How to Write a UCAS Essay as a US Student
As a US student, it may be hard for you to interpret the difference between a US-style Common App essay and a UK-style admissions essay, the UCAS personal statement.
How to balance: Academic vs. holistic
You need to bear in mind that in the UCAS statement should be heavily focused on discussing your academic interests and abilities. In fact, the most important elements that you need to include in your statement are why you are interested in studying your chosen major, as well as why you believe you will excel in it.
"Your academic passion and performance remains the primary selection criteria for the majority of UK universities."
Therefore, be sure to address the above two questions and illustrate your academic strengths and skills using concrete examples, such as coursework you’ve completed, or out-of-class readings you have done.
What about Extracurricular Activities (ECA)?
Given that the focus of your UCAS personal statement should be academic, you have probably guessed that you should keep ECA discussion to a minimum. While this is generally true, especially for the highly competitive programs offered by top tier UK universities (such as Oxbridge, LSE, or Imperial), students can still choose a few ECAs that are highly relevant to their chosen majors and discuss the transferable skills that they have gained from participating in these activities.
Show NOT tell.
The show and tell approach required for a UCAS essay is actually quite similar to that of a US-style essay. Only listing the subjects that you are studying and your extracurricular activities is not enough, and neither is telling the admission tutors why you are interested in the chosen major. You need to back these points up with examples, anecdotes, and experiences. For instance, an aspiring law student could discuss their involvement in the school debate team and draw on the academic skills they obtained from it, such as public speaking or identifying evidence to back up their argument.
"You need to back these points up with examples, anecdotes, and experiences."
Any last tips?
Since your UCAS essay will go out to all five of your chosen UK universities, it is important to note that the statement should not contain content aimed at a specific university (even the highest ranked ones like Oxbridge). Given this limitation, you should avoid applying to multiple majors that are unrelated to each other; this way your essay won’t need to cover numerous different academic disciplines. In the final paragraph you may want to incorporate the reasons why you have chosen the UK as the location for your studies, as we definitely think this is important information for international students to include!