Education & Family

University hopefuls urged to keep applications 'personal'

Students revising outside Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The same phrases crop up time after time in university applications

University applicants are overly reliant on a few "hackneyed phrases" in their personal statements, says the admissions service UCAS.

The organisation has published a top 10 list of the most frequently used opening lines.

It found that "From a young age I have (always) been..." was the most popular opening line last year.

"The personal statement is supposed to be personal," warned chief executive Mary Curnock Cook.

"Learning to write about yourself in a compelling way is a vital skill when applying for jobs; using hackneyed phrases is not the best way to stand out," she added.


Top 10 opening lines:

  1. Of over 700,000 candidates who applied to university last year 1,779 began their personal statement: "From a young age I have (always) been.." and most of these continued "interested in" or "fascinated by".
  2. "For as long as I can remember I have..." was used by 1,451 applicants
  3. "I am applying for this course because..." by 1,370 applicants
  4. "I have always been interested in..." (927)
  5. "Throughout my life I have always enjoyed..." (310)
  6. "Reflecting on my educational experiences..." (257)
  7. "Nursing is a very challenging and demanding (career/ profession/ course)... (211)
  8. "Academically, I have always been..." (168)
  9. "I have always wanted to pursue a career in..." (160)
  10. "I have always been passionate about..." (160).

In 11th place, used by 148 applicants, was a quote from Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".

UCAS said it hoped the list of top 10 phrases would encourage students to use language that makes them stand out in their personal statements.

The admissions system allows would-be students to apply up until the end of June.

The personal statement allows students to say why they are applying for a particular course or subject and to highlight any special skills or interests.

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