At this time of year, you should be focusing on your Personal Statement. It is the best way to show your passion and interest in your subject and is particularly important for Oxford applications where it will help to determine whether or not you are invited to interview. It is really important to understand that you should avoid clichés. Too many students feel that they need to start their Personal Statement “with a bang” and talk about “wanting to understand how to fit the micro piece into the macro puzzle” (too cheesy) or about how they have “wanted to study PPE for my whole life” (not true and overused) so try to avoid sweeping statements or fake passion.
Before you start, spend some time reading about your course and the modules that you will be studying, or will have the option of studying over the three or four years that you will be at University, and think about what you have done or read that can demonstrate why you would be a good fit for the course. University reading lists are a very good place to start if you need some inspiration for what to read and can help you in showing that your academic interests are a good fit for your course. Of course, if you have an interest in something other than what is on the list, that is a great way to demonstrate your ability to study independently and will set you apart from other candidates. Do ensure that books you read are of a level that shows you are capable of stretching yourself academically – something like the Armchair Economics or Superfreakonomics are not really the best way to show you push yourself so if you want to use them, be sure to have developed and extended your analysis of them.
If your course contains more than one academic subject, make sure that you demonstrate your desire to study all of the subjects – I have seen a lot of E&M and PPE Personal Statements where one of the subjects is not addressed at all. It is difficult to get everything in a short space but you need to demonstrate your commitment to all the subjects you will be studying.
With regard to the character count, focus on content before you worry about cutting things out. It is far better to write everything you want and to edit and improve before you start cutting things out as you will find you have a more smoothly flowing Personal Statement than if you keep chopping to fit the character count. It is really important that you do not lie on your Personal Statement – too many students exaggerate or lie in order to appear more impressive. Think about all of the relevant things you have done – for example, societies you are a part of, talks you have attended, books you have read, competitions you have entered, and use those to bolster how you come across as a candidate, and show your commitment to your subject. If you feel you have not done enough, there is still plenty of time to rectify it and bolster your activity. Lots of Universities host talks with speakers that are free to attend and societies such as the Adam Smith Institute and other think tanks also have free talks and policy discussions that you should attend if you have not done so already.
To get the best possible Personal Statement, make sure you start now and look over it/redraft every three or four days. Leavings gaps will enable you to have a fresh mind when you read it again and will give you enough time to edit and shape it until you’re happy with it. Be true to yourself and make sure every section shows your passion for your subject.
Good luck writing!
All views and ideas represented in this blog post are exclusive to Resham, and do not represent those of any other third party.
Click here to read what Oxbridge Applications’ former Head of Programmes, Rebecca Williams, had to say about common mistakes in Personal Statements in her interview with The Telegraph.