statement when you're stuck
- Examples of real students' personal statement (on The Student Room)
- Personal statement advice and discussion (on The Student Room)