right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04

Importance of the Personal Statement in UK college applications

LindagafLindagaf 9890 replies538 threads Senior Member
My understanding is that the Personal Statement is generally meant to illustrate why a student wants to study a particular subject. Is this accurate? Is it expected to be a “statement” rather than a “story”? I understand that UK colleges primarily focus on grades and test scores (both the SAT and AP scores), but how much weight does the PS carry in the application?
21 replies
· Reply · Share
«1

Replies to: Importance of the Personal Statement in UK college applications

  • Twoin18Twoin18 1849 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Its a statement, not dissimilar to what you would write for a job application covering letter, showing you understand the course and why you are qualified for it. The PS carries a lot of weight, especially for courses that are heavily oversubscribed but don't interview, because it is read by the academics who will be teaching the course and it is all they have to go on to get comfortable that you will be a good student who won't flunk out. It won't matter quite as much at the very top (where there is an interview) or much lower down (where a top student will generally get admitted anyway and they are very keen on the overseas fees a US student will bring).
    · Reply · Share
  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3432 replies33 threads Senior Member
    I can tell you that when my daughter visited Durham and St. Andrews after applying, she met with faculty and they had read her PS, asked questions about it and in general focused on it heavily.
    · Reply · Share
  • LindagafLindagaf 9890 replies538 threads Senior Member
    edited January 8
    Thank you both. Very helpful.

    The max word count is 500 I believe. That’s pretty short, so is it best to emphasize the “why this course,” or future plans?

    Do Russell Group universities care more about it than others?
    edited January 8
    · Reply · Share
  • Twoin18Twoin18 1849 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited January 8
    Lindagaf wrote: »
    Thank you both. Very helpful.

    The max word count is 500 I believe. That’s pretty short, so is it best to emphasize the “why this course,” or future plans?

    Do Russell Group universities care more about it than others?

    Just like a job application, it’s “why am I the best person for this course/job at this point in time”. You wouldn’t spend much (if any) of your cover letter on your long term ambitions, or things from a long time ago (or your ECs unless directly relevant). You do show that you understand the course/job requirements and you are a match for them. A UK student would be writing mostly about their sixth form (A level) choices and experience.

    Russell Group is basically what I meant when I said not so relevant for very top (Oxbridge) or much lower down. Oxbridge interviews are unlikely to mention the PS at all, it’s all challenging academic questions.
    edited January 8
    · Reply · Share
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7218 replies69 threads Senior Member
    The PS is similar to a Statement of Purpose for a taught Masters: the applicant is making the case that they understand enough of the subject to know that they want to study it intensively for an extended period of time, and that they are well prepared for the academic requirements. Depending on the level of the uni, demonstrated interest and ability beyond standard school work (eg, outside reading, *directly* related activities) ranges from helpful to essential. If future plans are referenced, it should be in the context of 'why this course'.
    · Reply · Share
  • LindagafLindagaf 9890 replies538 threads Senior Member
    @collegemom3717 , that’s interesting. I didn’t realize UK schools care much about demonstrated interest. Am I right in thinking that one PS serves for the single UCAS application? Or are students meant to tailor the PS for each college? Forgive my ignorance.
    · Reply · Share
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7218 replies69 threads Senior Member
    edited January 8
    Sorry, demonstrated interest in the subject, not the school! For example, reading well beyond school curriculum. Yes, one PS for all 5 unis.
    edited January 8
    · Reply · Share
  • TigerleTigerle 432 replies5 threads Member
    Since you only get to apply to, at most, 5 universities (you can apply for very similar courses at the same university, eg a 3 versus a 4 year course in the same subject) and not Oxford and Cambridge at the same time, universities consider the application as such sufficient to demonstrate interest. However, since you enrol for a specific subject, they want to make sure you don’t fail out or lose interest in that subject, because if you do, you have to start over in another subject and (frequently) in another university. Waste of an investment of time and money for both the student and the institution.
    · Reply · Share
  • Sam777Sam777 7 replies0 threads New Member
    Oxford and Cambridge don't care about statements. Our kids visited Oxbridge last year and were told by AOs that they don't really give a damn about PS, and interested only in grades. But other Universities like St Andrews, Bath, UCL, and Lancaster, for instance, told them that they carefully read the PS to determine whether an applicant is really into the subject which is an indicator if s/he is going to thrive there and that otherwise, they wouldn't ask for one.
    · Reply · Share
  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3432 replies33 threads Senior Member
    Oxford sure offers a lot of advice on how to write a personal statement. I am skeptical they don't care about it at all.
    · Reply · Share
  • Twoin18Twoin18 1849 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited January 12
    I think “don't really give a damn about PS” can be interpreted as:
    1) you won’t be asked about it at interview
    2) it won’t get you an interview without you having the necessary predicted or actual test scores
    3) in the end performance in the interview is overwhelmingly the most important factor in getting an offer.

    In the US context you could say that Ivies “don’t give a damn about their interviews”, which would be similarly accurate, but people (and the institutions) still care about you not totally screwing them up.
    edited January 12
    · Reply · Share
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7218 replies69 threads Senior Member
    The role of AO's in the UK is different than in the US. At Oxford the AOs handle admin and marketing, but it is the admissions tutors who make the decisions, not the AOs.

    I have spoken to several Oxford admissions tutors, and know one reasonable well. For those individuals it is definitely *not* only about grades. The subject-specific admissions test matters a lot, and the interview is critical. I know- directly- many students with super-high grades and test scores who were not made offers. I also know too many people for whom their PS was an important part of the interview to believe that it is entirely irrelevant, and I know specifically of a student who was told by the interviewer that a particular part of the PS was integral to an interview invitation being extended.

    I am honestly surprised to hear that people in the offices at both Oxford and Cambridge told your children that the PS does not matter at all. Is there any chance that they were saying 'if you don't have the grades the PS doesn't matter' (as in, a great PS won't make up for shortfalls in grades)? Our experience of Oxford admissions (@Twoin18 is the resident expert on Cambridge) is that it is essentially a series of gates or hurdles: grades/scores - >admissions test -> PS & LoR -> interview. If an applicant doesn't make it past the grades/scores hurdle, the PS really won't matter.
    · Reply · Share
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7218 replies69 threads Senior Member
    snap! Didn't see your post before I did mine, @Twoin18!
    · Reply · Share
  • Goldfish67Goldfish67 1 replies0 threads New Member
    I read CC for the last 2 years, because and unfortunately here you can find the most collaborative community for c.application, even for colleges in Europe. But I never thought I had something significant to share. And this is my first attempt and I hope it will be helpful to someone.
    Our son visited Oxford last September among many other UK universities (Bath, Imperial, UCL, St Andrews, Lancaster, etc.), so I can second the above opinion about the insignificance of a personal statement to Oxford. He didn’t hear words like “…we don’t give a damn…”, but certainly he heard that they don’t read it.
    We've always thought that our son will apply to Oxford up until the very visit. He has perfect grades and many science olympiads medals at int level (including gold and silver). He was allowed to participate in 12 months research project with post-graduates at a renowned institute in the EU, which was a serious financial stretch for us, in the beginning, to spend $$$ for airfares/hotels for travels each week until he received a stipend, and his contribution was officially acknowledged (just to clarify: he didn’t invent anything, nor found a cure to a disease or anything remotely like that and significant. He was just doing small tasks like data gathering, calculations since he has advanced math knowledge, program coding to create models, etc.). He had his statement ready in July along with numerous great recs, and we were stunned to hear that there would be no click to submit the app. And the reason he gave us was simple, and I quote: "If their frontline reps (i.e admission people) have such a smug attitude, I can't imagine what would be the attitude of the faculty.
    His friends decided to apply anyway and a few weeks ago we heard about how they were interviewed. Sure, some interviewers were okay and maintained professionalism, no doubt about it; however, according to the kids, some were very unprofessional. For instance, one of the interviewing professors had put his bare feet onto the desk toward the student and was eating a pizza. Another interviewer asked the student a question like: “…do you really think that your gold medal at X Olympiad is something worthy of our attention..?”, but when the student answered that at a school level they only have access to this kind of competitions, and if there was an olympiad between students and professor, he would have definitely taken the advantage to participate, the interviewer thanked and told him that this would be it.
    Our son was accepted to a top US school REA (and he holds offers from Imperial and Bath in the UK), but we are waiting and hoping to receive an offer from St.A because the US school is way more expensive than any other university in Europe (although his grandparents are ready to cover the difference). And only StA made the greatest impression on our son and he believes he’d be happy there. Definitely, we’d be happier as he’s our only child and we’ve waited for years to have him, and he’d be closer to us, unlike if he studies in the US where we can’t visit him whenever we want.
    · Reply · Share
  • Sam777Sam777 7 replies0 threads New Member
    edited January 13
    Hello! Does anyone know who is the moderator on this forum? Obviously, I forgot to logout from my account at work, and a colleague has made above 2 posts without knowing that he was using someone else's account. I'd like them to be deleted and disregarded...
    edited January 13
    · Reply · Share
  • skieuropeskieurope 40468 replies7515 threads Super Moderator
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    Sam777 wrote: »
    Hello! Does anyone know who is the moderator on this forum? Obviously, I forgot to logout from my account at work, and a colleague has made above 2 posts without knowing that he was using someone else's account. I'd like them to be deleted and disregarded...
    Addressed question in another thread:
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/22535845/#Comment_22535845

    I deleted the comment that simply said "deleted."

    · Reply · Share
  • Sam777Sam777 7 replies0 threads New Member
    skieurope wrote: »
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    Sam777 wrote: »
    Hello! Does anyone know who is the moderator on this forum? Obviously, I forgot to logout from my account at work, and a colleague has made above 2 posts without knowing that he was using someone else's account. I'd like them to be deleted and disregarded...
    Addressed question in another thread:
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/22535845/#Comment_22535845

    I deleted the comment that simply said "deleted."

    @skieurope Could you please delete all my comments about Oxford and Cambridge on this thread?! They're not mine (per earlier explanation) and may misinform folks who are reading it. Thank you in advance!
    · Reply · Share
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39957 replies2197 threads Super Moderator
    @Sam777 see post #16. The answer will not change.
    · Reply · Share
  • skieuropeskieurope 40468 replies7515 threads Super Moderator
    Sam777 wrote: »
    skieurope wrote: »
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    Sam777 wrote: »
    Hello! Does anyone know who is the moderator on this forum? Obviously, I forgot to logout from my account at work, and a colleague has made above 2 posts without knowing that he was using someone else's account. I'd like them to be deleted and disregarded...
    Addressed question in another thread:
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/22535845/#Comment_22535845

    I deleted the comment that simply said "deleted."

    @skieurope Could you please delete all my comments about Oxford and Cambridge on this thread?! They're not mine (per earlier explanation) and may misinform folks who are reading it. Thank you in advance!

    You are free to post a correction to your earlier posts on this thread, but your other posts will not be deleted.
    · Reply · Share
  • hoixw1hoixw1 4 replies0 threads New Member
    I know a senior Oxford mathematics tutor and he told me he generally doesn't even read personal statements. I'd imagine they hold more weight with other tutors and interviewers, but they generally don't hold much weight. Your interview, courseload and LoR hold more weight. As mentioned above, you shouldn't mess it up but you shouldn't worry too much about it.
    · Reply · Share
Sign In or Register to comment.

Recent Activity