Now results have been released, many of you will now be surer of where it is you want to apply to university and the course(s) you will be tailoring your Personal Statement to. For Oxbridge applicants, there is the difficulty of getting the Personal Statement done that much earlier than your non-Oxbridge counterparts, and in trying to write your Personal Statement to multiple subjects across different universities.
To help you with writing your Personal Statement, here are some tips I have gleaned from reading and revising Personal Statements from subjects across the board.
Many, many people feel the same urge to show what it is they know – going so far as to waste a paragraph in their Personal Statement explaining a concept to admissions tutors who most certainly know what Bildungsroman is without needing you to explain it to them.
A crucial thing to keep in mind is that admissions tutors want to know what it is that interests you about a particular topic and how it links to your desire to study it. Don’t write out a summary of Measure for Measure, laboriously detailing a plot that has nothing much to do with why you want to study English – instead say something about the detail; how Isabella’s unseen reaction to the Duke’s proposal made you consider how open silences are interpreted in different Shakespearean productions, for example.
A lot comes under this umbrella. It is important to realise that admissions tutors will have read hundreds and thousands of Personal Statements in their lifetime, and that you probably won’t be the one shining star out of all of these. Odds are not on your side. As such, remember that your best shot is to demonstrate your true, academic interests rather than trying to appeal to sentiment or cliché. Be rigid with what the Personal Statement’s outcomes are; it is intended to show an admissions tutor that you are academically capable and interested in studying their subject at university, whereas many use it as a space to demonstrate why your life experience makes you more deserving.
Do not waste time going into explaining a concept – rather, explain why it’s relevant to your desire to study be specifying details that are exciting to you.
There’s no catchy heading for this one, that’s how important it is. So many people have such impressive CVs and experiences that they want to get every single bit into the Personal Statement. There’s no better way to make these experiences seem boring and irrelevant than putting them in a list and forcing an admissions tutor to meander through them to work out why they’ve been included and why you bothered doing them in the first place. If a Historian worked at a historical fair for a week and can tell me why that was important to helping them develop their interest and skills in History, that would be more impressive than someone who said they had read the collected works of every historian under the sun but gave me no insight as to why that matters.
As an overall guide: be specific, be passionate, and be concise. Make use of the word count and realise that you’re writing to a person, not an automated machine that will tally up points based on how much you’ve read. Get reading and get writing!