Personal Statements: the phrase that at this time of year can sink the hearts of many sixth formers. Being asked to summarise your academic profile in 4000 characters (including spaces) is a daunting task. So I would like to offer some advice:
1. Research course content (and that of related courses) using the 2019 Undergraduate Prospectus – does the course content on the right hand page really match your academic interests?
2. Take note of the statistics for interview/’successful’ on the left hand page of your selected course.
3. Identify whether there are any attributes that academics are looking for in successful applicants.
4. Match your own experiences from your academic life to the attributes you have identified.
5. Turn your attribute-matching list into prose. Follow ‘PEE’ – Point, Evidence, Explain to ensure you are fleshing your personal statement out according to examples of your experiences and, crucially, what you have learned.
6. Most (65% to 80%) of your written statement should discuss your academic interests, attributes and experience.
7. That leaves space for you to talk about other things that you think universities should know about. At Oxford this section may not inform of our admissions decisions, but other universities may use this information when considering your application.
- Quotes use up characters that aren’t your own words. They are also difficult to make work structurally in a short personal statement.
- Don’t lie or exaggerate. You could be questioned in an interview about anything you write in a personal statement.
- We want to know about your academic interests – saturate your personal statement with strong evidence of these.
- ‘Wider reading’ means anything beyond school that has engaged you academically. It could be academic texts, ‘TED’ talks, lectures, radio programmes, television programmes, newspaper comment sections etc…
- The Oxford ‘Very Short Introduction’ series can be a useful starting point for wider reading.
- Try out some texts on the first year reading lists.
- UCAS displays your personal statement as an unattractive blob of text without paragraph breaks. Make sure your writing style exhibits good linguistic ‘signposting’ to overcome the subsequent lack of paragraphing or indentation.
- Try NOT to be one of these people.