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Perfect Personal Statements‌..

These slides are an amalgamation of presentations from several university conferences on Admissions. Some slides are aimed at students and some at advisors

Applying to HE – Timetable Sept

Sixth Form/College begins…..

1 Sept End September 15 Oct Mid October 15 Jan March End April

UCAS begins accepting applications School‟s need to process early applications Closing date for Oxbridge & Medical Most applicants begin to get offers UCAS Applications official deadline UCAS extra begins for eligible students Deadline deciding on Firm and Insurance Offers Exam Results! Places confirmed/clearing starts

Mid August

Subject “Fit” Interested in Biology Biomedical Sciences, Human Biology, Genetics, Optometry, Zoology Geography Business, Environmental Sciences, European Studies, Logistics, Surveying, Town Planning Maths Accountancy, Computer Science, Engineering, Internet Gambling Studies 20%+ of Scientists/Engineers go into Finance/Accounting 50%+ of Graduate Jobs advertised don’t specify a particular degree

Application Strategy may be subject dependent Selective Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Pharmacy, Vet Sci, Physio, English, Psychology, some Business, History, Sports courses high competition, higher grades, can vary between Universities Seductive Some Engineering, Chemistry, Languages, Sociology (compared to Psychology), Philosophy, Physics Less competition, sometimes lower grades (but often excellent career prospects!)

What do Admissions Tutors look for?

Academic Potential (Predicted Grades) Academic Record (GCSE, AS) Reference from School/College‌.. Evidence of: Motivation and Commitment Leadership, Teamwork, Communication Evidence of research into subject Relevant, well written Personal Statement IT/Business/Key Skills (if relevant) NOT Nobel Prizewinners, just general enthusiasm‌.

The Personal Statement – consider 3 main issues 1.



Why do I want to study this course? What are the reasons for my choices, any career aspirations/ideas? Related academic or work experience? Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you are interested in. Some consistency in your 5 choices What can I offer to the course? How do my academic interests and strengths match up with my chosen course? Have I done anything which highlights my skills / knowledge / initiative? any relevant experience eg paid / voluntary work? What am I like as a person?! Have I held any Positions in and out of school/college? Am I a member of any teams or societies? What are my relevant interests, hobbies, leisure activities?

Personal Statements – Practical Ideas Consider dividing form up into paragraphs, maybe with headings. Consider 5 paragraphs Practice on a “dummy” = brainstorm Spelling and Grammar ARE Important…… Don’t list endless sports/hobbies Always make it relevant

Humour rarely works - don’t risk it! Look at School/College examples from previous years Closing statement

Personal Statements - Style Positive words- achieved, developed, learned, discovered, enthusiasm, commitment, energy, fascination‌. Short, simple sentences in plain English - not contrived, not verbose or grandiose Personal touch if possible- but be careful with humour and vernacular/â€&#x;chattyâ€&#x; approaches Use evidence wherever possible to support claims/statements

Dos and Don’ts DO Plan the statement as you would an essay Clear and Concise - the more concentrated the points and facts, the more powerful Be honest- „truth will out‟ - don‟t copy/buy! Similarity Detection Software at UCAS Draft and redraft (X10 not unusual), and seek other opinions DON‟T Waffle or try to include your life history Start with “ I‟ve always wanted to be a……” Use gimmicks, or quotations- unless they are very relevant and you deal with them in a way that shows your qualities Don‟t blow your own trumpet – let your referee praise you

Mixed UCAS Choices Avoid very different choices if you can (though of course accepted for 5th choices for Medicine/Dentistry/Vet Sci) If choosing joint or combined courses, write about your interest in each subject such as to reflect the balance in the course Different course titles may be fine - check the actual contents for similarity. The principle is to be coherent so that whoever reads your statement, it makes sense for that course Show your appreciation of links between different subjects where applicable eg of Optometry and sometimes Pharmacy at Aston‌.

Plagiarism – Similarity Detection Service (SDS)

Universities are informed by UCAS with an SDS score out of 100% We can then view the statement online with the “similar” elements highlighted Policies then vary between HEIs and courses – eg reject, asking to explain or resubmit a statement In our experience there is already another reason for a rejection before this becomes a factor Students should not panic about this but consider their statement as confidential from their friends or parents Ultimately, it needs to be PERSONAL

The Main Message Why this subject choice Relationship to current/past studies? Career ideas? Work experience and Other life experiences bearing on choice? Many Universities can easily call up the statement online via their application systems – it does matter, especially at results confirmation and for borderline cases Encourage your students to be proud of what they have written –interviews will be based on what they have written – or it may be their only chance to pitch themselves.

Please don‟t write this type of stuff…..! “I enjoy the Theatre and used to go a couple of times a year.” (Drama) “I am a keen reader and am committed to the study of human behaviour through TV soaps!!” “I have led a full life over the last 18 years and it is a tradition I intend to continue” “I describe myself in the following two words: “TO ODIN!!” the ancient Viking war cry” (Law) “My favourite hobby is bee-keeping & I want to be an engineer” “My interest in Medicine stems from my enjoyment of “Casualty” and other related TV series” “I enjoy socialising with my friends”

Realistic but positive….

Vast majority receive 3 or more offers (80% plus) Applications per place – don‟t forget students are making 4 other applications! Check entry requirements and specific requirements (eg A/AS/BTEC/GCSE/IB)

Medics and Vets face serious competition, as do applicants some vocational courses – e.g. pharmacy, physiotherapy

The UCAS Reference

What is it? The process Predicted grades What goes in the reference? Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

The Reference: What is it?

An informed and academic assessment of: • their academic performance in their post-16 education • their potential for academic success in higher education • why the course they have chosen is suited to them • any personal qualities which will benefit them at university, such as skills, aptitude, enthusiasm • what they can bring to the university, such as extra-curricular activities and interests

The Process

This will be different at different schools, but we suggest… • Students could be invited to provide information about themselves (pro forma and /or discussion) and to compile grade predictions • Subject teachers provide specific comments and predicted grades • Personal Tutor may provide statement on personal qualities and assemble the reference, editing it to include introduction and conclusion, ensure consistency and that it ‘reads well’ • Completed reference added to online application for final checking and submission by senior ‘authorised’ UCAS contact

Predicted grades

Predicted grades should be clear and unambiguous, and need to consider: − Do they match the entrance requirements of the courses chosen? − Are they consistent with the past academic performance of the student? − Do they match the reference? If ‘yes’ to any of the above, need to provide explanation in the reference.

How to write the reference

Structure is not set in stone, but should include: • • • •

Background information on the applicant and the school Academic performance post-16 Extra Curricular activities / Personality Suitability for the course

Background/context of school

Relevant info about school: Size / type of school Number of students & proportion going to HE Range and number of A-levels studied by students

Contextual info about the catchment area Corresponding relevant info about the student: participation in special programmes e.g. WP / G&T / Compacts Individual circumstances that may merit special consideration

Academic performance post-16

Current / past achievement in the subject(s) Motivation, attitude and commitment Academic curiosity beyond the syllabus Supplementary course / study information Appropriate work experience of initiatives Curriculum enrichment Underperformance / Extenuating circumstances? Note/explain deviations from standard programme Known aptitude for selected course/ H.E. Research Link to predicted grades UMS information is helpful

Extra Curricular activities/ Personality

• • • • • •

Complement the Personal Statement Personal qualities that will benefit them at university Skills, aptitude and enthusiasm What they can contribute to university Work experience, volunteering, sport, music Additional needs

Suitability for the course

• • • •

Has the student got the ability to succeed academically? What are their career aspirations? What type of student would they be? Clearly indicate if you would recommend the student

Tips: Don’t

Use stock phrases Repeat yourself Write as a report (e.g. ‘J--- should concentrate on…’) Refer to resits, unless it seems positive in the circumstances Be specific about universities Exaggerate Raise weaknesses unless documented, evidenced and communicated to/discussed with student/parents Be negative – omit things you can’t be positive about

• “In Maths he has demonstrated a good interest and some natural ability. However he is something of an enigma…” • “If working alone, he could be focused and produce promising work. However he comes as part of a package along with his mates and this was counter productive”

Tips: Do

Use subject-specific guidelines as applicable Add comment where predicted grades are not a true reflection of potential or are inconsistent with achievement so far Focus on academic skills, enthusiasm, ICT skills Be concise Clearly indicate if you are supporting / recommending the student

Thanks for listening – any questions?

Personal Statement