The Uni Guide has a fresh new look

The Ucas personal statement is changing

A question-based personal statement will be in place by 2025

A new style of personal statement for university applications will be launched in 2025, the university admissions service Ucas has announced.

Those applying to start university in 2026 will be the first to complete the updated personal statement, which will have a series of three questions in place of the current free-text field.

Applicants will be asked to answer questions about why they want to study their chosen course, how their previous studies have qualified them and what they have done outside education to prepare for university study.

The personal statement will still be limited to a maximum of 4,000 characters, and applicants will be able to choose how much they write for each section.

A three-question statement

To complete the new personal statement, applicants will need to answer three questions. These are:

Why do you want to study this course or subject? 
"This is an applicant’s opportunity to showcase their passion for and knowledge of their chosen subject, to demonstrate to universities and colleges why they are a good fit, and to outline any future ambitions," says Ucas.

How have your qualifications and studies helped you to prepare for this course or subject? 
"In this section applicants can describe relevant or transferable skills they’ve gained in education, and demonstrate their understanding of how these will help them succeed in their chosen course or subject area," says Ucas.

What else have you done to prepare outside of education, and why are these experiences helpful? 
"Here applicants can reflect on their personal experiences, and any other activities they have undertaken outside their education to further demonstrate their suitability for the course," says Ucas.

These prompts are being referred to as 'scaffolding questions' by Ucas, as they are intended to provide a framework for the personal statement. 

"Scaffolding questions offer students a roadmap, breaking them down into manageable parts," Ucas says on its website. "By providing specific prompts, students gain clarity on what to address, fostering focus and coherence in their writing. This ensures that each aspect of their experiences and goals is thoughtfully explored and articulated." 

The new format will be introduced in September 2025 for students applying for 2026 entry. If you're applying to start university before then, you will still complete the current style of personal statement. If you need support in writing yours, try our guide to writing a personal statement or check the supportive discussions on The Student Room.

Why is the personal statement changing?

In 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. 

The proposed changes were based on feedback Ucas had 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.

“During my time in schools, I saw first-hand how the personal statement can help students really clarify and articulate their ambition, but also how challenging it can be for those with less support," says Dr Jo Saxton, chief executive at Ucas.

The personal statement can cause an element of anxiety particularly for those who do not have the support of someone who has been through the process.

The new structure helps to address this by providing a framework to direct to the information required whilst still providing opportunity to provide responses that are unique to each individual and give opportunity for applicants to tell us about themselves. Sally Rutterford (head of admissions and deputy director, Cardiff University),

How has Ucas decided on these changes to the personal statement?

In an earlier proposal for a question-based personal statement approach, Ucas had focused on six categories. These questions covered topics including the student's motivation, their preferred learning styles and any extenuating circumstances.

Those six categories have now been whittled down to three, following feedback from students, teachers, advisers, universities and colleges.

As part of its research, Ucas got feedback on these latest changes from potential applicants. It says more than three quarters of those surveyed prefer the three-question format.

"The new approach, with guided questions aims to give greater confidence to those students, as well as their teachers when advising on how to secure their dream course,” says Saxton. 

Updating the personal statement is the second in what Ucas is describing as "a series of initiatives designed to address concerns that progress on encouraging disadvantaged students to apply for university has started to stall". It follows the decision to waive the application fee for free-school-meal students.

"My aim at Ucas is to make sure that the doors of opportunity stay open for as many students as possible so that they can benefit from a university education, and find the right course that they will succeed in," adds Saxton.

This welcome reform strikes the right balance between a more structured approach to deter fabrication, while not limiting the opportunity for applicants to personalise their statement. I believe it is a significant step in making the university admissions system a little bit fairer for all applicants. Lee Elliot Major (professor of social mobility, University of Exeter),

Do universities care about the personal statement?

The personal statement is just one part of a university application, but it could make the difference in getting an offer from your chosen university, says Ucas.

"Universities and colleges tell us [the personal statement] supports comparability for them when making offers and could be the difference between getting an offer or not, for example in borderline cases or where there are multiple applicants with a similar academic profile," the admissions service says on its website

Each section of the personal statement, being carefully scaffolded for all candidates, will provide higher education providers with the most useful information which demonstrates an individual has considered their options and is confident that their chosen course is right for them.  Andrew Parkin (principal at St Dominic’s Sixth Form College),

How have teacher references changed?

As well as its plans to change personal statements, Ucas has already made changes to the reference that your teachers are asked to write as part of your application.

These changes to the teacher reference have simplified 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. The changes described above will only be relevant for people who are applying to start university in 2026 or later. If you are applying to start university before then, you will still need to complete the current personal statement.


 

Search The Uni Guide

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university