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Ucas Personal Statement Tips Mature Students Grants

Your UCAS personal statement is your chance to show universities why you deserve a place on their course. It’s also your opportunity to stand out against other candidates with similar grades. We’ve put together this list of things to avoid when writing your personal statement, to help you get a place on the course you really want.

Don’t use quotes

The clue is in the title; the personal statement should be all about you.  A quote doesn’t give you the chance to show why you should be given a place on the course and can use up a significant proportion of your 4,000 characters. 

"Don’t mention particular university names in your personal statement. Make us believe we are your top choice"

Don’t use clichés

Hundreds of personal statements include lines like ‘since I was a child’ and ‘I’ve always been fascinated by’. If there was a particular event or moment in time which sparked your interest for your subject, talk about that instead. Make sure you mention concrete examples, not your wishes and dreams. Not only does it make your personal statement more individual to you, it will also give you something to talk about if you get called to interview. 

"Use concrete examples to back up statements and facts"

Don’t lie!

UCAS will run your personal statement through plagiarism software so don’t be tempted to copy and paste anything off the internet! Never lie about anything on your personal statement - don’t say you’ve read a book when you’ve only read a chapter. If you are invited for an interview, your personal statement will shape the discussion, so don’t get caught out.

"Don’t write anything you’re not prepared to expand on at interview"

Don’t forget your personal interests

The most important part of your personal statement is where you talk about the subject you are applying for and why you want to study it, but your non-academic hobbies and interests come a close second. Admissions tutors want to see what you’re like as a person, so use your hobbies and interests to show examples of your skills. If you’re a member of a sports team you could use this to highlight your team-working and communication skills.

Don’t write a generic statement

For the best chance of being offered a place, you need to tailor your personal statement to the skills and qualities universities are looking for. Look at university prospectuses and websites to see how they describe the course and the way it is taught. Make sure you address these skills and qualities in your personal statement.

When you write your personal statement, you should always use the ‘so what?’ rule. Make sure every point you make clearly explains why you should be given a place on the course, and if it doesn’t, delete it.

"Don’t be modest, say how good you are"

Don’t be afraid to stand out

Admissions tutors are looking for evidence that you have a passion for your subject beyond your A-Level studies. In order to stand out from the hundreds of other applications, you need to think about what you have done, and how this is relevant to the subject you’re applying for. What makes you unique? For example, nearly everyone applying for Economics will probably say they read The Economist and The Financial Times – what do you do that is different?

Don’t over think it

For most people, the hardest parts of writing a personal statement are the opening and closing sentences. You need to make it clear from the beginning why you want to study your chosen course. A good way to do this is by opening with something interesting, unusual or surprising. It can be stressful trying to come up with the perfect opening sentence, but don’t worry about it too much; it will suddenly just hit you.

"Get someone else to check your personal statement, but make sure any changes still reflect you." 

And finally…

Make sure your get someone to check what you’ve written! If our Admissions team could give you one piece of advice, it’s to get someone else to sense check your personal statement. Ask a teacher, your friend or a parent to read it through. Or better still, someone else’s parent who doesn’t know you as well – they might not know what you want to study or your aspirations for the future, but should after reading it.  

Other useful resources for successful personal statements

The Student Room personal statement builder

UCAS - writing a personal statement

More university help and advice

Mature students

At Sussex, we appreciate the experience and knowledge mature students bring to our University. We accept students with a range of qualifications and backgrounds, including students who apply on the strength of wider experience rather than formal academic qualifications.

Applying as a mature student

If you have been away from education for some time, we recommend you take an academic qualification before applying.

This will help you develop your study skills, increase your knowledge of a particular discipline and prepare you for the demands of degree level study. It will also strengthen your application. 

For mature students, the two most common qualifications to take are the Access to Higher Education Diploma or an Open University course, but we also accept a range of UK qualifications and international qualifications. 

Whatever you choose to study before applying to Sussex, you need to check our entry requirements, listed with each of our undergraduate courses. This will ensure you are taking a qualification which meets any subject specific entry requirements, including GCSE (or equivalent) requirements.

For example, you'll need a qualification with A-level standard Biology and Chemistry to be qualified for our Biochemistry degrees, and successful applicants for our Psychology degrees must have GCSE-level Mathematics at grade B standard. 

Applying on the strength of experience

For courses without specific A-level or GCSE requirements, there are occasions where we might consider your life and work experience instead of formal qualifications. 

You apply to Sussex in the usual way through UCAS. If we then decide your UCAS application is strong and shows potential, you would be asked to write an essay of around 1,500 words on a choice of topics related to your chosen subject.

You would have approximately five weeks to complete the piece of work and would be asked to attend an interview to discuss the essay.

The decision to place you through this admissions route depends on the strength of your initial UCAS application. As competition at Sussex for places is high, we would always advise you to take formal qualifications before applying.

Foundation Years

If you do not have the qualifications or relevant experience for direct entry into the first year of our undergraduate courses, you could be eligible for one of our degrees with an integrated Foundation Year.

If you successfully complete the Foundation Year, you continue your studies on to a relevant undergraduate degree. 

You still need to meet any specific entry requirements (such as certain GCSEs) when applying for a Foundation Year. 

Find out more about our Foundation Years

Applying to Sussex

You apply to Sussex through UCAS. You must write a personal statement as part of your application.

UCAS provides information about applying as a mature student. You can also see the UCAS tips for mature students.

If you are applying on the strength of life experience, you should submit your application to UCAS before 15 January (in the same year you want to start your course).

Financial help

There is no age limit for government-supported student finance. This means you are able to apply for a student loan, as long as it is your first degree.

Find out more about Student Finance 

You can also see our fees and search for scholarships.


We have on-campus accommodation and some University-managed accommodation in Brighton & Hove.

You may also be eligible for our family accommodation. 

Find out more about our accommodation 

Support for mature students

As a mature student we understand that you may have to balance other commitments with your study. That's why we have a dedicated support network to help you achieve your degree while balancing your work or family life. 

Our support includes: 

  • an induction for mature students when you start
  • an advice centre for mature students run by the Students' Union
  • a mentor scheme to help you with academic work.

Find out more about our student support

Pre-application information sessions 

You can attend our pre-application information sessions for prospective mature students from October to December every year.

These sessions cover general information about applying to university as a mature student, including advice about personal statements, welfare and finance, and a guided tour of our campus. 

Sussex embraced the concept of older students and were prepared to consider alternative methods for evaluating whether an applicant could cope with the academic course.”Jonathan Catherwood
Politics Graduate

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