After we looked at how to build your reading list for the summer last month, this month’s blog looks at how to do yourself justice – with advice and tips on writing a personal statement that will highlight your strengths and USPs.
A personal statement is like a handshake – a weak one and you won’t be worth remembering, but a good one will leave a lasting impression. With an Oxbridge application, your personal statement is a positive way of laying the groundwork with regards to what you might want to talk about in an interview and for allowing the interviewers to learn more about you and your interests before December. For an Oxford application especially, your personal statement can make the difference between an invitation to interview, or the end of your application.
Before you put pen to paper to draft your personal statement, it’s a good idea to take some time to make a list of things that you do or have participated in to demonstrate your commitment to, and passion for, your subject. Cast your mind back over the last two years and make a note of extra-curricular activities, lectures/talks you have attended, books you have read and anything else that you can think of that may demonstrate your unique selling points and your ability to engage with your subject. Revisit your list a day or two later to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything that could interest an Oxbridge interviewer.
Once you have a full list, work out the things that are most relevant to your subject and the things that are most likely to set you apart from other students. For example, whilst doing your DoE award is impressive, it may be better to focus on the Economics society that you helped set up. Even if you haven’t yet read all the books you intend on reading for your Oxbridge interview, by discussing them in your personal statement, your Oxbridge interviewer is going to be able to personalise your interview more easily and to learn more about your interests in advance.
Your personal statement is likely to take you many many drafts, so don’t worry too much if you struggle with a suitable beginning/ending when you try to put pen to paper. Think about the things you want to mention – your personal statement should be a good mix of information demonstrating your passion for your subject as well as what sets you apart from other students. Avoid cliches as this will harm your application by showing that you aren’t capable of original thought. Whilst you want to show yourself off, you need to be careful to not come across arrogant and definitely avoid making claims that you cannot back up as you should fully expect to be questioned on the contents of your personal statement. Equally, if you say you have read/done something on your personal statement, you must do so by the time of your Oxbridge interview.
Show your personal statement to subject teachers for feedback and make changes where necessary. Read your personal statement a few days after writing it as this will show you weaknesses and you can keep redrafting until you reach a version you think shows the best of you. Remember- whilst other people’s feedback can be very valuable, this is your personal statement and needs to reflect you as well as possible.
All views and ideas represented in this blog post are exclusive to Resham, and do not represent those of any other third party.