What is the Personal Statement for?
The statement is your first contact with your chosen universities and is read along with predicted grades;
It's your opportunity to show your interest in the course for which you are applying and should aim to set you apart from the many students competing for places....
How do I write a good statement?
You need to write your statement so that it shows:
1. your commitment and motivation to study e.g. by demonstrating knowledge, interest, reading;
2. your academic interests e.g. through current studies, extended projects and essays;
3. awareness of the broader context e.g. current affairs, related developments, journals;
4. work experience and transferable skills for degrees with vocational connections e.g. business, medicine;
5. that you can cope with the independence and freedom associated with university study e.g. through positions of responsibility, part time work volunteering etc;
6. your outside interests and achievements and what you learned from these experiences.
7. the truth: if you get invited to interview, a question about a ‘fabricated’ achievement could lead to complete humiliation;
8. proportion. Whilst Oxbridge prefer academic interest above all, other universities like to see other interests alongside academic focus. Aim for 80% academic and 20% extra-curricular unless you are applying for a vocational course such as medicine.
It can also help to ask yourself ‘so what?’ to reflect on what learned or gained from anything you put in your statement.
What about Oxbridge?
Liz has extensive experience of supporting students making applications to Oxford or Cambridge universities. Before you even consider it, ask yourself whether you would prefer reading around your subject to almost anything else.... you need to have a genuine love of your subject as you will be studying it to the highest level at these universities. They are seeking not just very bright students, but the students who excel in academic research and debate.
Here are some more frequently asked questions relating specifically to Oxbridge applications:
How do I know if I’m good enough to apply to Oxford or Cambridge?
You need to work with your teachers to establish whether you have the ability or potential to be successful in an Oxbridge application. Here are some questions that will help you to assess whether you are the sort of applicant that Oxford or Cambridge are looking for:
- Are you achieving top grades, consistently?
- Do you constantly seek to find out more about your subject(s) of interest through reading and attending additional lectures?
- Do you enjoy discussing academic topics in small groups or 1-1?
- Could you successfully complete the relevant tests (on their course application pages), if used by the department to which you would apply?
What are my chances of success?
This varies by course. Each course web page publishes statistics on applications and offers. You will also find summary statistics on the universities’ sites for Cambridge and Oxford.
What if the subject that I love is not offered at Oxford or Cambridge?
Quite simply, apply to the universities that offer it! Oxford and Cambridge are not the pathway to happiness or success. So if you love animation then look at Bournemouth University (yes – it used to be a polytechnic!) or ergonomics, then check out Loughborough University (not just for sports studies) or hospitality, then head to Surrey or Oxford Brookes. It really is essential that you make your choices on the basis of the course before the university.
Can I apply to both Oxford and Cambridge?
In a word, no. Historically and currently it is not possible to apply to both universities in the same admissions cycle.
I’m an overseas student, what do I need to know about applying?
If your school is familiar with UCAS they should know about application deadlines, tests, the importance of an outstanding statement and reference, preparing for interview and other application requirements. However, it is possible that there is little understanding of the requirements of Oxford, Cambridge and other leading UK universities. You will find it helpful to work with Liz to improve your understanding and your chances of success.