Ucas releases list of ‘hackneyed phrases’ – with Nelson Mandela quote coming in at number 11
Admissions officials have warned university applicants against using “hackneyed phrases” in their personal statements, as they released a top 10 list of the most common opening sentences.
“From a young age I have (always) been…” was the most popular opening line among university applicants last year, used by more than 1,770 people, Ucas said.
“For as long as I can remember I have…” was close behind, followed by “I am applying for this course because…”
More than 900 applicants told universities: “I have always been interested in…” with “Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed…” and “Reflecting on my educational experiences…” some way behind.
At number 11 was a quote from South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” was used by nearly 150 people.
The personal touch
Ucas said it had shared the most common first sentences in a bid to encourage applicants to “convey a connection with the subject” in language that made them stand out.
News of the list comes after the Sutton Trust released research suggesting that schoolteachers and admissions tutors did not always agree on what made a good personal statement, meaning that applicants were sometimes given poor advice.
The charity called for universities to be more clear about what they wanted and for teachers to be given better training on how to support students who were applying to courses.
Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “The personal statement is supposed to be personal. 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.”
Applicants can select five university choices until 30 June this year and may still get offers if places are available, Ucas said.
The 10 most common opening lines used in personal statements during the 2015 Ucas application cycle were:
- “From a young age I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…” 1,779
- “For as long as I can remember I have…” 1,451
- “I am applying for this course because…” 1,370
- “I have always been interested in…” 927
- “Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…” 310
- “Reflecting on my educational experiences…” 257
- “Nursing is a very challenging and demanding [career/profession/course]…” 211
- “Academically, I have always been…” 168
- “I have always wanted to pursue a career in…” 160
- “I have always been passionate about…” 160
At number 11, the Nelson Mandela’s quote “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world…” was used by 148 people.