Applying to universities to study law is difficult enough without taking into account the UCAS personal statement word limit.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! There is a word limit for the UCAS personal statement?”
Technically it’s a character limit, but yes, in short there is a limit to the length your UCAS personal statement can be. But it’s nothing to worry about. In fact wouldn’t you rather have a limit than be constantly worried that you’ve rambled far too much and focussed on non-important matters?
Dealing with the personal statement character limit
Regardless, the ‘word’ limit is 47 lines of text, or 4000 characters. This equates to (roughly) 500 words. UCAS recommend that you write out your personal statement in a word processor before copying and pasting it into the online application. This is because some word processors get different values if they don’t include spaces in their character count.
So, 4000 characters to sell yourself and earn your place on a competitive law course. Easy, right?
What to include in a law personal statement
In short, you should address two broad points in your personal statement – why you are applying for law and what makes you suitable.
When writing your personal statement remember that you need to address up to five universities. Generally, prospective university students tend to apply for the same course, or similar courses, so checking prospectuses and course profiles for the qualities universities look for in candidates.
For example, to study law at the University of Nottingham, students must “wish to study law as an academic discipline”. Therefore, you must outline in your personal statement what interests and motivates you to study law at university. The university also outline how you can “specialise in areas of law according to your own interests and future career plans”, prompting you to explain what areas of law you find most interesting, and where you see your career heading after you’ve finished your degree (*cough* vacation scheme and training contract *cough*). This covers the ‘why you are applying’ point.
As for what makes you suitable, as well as talking about your academic record and work ethic, you should also spend a bit of time speaking about your extracurricular activities. Universities want to take on students who have a personality, not just A* machines. Link your activities with valuable legal skills such as leadership, timekeeping (for all those 9am lectures) and the ability to work as part of a team.
Using your words wisely
“But how can I communicate all of my achievements and ambitions in just 500 words?” Being succinct is a skill. You will have word limits throughout your university studies, so see this limit as your first test. It also tests you to cut out information that isn’t wholly relevant.
UCAS personal statements are a toughie, but drafting and redrafting is part of the process, and you won’t get it absolutely spot on first time. Remember to stick to the limits and don’t forget to proofread!
1. How long does it take for my welcome letter to come?
It really depends on where you're applying from. Once the application has been sent to Ucas, it can take around 24-48 hours to process. Once processed, the letter will be generated and sent. This can take two to three working days to be received if being sent in the UK, but up to 21 days if being sent overseas
2. How much does the application cost?
The application fee is £12 for a single choice and £23 for two to five choices.
3. When is the best time to apply?
In short, the best time to apply is by the deadline for your course! For most courses, the deadline will be January 15, 2013. However courses such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine/science had a deadline of October 15, 2012, as did all applications for the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. There are also some art and design courses which have a deadline of March 24, 2013.
4. How many times should I redraft my personal statement?
There isn't going to be a magic number with this but the key will be getting other people to read it and have their input as part of the redrafting process. Don't forget that your personal statement will be seen by a number of admissions staff during the application process, so it's a good idea to get teachers, parents and friends to have a look over it and offer their thoughts on what you've written.
5. When is the soonest/latest I will receive an offer?
This really will vary depending on the university/college and individual courses. Some universities may make all their decisions at the same time and others may stagger them throughout the year. Or it can be the case that individual faculties within a university may make decisions at different times.
The way in which universities make their decisions is explained in more depth in the UCAS Advisers' blog.
However, if you apply by the January 15 deadline, the latest a university can make a decision is May 9, 2013.
6. When will I hear from courses I applied to before the October 15 deadline? Shouldn't I have already heard?
As above, a decision can be made at any time up until May 9, 2013. In terms of hearing back about an interview, this will vary depending on the university and course. If you're worried that you've not heard back then get in touch with your university for an update on the status of the application.
7. What are the best times/dates to check my Ucas Track for updates? (i.e. When is it most often updated – ever in the middle of the night?)
Track will update throughout the day as and when universities process their decisions. In the majority of cases, Track will update immediately following a university decision. However, depending on the internal systems being used by some universities, the update may happen overnight.
8. Are there any subjects or universities which are particularly fast/slow to respond?
9. Many of my friends already have offers – does that mean there are fewer places left for me?
No. Universities may make decisions at different points throughout the year, so if some friends have already had offers it doesn't mean that an offer wouldn't be made to you at a later date. Also, it's important not to think that one offer being made represents one university place no longer available. Many universities will make more offers than there are places available because they know that not all offers will result in a confirmed place. This can be for various reasons such as not meeting the conditions of the offer, only being accepted as an insurance choice or the offer being declined by an applicant.
10. Can I still change my choices if I've applied?
Yes. You can substitute a university choice within seven days of the date on your original Welcome letter by going to the Choices section of Track and clicking on 'Substitute Choice'. Outside of the seven days, it's not possible to do this.
If you wish to change a course choice but remain with the same university, you should speak to them directly about whether they'd be willing to change this for you. There's no seven-day window in this case but any change would be at the university's discretion.
University application: students' top 10 questions
Ucas expert: university application dos and don'ts
Ucas guide to the personal statement
Try the Telegraph's interactive University Course Finder