Appendix 1) How to write a personal statement that works for multiple courses (not the best option)

How to write a personal statement that works for multiple courses (not the best option)

According to Stowe's Careers Department - Don't try to apply for different types of degrees. You should know what you want to study before applying. Do the research.


Communicating your passion for a subject in your personal statement is an art in itself; but what if you're applying to two (or more) very different courses with the same statement?

Ok, it is easier if all five Ucas choices are the same

The message is clear: admissions tutors are very keen to hear why you've chosen that course; the reasons you're so enthusiastic about it; and what aspects you especially want to learn more about at university.

This assumes that you have one, specific course in mind because you can only write one personal statement in your Ucas application.

But what if your five choices aren't all the same?

With thousands of different courses it's hardly surprising that you may find it difficult narrowing down your choices to one specific subject or course.

It's possible that you may want to apply to two, quite different courses, or to a mixture of single subject and joint or combined courses (with differing subjects). It isn't even unheard of for a student to apply successfully to five diverse courses with one application.

If you're in this scenario, take care how you approach your application. But equally, don't be put off from applying to a variety of courses if you're genuinely interested in them and feel like you have a good shot at being made an offer.

So how do I write a personal statement for more than one course?

Here are some personal statement pointers depending on how different the courses you're applying to are:

1. If there are only slight differences, or you've chosen joint or combined degrees with slightly different subject combinations...

This shouldn't be a problem. Just try to make everything in your statement as relevant as possible to all five choices. If you've included some joint or combined degree courses, make sure that each discipline or subject is addressed in some way.

2. If there are big differences between your course choices...

It might be possible to blend your statement in such a way that everything you write provides appropriate evidence of your skills, academic interests and the way you think that's relevant to all of the courses you've chosen.

Alternatively you could take the honest and transparent approach and openly explain why you've chosen to apply to different courses, providing reasons or evidence for each.

Whichever approach you take, if some (or all) of your course choices are very competitive and receive many more applications than there are places available, then an application that comes across as not being 100% committed and relevant to that course is more likely to go on the rejection pile.

You can get a rough idea of how competitive places on a particular course are by checking the percentage of applicants receiving offers on Which University. Search for a course.

3. If just one of your choices is completely different from the others...

They might accept a separate personal statement for that specific course, sent directly to them.

It quite often happens that admissions staff will agree to this if you contact the university directly and simply ask (just don't assume they'll accept this - check first).

Make enquiries, or seek advice from teachers or advisers, before going down this road.

Another possible solution to this scenario is that an admissions tutor for the 'fifth choice' course might advise you to include a subtle hint somewhere in the statement.

There are also two specific circumstances where choosing one course that's different from the other four might be unavoidable. These are:
  • If you're applying for medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine courses, where you're restricted to a maximum of four choices but your statement really needs to be 100% focused on them. In this situation some courses at some universities will be happy to be your fifth choice, despite your statement not being directly relevant to them. But equally, some won't be happy at all. Again, ask.
  • If you're applying for a unique or unusual course that's only offered by a small number of universities, then it's quite likely that admissions staff will be used to advising on this issue and may even provide guidance on their website. So check with them directly.

Finally, if in doubt...

Go straight to the horse's mouth: the university or universities themselves.

Firstly, check their website as they may well have received previous enquiries about this and have published specific advice around it.

Secondly, department staff at a lot of universities will be quite happy to answer a quick email or phone enquiry (or you could just DM the university or department on social media).

Better still, go to an open day and speak to them face to face. While there will be many other students there too, your conversation may help you stand out later on.

Some courses won't have a problem if they can see that you've applied to a mixture of courses, but some will reject you if your statement lacks focus which is a risk when applying to multiple choices.

So don't make assumptions - ask to be safe!