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How to avoid plagiarism when writing your personal statement

Take care with your personal statement and you'll have no worries about accidental plagiarism

Ucas has a system in place to check for personal statement plagiarism.

The first stage of this is computerised. Every personal statement is checked for similarity against every other personal statement previously received by Ucas (as well as personal statements that have been published online). If the system finds a statement is more than 30% similar to another, it flags it for further investigation by the Ucas Verification Team.

That team then runs another check on the statement. If they agree about the level of similarity, they send an email to the applicant and to all the universities on that person's application. Those universities may take further action - it's up to them at that point. 

Clearly, having a personal statement flagged in this way is something you very much want to avoid. But so long as you're submitting your own work (and you've not shared your statement online) it's not something you'll need to worry about.

Just to be double-sure, here are some common questions (and answers) about personal statement plagiarism.

Visit the personal statement forum and the university applications forum on The Student Room to see what other students are saying about their experiences of the process. 

I posted my personal statement online – could this cause me a problem?

The Ucas similarity checker includes personal statements that it has found on the internet. So, if your statement's published online - perhaps in a blog or on a messageboard - then it could be flagged as plagiarised.

That's not your only headache in this scenario. Other people might also copy parts of your personal statement, pinching your hard work for their own application.

If you've posted yours online, you're probably going to have to start over from scratch. The advice here is simple: if your university application is still underway, don't post your personal statement where it can be found online.

I Googled one of my sentences and it came up as similar to another personal statement, but I haven't copied anything!

Relax. It’s pretty much inevitable that there will be some overlap or similarities in phrasing with other personal statements. It’s nearly impossible to be completely original when there are thousands of applicants all writing about the same thing. So long as the ideas are yours and you haven't copied someone else, you'll be fine. 

However if your personal statement’s opening line is something like: “Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be a…” then you should consider using something more original. Avoid clichés at all costs, not because of plagiarism checkers, but because it will help your application.

I sent my Ucas application and the deadline is closed, is it safe to post my personal statement online now?

Not yet! Wait until you’ve received your offers and got a university place before you post your personal statement anywhere. That way you’ll be well out of the danger zone. 

Personal statements won't be checked immediately so you want to avoid the stress of being flagged. 

I used a plagiarism checker, will it be flagged by Ucas now?

No, plagiarism checkers are private and don’t keep a copy of your work (that would be very cruel if they did!).

I emailed my personal statement to my parent/teacher/friend to proofread, am I in trouble?

No. Emails are private so emailing your personal statement or sending via private message won’t be a problem. 

However, don’t send your personal statement to random people you don’t know (even if they say they’re helping you out), or to anyone that might want to use it for their own application. If they copy parts of your statement in their own then you could both get in trouble.

Remember you can’t control what other people do with your personal statement, so be careful about who you send it to.

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