Writing a Personal Statement for UCAS

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Matt Pringle has had several years’ experience teaching Economics, Business Studies and Critical Thinking. Dr. Rob McMahon was Tutor in Politics at St John's College, Oxford from 2003 - 2005 and ran PPE admissions at the College in 2004. He has five years of interview experience at The University of Oxford. Between them they have read personal statements from, and given advice to, hundreds of students. Here is what they have to say about the dreaded UCAS personal statement.

Some people claim that universities don’t look at your personal statement. Sadly a few universities (off the record) do say that they place little or no weight on the personal statement as they cannot even be sure that you wrote it, but the vast majority are interested in what you have to say and a well written, enthusiastic, personal (to you) personal statement may well persuade them to give you a chance even if your predictions/results are not quite top of the pile.

Here are some general principles:

Proof read carefully. Nothing says ‘I don’t really care about this course’ like poorly written English or misspelled words (yes I have even had statements with the name of the course spelled wrong!).

Be enthusiastic. Remember, this person is going to have to lecture to you, read your essays and possibly have tutorials, seminars and supervisors meetings with you. They want to see that you are genuinely excited by the subject and have some thoughts to offer. This will make you an interesting person to teach and not just an unwelcome distraction from their research.

The admissions tutors don’t care as much as you think about what you have read. I have seen lots of personal statements with lists of books and papers that the applicant has supposedly read. The problem is that you may not have read them and even if you have you may not have understood a word. The university is interested in what you thought about a book and what that lead you to read/do/study next, such as enter an essay competition on the subject or write an article. It is better to talk about 2 ‘low brow’ books you have read and the insightful comments you have about what they say than to simply list 30 seminal texts.

The admissions tutors are interested in you for your academic profile. That doesn’t mean don’t put down that you captained your school football team or plan on wiping monkeys’ noses in the Amazon on you gap year. It is good to show that you have other interests and skills. It does mean that you should spend most of your time talking about the subject and be clear in WHY you have done other things and what they have taught you, not just what you have done.

Get it in early. Some universities will wait to make offers until the end but some will make offers as they go along so the earlier you get your form in the better chance there will be plenty of places left.

Read 6294 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 April 2018 09:54

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