Universities see hundreds of personal statements each year. How do you make your Oxbridge personal statement count?
Many of them, aimed at the top universities, are abundant with excellent grades, experiences and scores of the highest calibre. However even the most talented and clever individuals often miss out on a place, because of the Oxbridge personal statement.
This is because it is not only your achievements that make up your identity. Universities, particularly like Oxford and Cambridge, the former of which I currently attend, are not just interested in how well you do in your subject. They are interested in you as a person.
- Will you be open to learning new things?
- Can you cope with a challenging workload?
- Are you a person that the professors will enjoy teaching?
Your Oxbridge personal statement is your chance to not only demonstrate your intelligence – your school scores will prove that for you, but to show the kind of person that you are, and why you would be a valuable addition to their college community.
A lesson on standing out (peacocking anyone?)
The first sentence of your Oxbridge personal statement must immediately grab the attention of whoever is reading it. What is it about you that is different from other people? This could be your background, your upbringing, you ambitions etc. This first impression is vital to ensuring that you are remembered amongst the thousands of other applications. We have a post that demonstrates exactly how to keep your personal statement personal.
How much should you talk about your subject?
This will of course vary from person to person, however it is important to not stay stranded on the narrow path of explaining how much you want to study the subject and your aptitude for it. Your personal statement must go deeper than that. Do not be afraid to be honest.
Why exactly are you so passionate about doing this course? Universities often hear phrases like, “I am passionate about the law and aim to one day work at a law firm”, however this does not demonstrate what is is about law that makes you intent on studying it.
If there have been instances in your life that have helped you discover your passion for this subject, mention them. Make mention about the habits of mind that equip you for the subject; if you are analytical and adept at problem solving, how would this assist you in exploring History or Law? Perhaps you have a systematic and organised brain, skilled at working through issues of Physics.
Universities are there to teach you, and what is most important to them is not that you have a thorough knowledge of your subject, but rather that you have the skills to allow you to grow and expand your mind in your chosen field.
Don’t be a one-trick pony – you have skills, show them!
Many universities are looking for prospective students that are not simply confined to the boundaries of their subject. Within the walls of Oxford, corridors are filled with students studying Physics, who are also highly adept pianists. This is not to say that you must be so too. However, your personal statement should demonstrate that there is more to you than simply the subject you wish to study.
- What are your hobbies?
- What are your passions?
You must go further than this. To make an outstanding personal statement, you must expound upon the qualities that you possess, those which make you a lover of your hobbies, and if possible, link them to your field of study. If you are someone who loves to travel, consider why it is that you love travelling. Perhaps you are capable of adapting quickly to new surroundings and situations. Perhaps you are open minded and enjoy absorbing culture. How would these characteristics assist you in your subject?
Why should they choose you?
In my experience, it is most essential to demonstrate not that you are a person whose cup is already filled and whose brain is perfect, but rather someone who whose cup is willing to be filled, and is eager to learn, equipped with the skills to assist you to do so. Thus, throughout your personal statement you must expound on your willingness to learn.
Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, particularly revel in the exploration of knowledge, are far more concerned with seeing how far you will push the boundaries of your subject. Your temperament is an important part of this. Through all the stages of the application process, notably the interview, it is important to present yourself as your best self.
The qualities about you, perhaps that you are kind, loyal or honest, will mark you out as a person that a university desires to have in their community. There is no better place to do this than in your personal statement. Writing your statement in a polite, yet confident, tone will go a long way towards being warmly received by the reader.
Above all – Be honest. Write from the heart. Good luck!
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