Thousands of students are plagarising their personal statements with these sentences

That Nelson Mandela quote isn’t looking so original anymore


Thousands of students are plagarising their personal statements, according to new figures released by UCAS, fuelling fears that they are an "open door to cheating" for middle class students.

In their first year using new software, UCAS detected 4,559 plagarised personal statements. "Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have had a passion for science" appeared in 234 personal statements.

Outside commentators have speculated that this could be due in part to parents paying companies to write the personal statements for their children in the hopes of getting them into a better university, and argued that personal statements are a waste of time and effort.

UCAS notes that this is still below 1 per cent of the 700,000 people who apply to uni each year. The famous Nelson Mandela "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" quote was the 11th most used phrase, they found.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, told The Sunday Times: “Personal statements are an open door to cheating and should be scrapped. Universities should admit on talent and they need to devise the fairest possible means of spotting talent.”

These are the 10 most common opening lines in personal statements:

1. From a young age, I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…

2. For as long as I can remember, I have…

3. I am applying for this course because…

4. I have always been interested in…

5. Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed…

6. Reflecting on my educational experiences…

7. Nursing is a very challenging and demanding [career/course]

8. Academically, I have always been…

9. I have always wanted to pursue a career in…

10. I have always been passionate about…

Narrowly missing out on this elite group is the Nelson Mandela quote, "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". That might be true, but clearly with personal statements, a little originality goes a long way.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS told The Tab: “UCAS uses similarity detection software to screen personal statements for copying on behalf of universities and genuine applicants.

"Our advice to students is clear – don’t be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement. All personal statements are checked by UCAS, and if it’s flagged as being similar to others or doesn’t appear genuine, it could affect your chances of being offered a place.

"UCAS supports higher education providers by delivering this service, helping to detect fraudulent applications with the decision to admit being the remit of the individual university or college."