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B. UCAS Personal Statements Dr Jeremy Rawson, Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Magdalene College. An opportunity to tell Universities why they should select.

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Presentation on theme: "B. UCAS Personal Statements Dr Jeremy Rawson, Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Magdalene College. An opportunity to tell Universities why they should select."— Presentation transcript:

1 B. UCAS Personal Statements Dr Jeremy Rawson, Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Magdalene College. An opportunity to tell Universities why they should select you

2 UCAS Personal Statements Are you portraying the right image?

3 UCAS Personal Statements: Overview Key Points to Consider What to Include Do’s and Don’ts Size and Presentation Plagiarism One approach to writing your personal statement

4 General Structure of a Personal Statement Beginning Middle End Your motivation for the course: Why are you interested? How long? What initiated your interest? Extracurricular activities – further reading/study - and work experience (if appropriate) which have helped confirm your decision. More about yourself – your extracurricular activities and interests. Try to tie in relevant personal characteristics and skills to the course itself. Try and work on a concluding paragraph which re- emphasises your motivation/anticipation/excitement for study at a Higher level. Also include future aspirations here if you have them and/or how your proposed gap year will enhance your suitability.

5 Points to Consider #1 a) Make sure it is literate This is often the only piece of written work from you which a Course Director has so he/she can examine your written style: Essential for Arts/Humanities subjects where course directors will be looking for an ability to form well-constructed prose. Check: structure - grammar – spelling - punctuation “In my free time I take part in a number of activities including tennis and mountain walking. These are particularly satisfactory hobbies, as although they require hard work and practise, there are few things greater than the sense of achievement experienced when you win a match, or make it to the top of the mountain. It is this sense of achievement that has driven me to summit all 14 peaks over 3,000 feet in Snowdonia.” History Applicant (middle section):

6 Points to Consider #2 b) Explain why you want to study the course(s) you are applying for… If you are applying for different courses at different universities… Bear in mind that your UCAS application is for all your courses -Try not to tailor it to one specific course/institution -Try to ensure that you aim for common themes of interest in your statement. -Usually easy(ish) for similar courses such as Natural Sciences vs Physics but you might wish to discuss this with a careers advisor for more diverse subject combinations. -Be prepared to justify why you have chosen alternative courses at different Universities

7 Points to consider #2 “What I love about chemistry is the constant sense of discovery: looking at the simplest reactions on a molecular level is like glimpsing a whole new world. I am keen to learn at the cutting edge of current knowledge and to contribute to new discoveries. During the course of my degree I hope to take part in some research; after leaving university I am looking to work in science, possibly in research, and some experience will almost certainly come in useful. I would also like to continue my study of French at university I think it is a beautiful language and one of my ambitions is to become fluent.” Example: Chemistry…or Chemistry-with-French Application? An opening gambit… “What I love about chemistry is the constant sense of discovery: looking at the simplest reactions on a molecular level is like glimpsing a whole new world. I am keen to learn at the cutting edge of current knowledge and to contribute to new discoveries. I relish the opportunity to undertake some original research during my degree and such experiences will be invaluable after leaving university when I hope to work in science. Academic and industrial research now revolve about a global market in which communication skills are essential. Whilst at school I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to study French to A2 level alongside my sciences and I am enthusiastic to continue this formally or informally at University.” A suggested revision…

8 Points to consider #3 c) Try to link your academic and personal abilities and experiences to your course -It may help to draw up a list of your hobbies and experiences and see how you can use them to support your course structure (without being too tenuous!) -Try to embellish your discussion with some relevant detail as to why something motivates you. “From a young age, I have been fascinated by law and was thrilled at the possibility of studying it at A-Level. In August 2007, I was able to spend two weeks working at Solicitors in. Most of my time was spent in the Conveyancing department, where, a partner in the firm, taught me how to draw up commercial leases and business contracts, and about buying, selling and renting residential properties.” Law Applicant (beginning):

9 Points to Consider #4 d) Trying to make your statement stand out -It is tempting to use humour, quotes or jokes to make your personal statement stand out. Be warned:- -These often appear formulaic and do not always have the desired effect. -The Course Director might not appreciate your sense of humour – don’t forget they may have several hundred to read! -Sincere interest and enthusiasm usually work best. “Without laws then the drunk that hospitalised my best friend would still be legal to possibly go one step further and see if going 5 miles faster would impress his so called friends or, cause an entire family a life time of sorrow. ” Law Applicant (beginning): “Until my AS year, I had never completed a full school year. I am a member of the Travelling Showman community and spent several months a year travelling and working with my family's Fair. I was self-taught from the Easter holidays until September. While I kept up with the school curriculum through the Traveller Education Authority, I was free to please myself in what I read, and what pleased me most was History and poetry. I studied because I wanted to.” History Applicant (beginning)

10 Points to Consider #5 e) Your personal statement is often the only thing that an interviewer knows about you – know and be prepared to answer questions on what you have written! “I first became interested in Chemistry at GCSE level as this was the first time that I had studied the sciences separately. I found it a subject that I understood and have continued to find thoroughly enjoyable and achieve very well in. I am currently spending my year out working as an Analytical Chemist for xxxxx and I am finding my interests towards a career using Chemistry continually confirmed.” Another Chemistry Applicant…and another beginning!: What have you been doing as an analytical chemist? – What techniques have you used? – How do they work? – What sorts of molecules is this technique appropriate for?

11 What to include #1 a) Interests, experiences and abilities related to your chosen course: Draw up a list of things which motivate you to study the course: - School subjects - Work experience, especially when relevant to your chosen course - Extra reading in the wider area beyond the course syllabus - Web-sites - School/family trips or excursions “I arranged another placement week myself at a local hospital, which was a superb opportunity to observe medicine from another point of view. I observed the ward rounds, an MRI scan, a skin biopsy and an endosocpy clinic all which I found interesting. I spent the most time with the haematology team, responsible for patients with diseases such as Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia (CML), haematology being one of my interests it was captivating that I could see the specialty from a more complex side than the AS biology course. ” Medicine Applicant (half way through statement but still beginning):

12 What to include #2 “I am currently on the schools sixth form committee. My role here is developing my confidence, leadership skills and capacity to work co-operatively as part of a team. By participating in a debate as part of the University Access Programme I have become more articulate in expressing my views. I have mentored a younger student, an experience that proved to be particularly rewarding when she acquired greater confidence in her reading. ” English Applicant (middle): b) Extra-curricular activities Detail aspects of your significant extra-curricular activities especially with regard to: - Organisational ability - Time-management - Skills related to the course

13 What to include #3 c) Additional Qualifications Detail aspects of your significant extra-curricular activities especially with regard to: - Other skills/achievements e.g. Duke of Edinburgh, Black belt in Judo… - Studies beyond school classes: National/International Olympiads, Cipher challenge… - Positions of Responsibility - Attributes which make you ‘different’ History Applicants (middle sections): “Outside school, my interests in art and literature are a helpful balance to my academic work. I have also been a member of Circus Eruption, a group working with able-bodied and disabled young people through the medium of circus skills, for six years. “ “After my GCSEs I stepped back from full-time education for a year. I needed time to think about where I was coming from and where I wanted to go in the future. The sense of venturing into territory alien to my Traveller culture induced considerable anxiety. I learned to drive and worked part-time. I look back on this period not with regret, but with appreciation for the maturity I gained.”

14 What to include #4 d) Future Aspirations This may be very tentative at this stage. -Some courses are ‘vocational’ (Medicine, Veterinary Science, Law, Engineering) and potential career paths are easily identified. -Some courses are more academic (History, English, Maths). Explain how you feel the qualification is going to help you along your chosen career path. - Perhaps you’re undecided. If so, focus on your enthusiasm for the subject you’ve chosen. “Although some would argue the study for an English degree is not vocational I see the next few years of my life as the opportunity to become immersed in a subject I love. To develop my potential as a writer, I need to analyse and understand the work of those who inhabit library shelves. This course offers me the chance to explore the depths of Shakespeare, unravel the mysteries of Byron and grow in confidence as a literacy critic and person.” “There are many things that I still want to do and learn, and I see university as the best opportunity to get involved more in drama and music, try some debating and hopefully take up a sport. Although having done relatively little so far, I regard university as a place where I can realise my potential in every aspect of life and also have a lot of fun studying what I love.”

15 Do’s and Don’ts Do: a)Check University courses for their academic requirements - Are you realistically going to meet their entrance requirements? -Are you studying the right subjects for their course? -Do they have additional recommended criteria/qualities? -If so, do you have at least some of them?! b) Create a list of ideas which you might like to incorporate before you start - Academic background -Wider reading beyond the syllabus -(Relevant) Work Experience -Extra-curricular activities; especially showing responsibility, commitment, organisation.

16 Do’s and Don’ts Do: c) Assume your first draft will not be perfect! - Ask people you know and trust for critical and ideally constructive feedback – parents are not always best as they might not like to hurt your feelings! -Carefully check spelling, grammar and punctuation. d) Justify your course choice! Implement: - Your subject interests -Your wider academic experiences -Work experience (positive and negative) Try and incorporate lots of enthusiasm for the course!

17 Do’s and Don’ts Do: e) Underline and justify your personal qualities to undertake the course - Usually organisation, time-management, responsibility f) Outline future provisional ‘post-degree’ plans: -Some courses are ‘vocational’ (Medicine, Veterinary Science, Law, Engineering) Potential career paths are easily identified. -Some courses are more academic (History, English, Maths). Explain how you feel the qualification is going to help you along your chosen career path. -Perhaps you’re undecided. -If so, focus on your enthusiasm for the subject you’ve chosen

18 Do’s and Don’ts Don’t: a)Use over elaborate language to embellish your prose. b)Wander too much from the point of your argument - Review what you have written from time to time c) Lie -Needless to say there are serious repercussions if you falsify examination results. -Its all too easy to get caught out at an interview if you have lied or exaggerated about your experiences/achievements. d) Rely on a spell-checker! - In principal a spell-checker should pick up awl mistakes… - Re-read your statement after several days and get someone else to read it too!

19 Do’s and Don’ts Don’t: e) Wait until the last minute -Your statement will likely appear rushed -You’ll probably omit important arguments or factors supporting your application f) Try and write your statement whilst surfing or watching TV -Give it your full attention g) Copy or use someone else’s statement - UCAS has a sophisticated plagiarism checker…see later

20 Size and Presentation 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text (whichever comes first) -You cannot use bold, italics, underline, various fonts etc -You do not have to use every last character of space -But you should use a lot of the space on offer! -You can use blank lines between paragraphs Ensure your text appears well-presented and you are making a coherent series of statements. -Prepare your statement off-line in Word, Notepad, Wordpad etc. -After it has been read, re-read, proof-checked etc: -Upload/copy-paste onto the UCAS website once you are happy with the content. -When you save your document, UCAS will tell you if there are space characters left or if you’ve used too many!

21 Beyond UCAS Additional Information Some Universities may request further information from you in order to assess your ability for their course. If there is additional information which you feel relevant to your application but you did not wish to include in your UCAS statement, contact the University directly. They will often be happy to accept additional information, but ensure it can be clearly identified as your work (your name and UCAS ID number are helpful). In some cases you might be invited for an academic interview

22 Plagiarism Similarity Detection All UCAS personal statements are subject to a similarity detection test. Copycatch software quantifies the similarity between statements and reports findings Copycatch compares your personal statement with: - All previous and current statements on UCAS - Other personal statements which have been found on websites - Other sources including paper publications. Do read other personal statements to see what is required. Do not use other people’s personal statements and a Thesaurus as a template. Do not let other people use your personal statement as a template.

23 One approach to writing your UCAS personal statement Decide on the type of course you are interested in which fits your interests and academic background Choose appropriate Universities which offer that course and where you are most likely to meet their academic requirements. Generate a list of activities in and out of school which interest you Spend time evaluating how you can implement your experiences, activities and interests to support your course decision – link them to beginning/middle/end sections Find other personal statements for the same/similar courses – assess them critically – identify good and bad parts – try and identify why they are good/bad so you can implement those techniques Prepare a first draft bearing in mind the following: - Use your experiences in and out of school to justify your course choice(s) - Showing interest in your subject beyond the classroom is really important - Where possible tie in skills from extracurricular interests into skills required for higher education - If you’re taking a gap year justify how it will strengthen your application. - Balance your personal statement between motivation and enthusiasm for your course and your extracurricular activities Ask someone you trust to read your statement and offer constructive advice/criticism. Revise your statement in light of their comments and re-circulate to others until you are content.

24 Sources UCAS webpages Many personal statements are available on-line (all statements used here were in the public domain)

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