First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to all of you for finishing your examinations! The summer holiday now stretches before you and it should be enjoyed to the maximum. With this summer vacation you should make ample time for fun activities with family and friends, but you should also make sure to carve out some time for preparing for the autumn. When school restarts in September, the pace will be fast and furious and students who do not use the summer months to prepare could struggle to keep up. In previous blogs, I have discussed the importance of using the summer months to gain work experience or do an internship. It is also a good time to accomplish a lot of reading and gain a head start on the autumn’s curriculum. The final goal for the summer holidays is to get started on your personal statement; a document that can cause a surprising number of headaches.
What should you say?
The brevity of the personal statement is part of its challenge; can you sum yourself up in one short page? Often we have so many things we would like to share, our personal statements can become sprawling epics; other times, we can struggle to fill half the page. So what should we share? The secret to success is the same as for any school or exam essay you have written: planning and structure. Before writing your personal statement, you need to plan out each paragraph. Consider the following key questions that you need to address in your statement:
Start now by writing down your answer to each of the questions above; if you find that you lack answers to any of them, then the beauty of doing this now is that you have the whole summer holiday to make answers! Mentioning certain books that you have read over the summer is a common approach to showing how you have pushed your knowledge beyond the A-level material. Work experience, internships or shadowing placements will also demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond to broaden your academic requirements. If you are unsure about how to answer any of the questions above, take them to your career advisor or teacher for advice on how to tackle them; remember, the sooner you address these points, the easier it will be to fix them as time will be on your side.
Drafting and tweaking
In terms of writing the personal statement, my recommendation is to start writing a draft as soon as you have prepared a solid plan and are confident that you have answers to the questions above, as well as good supporting examples to back up all your claims. As soon as you have a first draft you are proud of, immediately start getting feedback from your family or teachers. While the start of term will be busy for you, it will be even more hectic for your teachers. If you have a draft ready before terms starts, don’t be shy to email a copy to your teacher before school starts. They will be pleased with your progress and will have more time to provide detailed feedback than they would during the busy term period.
On a final note, the Oxbridge Applications team is also a pro at personal statements, having helped students write thousands of them over the years! If you need any support writing yours, do reach out for help and the OA team will be more than happy to help you.