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How to Keep Your UCAS Personal Statement Within the Character Limit

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The perfect law personal statement will by its very nature include all the skills, experience and knowledge to highlight a true passion for the subject. However, the problem with such an in-depth statement is that it almost always goes over the UCAS character count.

It can be frustrating that your statement can only be 4,000 characters when you feel like you have so much more to say. Being concise is key. You can still include all the most valuable content without surpassing this limit. Let me show you how.

Have Someone Else Read it

After your own personal first proofread to cut out anything unnecessary, you should ask someone else to have a look over it. If you can get more than one person to look at it, that’s even better. The benefit of this lies in objectiveness. Your mum, dad, sister, aunt, history teacher or best friend will be able to pick out must faster than you can if you are repeating the same ideas, explaining something badly or in too many words or being cliché.

It is completely natural to look at any piece of work you have completed and struggle to know what the less important parts are but an objective third party will not be as tied to the work. This step is especially helpful if you have gone over the word count substantially.

Make Sure it’s Relevant

Half of the reason why your personal statement can end up so long as it’s very easy to waffle as you try to order your points coherently. However, in general, most “waffle” is not relevant.

The best way to highlight what is relevant is to ask the “so what?” question. That is, as you are reading each sentence of your personal statement, ask yourself “so what?” Does the information I have provided help the admissions tutors at my chosen universities conclude that I am suitable for this course, and have I shown why it makes me a good candidate? If the answers are no, then the point is probably irrelevant and should be removed.

Moreover, this is a brilliant strategy to use once you know your points have value to ensure that you have properly reflected on and explained why this particular extra-curricular or experience makes you suitable for the course.

Separate Your Sections

The risk when it comes to cutting down your personal statement is that you will cut down too much in one section and keep too much of another. Often, personal statements are set out to include your experience of the subject you are applying for, your school experience and relevant extracurriculars and wider reading of the area.

It’s a good idea to begin writing your personal statement in sections – even taking a new word document for each one at the beginning. Then when it comes to editing and removing characters to get yourself down to the word limit, you will be able to see which section is using up most of your precious characters. Then if there is no good reason why one section is much longer than the rest, that is the right section to begin cutting down.

Throw Out the Flowery Language

You are going to be a university student, so that means you must start using “adult” academic words right? Wrong! try to keep your language simple and concise. Although many aspects of a law degree will introduce you to long words, Latin, and complex concepts, you do not have to start now. In fact, it will be most preferred by admissions tutors if you skip the flowery language and keep your points clear, simple and concise. It will be much more impressive if your personal statement demonstrates your interest in the subject without over-complicated language.

However, if you have got the odd long or incredibly intellectual sounding word in a sentence and you want to keep it in as it helps make your point, please do not feel that you have to go and delete it now. The number one rule is to make sure every word you use, you understand.

Assess Your Use of Commas, Adverbs and Conjunctions

Finally, you are getting there! You are no longer leaps and bounds over the character limit and now just have to find a way to cut those last 50-100 characters. So here is what to do next. Start with removing ands, buts and in some places commas where you can. Conjunctions and heavy comma use tend to elongate sentences and removing them in favour of a full stop will turn the one sentence into two crisper sentences. Alternatively, shortening the sentence altogether will not only make your writing clearer but remove extra pesky characters.

Another tip I admittedly only learned a few months into my university course is that you don’t need adverbs and adjectives as much as you think you do. These descriptive words often merely fill up sentences and fail to add value to the purpose of the point. When you are only a few characters away from a perfect statement, it is helpful to go through and pinpoint whether the adverb or adjective is helpful or just using up words. More often than not I found the sentence stood alone just as well without using them.

Words: Alicia Gibson

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