5 Jun 2015
What is personal statement?
A 4000 character long summary of why an applicant wishes to study a particular course - not the university. In the UK, one personal statement is used to apply upto 5 universities.
Today I would like to talk to you guys a little bit about how to make your personal statement a strong one. Most of you would already know this but through UCAS, we are applying to 5 different universities with one personal statement. Therefore, we are not writing why we want to study at that university but why we want to study the particular subject we are applying for. For those of you applying for both US and UK universities, college essays have very different styles to personal statements in this respect. So note that one.
Personal statement structure
There isn’t actually a set formula to writing a personal statement. The one that I will share with you guys today is the mostly commonly used one, the one that I used myself. It has three parts. First part is about why you want to study the subject, the most important part. Second part is about your academic achievement showing that you are an academically strong person. Third part is about your extracurricular achievements. In my opinion, demonstrating why you want to study the subject, your passion for the subject is the most challenging part. A lot of applicants try to relate an aspiring experience they had when they were young to their passion. If you have one if you can talk about one, that’s great. For me, I talked about how 3 months of being at a hospital when I was young helped me, inspired me to become a researcher and contribute to the pharmaceutical industry to finding cures for diseases,
Personal statement content
For subjects like medicine and law where post-graduation profession is directly related to the studies, I’m guessing your motive, why you want to study the subject is very important. But you can also talk about academic reasons, academic reasons for wanting to study the subject. For example, you could talk about a subject area that’s not covered in your class that’s covered outside your class in your own time that you looked up yourself, you read about it yourself. Then say that this is one of the subject areas that you find interesting and would like to study in more depth at university. So besides my 3 months experience at the hospital, I also talked about a book I have read called ‘The Chemistry of Life’ which introduced me to the immunity topic in biochemistry and I said that immunity is one of the subjects that I would like to study in more depth at university.
Personal statement example
So this is the personal statement for biochemistry I wrote 5 years ago. I’ve divided why I want to study biochemistry part into 2 paragraphs. In the first paragraph you will see I mentioned the Korean Cancer Center Hospital in Seoul demonstrating my aspiring experience.
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In the second paragraph, you will see that I mention ‘The Chemistry of Life’ and an actual content from the book and that I would like to study about immunity in more depth to show my academic reason for wanting to study biochemistry.
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Next up is the part about showing off academic achievement. I want to talk a little bit about British biology Olympiad because I want to encourage most of you to search for some kind of competition where you can really pursue your interest and hopefully if you do manage to be awarded any sort of award, it doesn’t have to be a medal wise award, just like me, I didn’t receive any medal, I received a letter saying I was highly commended. If you can write anything like this, I believe this should really boost up the overall quality of your personal statement.
For example, just as a head up at this www.pet.cam.ac.uk/essay-prizes which refers to the essay competition held every year by Peterhouse College at Cambridge. I believe there is one for History, English and Sciences at least for 2015. I personally participated in 2009, didn’t get through but definitely worth having a look.
How important is extracurricular achievements for UK universities?
Last part, extracurricular achievements. Anything that shows leadership, anything that shows that you are determined, hard working person would be superb. But a word of caution would be to keep the final part about extracurricular interests brief and focus more on the first two parts because Oxbridge admissions is all about academic merit; so beware of that. This is definitely a very different aspect to US admissions as in the College App, there is a section where you can write in very detailed specifics about extracurricular achievements and many successful applicants are able to show some very amazing achievements; for example, doing a marathon for a cause you really believe in and raising a substantial amount of money for donation.
This explains the difference in the difference between UK and US university atmospheres. (Please note this is an individual opinion of someone who has been through the undergraduate program at Oxford University and the Masters program at Princeton University) There’s definitely a larger variety of society activities in the US than in the UK and also larger percentage of student participation in student societies.
I hope that this blog about how to write a strong personal statement has been useful. Also be sure to check out our large collection of personal statements kindly donated by current Oxford and Cambridge students @www.gurume.co.uk/pages/personal_statements If you have any questions, please feel free to post and comments them below or contact me through our site. Otherwise, I will see you all at our next blog in which I will be talking about what to expect at Oxbridge interviews and how to prepare them. See you all.