Blog 01.06.19

How the DofE can help when writing UCAS personal statements

A young person’s personal statement is an important part of a UCAS application. It is their chance to describe their ambitions, skills and experiences, in their own words, to the universities and colleges that they are applying to. UCAS has created a personal statement tool, to help them think about what to include in a personal statement and how to structure it.

Let’s look at ways that they can incorporate their DofE experiences and skills using the prompt questions in the tool. UCAS has also produced some additional advice here.

Writing about the course

Through a young person’s DofE activities they may have already demonstrated an interest in their course subject. For example, if they did photography as their skill and are now looking to enroll on a photography degree, or if their volunteering involved campaigning and they’re now keen to pursue a career in communications.

‘Have you taken part in any other activities that demonstrate your interest in the course(s)?’ is a great opportunity to showcase their passion and commitment to the course subject, through their DofE, and help them to stand out from the crowd.

Skills and achievements

A DofE Award is a world-renowned mark of achievement, widely recognised by admissions tutors and employers, so they should definitely include their DofE here. They should also outline the wealth of skills and attributes they’ve gained through their programme, like problem-solving, drive, resilience, empathy and team-working. These are hugely important as they demonstrate the young person’s investment in their personal development and their ability to respond well to their next challenge; coping with a new environment and additional pressures.

Employers tell us that they look out for DofE Awards when they recruit – deeming extra-curricular activities which develop soft skills to be just as important as academic achievements – so encourage them to include your Award on their CV job applications as well if they’re looking to work whilst at university.

See the chart below to help you identify the skills and attributes they will have gained through their DofE…

Here are some examples of how specific experiences as part of their DofE may have helped develop skills and attributes, such as communication or team working. Remember that their personal statement must be in their own words and not copied, but these examples may help them think of their experiences in ways that they not have considered:

“Through my DofE volunteering which amounted to over 130 hours, I developed my communication skills, liaising with customers in the BHF shop and interacting with other volunteers and staff. I was declared the store’s ‘top seller’ in 2017, increasing profits by 10%, due to my ‘exceptional customer service’ and took on the responsibility of training new volunteers.”

Team working and leadership
“I worked with six other people to complete my three DofE expeditions; this involved us talking through potential problems before they became issues, listening to all opinions and taking leadership when necessary. I was responsible for map navigation which played an important part in us all completing the section.”

Self-motivation, drive and commitment
“I managed my academic studies alongside the completion of my DofE skills (piano playing) and physical (football) activities for over a period of six years. This involved setting long-term and short-term targets, overcoming obstacles such as when I broke my ankle and had to start again with my football fitness, and creating a schedule for my time outside of school.”

“Achieving all three levels of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has involved unwavering resilience, especially when faced with knock-backs such as when I broke my ankle. Keeping sight of the end goal and not letting problems derail my focus has been a character-building experience that has increased my confidence and I believe, prepared me for university.”

Work experience and future plans
This is an opportunity for them to shout about their DofE volunteering, to show that they’ve given up their spare time to support others, want to contribute to their community and can demonstrate empathy and compassion. If their volunteering has some connection to their chosen course, then they should make sure that they draw this out.