Preparing a personal statement for applying through clearing

Although many people who go through clearing to find a university place do so because they did not meet the requirements of their conditional offer, for many students clearing is in fact their first attempt to look for a course. It's certainly not unusual for people to only start putting their UCAS application together once clearing has commenced, setting the wheels in motion either in July or once they've got their A Level results in mid-August. The two main categories of people who will be doing this are students who didn't make the firm decision to go to university until the summer time, and people who, upon finding out what their A Level results are, realise that those grades could potentially open the door to all sorts of exciting courses at top-class universities for them.

As you can imagine, these two categories make up for quite a lot of people. Thousands of them every year, in fact. So if you're in one of them, don't make the mistake of thinking that you're alone and that it's therefore not the done thing to put in your application at the clearing stage. In fact, all you need to do is fill your details into the UCAS form, write a personal statement, and then get using the clearing system.

While the first and last of those three tasks are reasonably straightforward, the middle one'writing a personal statement'often phases people a little. It's certainly not unknown for those who put their applications together in September or October to spend weeks fussing over every last word and comma of their statement. Unfortunately, if you're going into the UCAS system and straight into clearing, you simply don't have time for this.

What you need to do instead is make the writing process as efficient as possible. This way, you can get the application submitted and then get on with the business of contacting universities. A perfect statement completed in late August is worthless if it can only be used to get places on the final few leftover courses.

Here, then, are some simple steps that you can take to make sure that getting your personal statement ready for clearing is done as smoothly and effectively as possible. You'll find that if you follow them once you've settled on the subjects you're applying for it'll be much easier. You'll also find that these steps will not just make the writing of the statement easier, but also increase the chances of it getting you a place at university.

1) Making a simple structure will make for easier writing and reading

Don't just try and write anything you can think of that might be relevant. Take four or five categories (for example: your motivation; your study experience and the specifics of what interests you about your subject; your work and/or voluntary experience; your career ambitions) and write paragraphs exclusively about those things. This will make it easier for you to write the statement without getting muddled up, and will also make it a lot easier for overworked admissions tutors to find out about you as quickly as possible.

2) Order the statement so the most pertinent paragraphs (most likely motivation and interest in the subject) are at the top of the statement.

This tip is as much as anything for the benefit of the admissions tutors. During clearing they have to go through masses of applications very quickly. Help them out by making sure that they can read the most important stuff right away.

3) Concentrate on precise, clear sentences rather than crafting fancy prose or clever anecdotes and observations.

Clearing is a lot more direct than the first stages of the UCAS cycle. This means that much of the stuff that earlier applicants sweat and stress over for so long'such as really capturing the essence of what they learnt about human nature while in Thailand, or creating a closing sentence that encapsulates every single positive quality about them'are expensive luxuries rather than necessities during the clearing stage.

Being aware of this will help you no end, as it means that rather than spending hours or days devoting your energies to them, you can focus instead on what the admissions tutors actually want: a document written in clearly written and easily readable sentences that tells them everything they want to know about you.