Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Writing a personal statement for university

Many students hoping to go to university in 2016 may think that the UCAS deadline of 15th January 2016 is a long way off and they have all the time in the world to plan their application.  However, this date should not be taken lightly.  Many schools with have their own deadlines before this in order for teachers to write references so it is sensible to bear this in mind.  Starting even before the summer holidays is advisable as teachers are likely to bring the topic of writing a personal statement before the school year is out.

Personal statements set out why students want to apply for a particular course and why they think they are suitable.  It is important, however, to consider where the applications are going whilst also being aware that all of those universities will see the same personal statement as part of the UCAS application. 

Getting the balance right on paper between academic study and extra-curricular activities is difficult as  Caitriona Woolhouse, head of student recruitment at the University of Oxford, points out: “When advising students about applying to top universities in general, and specifically Oxford, we typically say that about 75-80 per cent should be related to your academic study and interest in the course and for 20-25 per cent to be related to non-academic life". If there is a link between non-academic activities, such as work experience, and the chosen course it is advisable to include information about these to support the application.

With a 4000 character limit for a statement it could be tempting to waffle on about strengths and ambitions.  It is sensible to remember to save some space for elaboration at interview opportunities as this could score well.  Students should research their courses thoroughly so that they can explain their suitability for them.  With all these points to consider, it is vital that the personal statement is structured soundly.  It also goes without saying that it should be free of grammatical and spelling errors so asking family, friends or professionals to proofread it will always help get it just right.  

Planning, then, should start right now.  If not straight into a Word document, then at least in draft form.  Plus, students looking at Oxbridge and medical courses should be at this point already, with an earlier UCAS deadline of 15th October 2015!  There's no time like the present for sixth form students to put across why they are going to be an asset to higher education!  


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