Recent research, carried out on behalf of the Sutton Trust, compared the quality of personal statements from independent and state schools.
The researchers examined over 300 personal statements from students with the same grades who applied to the same university department. They found that applications from independent schools were more likely to be well-crafted and contain a wide range of high status, relevant work experience.
They also found significant differences in presentation - writing errors were three times more common in the applications from state schools.
The Sutton Trust are campaigning to make the application process fairer by:
- Asking students to reflect on which attributes they would bring to a course or university, rather than simply listing their previous achievements. There should also be a limit on the number of experiences described.
- Universities taking young people’s background into account, and judging low and middle income applicants according to the academic and extracurricular opportunities available to them.
- Schools and colleges individually or collectively providing more practical support to help students through the university admissions process, something already the norm for more privileged students.
- UCAS changing its ‘free response’ policy to prevent the sale of pre-written ‘personal’ statements.
- The professions introducing more programmes to provide systematic support for young people from low and middle income backgrounds to access internships and high quality work experience.