In the years I've been helping candidates, I've read many
good Oxbridge personal statements.
Whilst it's of course true that an excellent personal statement will not automatically secure your Oxbridge interview: a poor statement may severely undermine your application.
A successful Oxbridge application campaign boils down to trying to win percentage gains, at every opportunity: a good personal statement pulls its weight in your overall application.
Here are some things to bear in mind when completing your statement:
To understand what makes the best statements you
need to understand their role in the Oxbridge application process.
The admissions tutor at the University of Cambridge recently conceded that the university does not take the personal statement into account when scoring applicants. So what is the function of the Oxbridge personal statement?
The personal statement has two principal roles. First, it's used by interviewers to select ice-breaker questions to help put you at your ease. Secondly, it's an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you understand the nature and demands of the degree for which you're applying.
So the most successful Oxbridge personal statements are ones that seamlessly combine these two functions.
If you are starting to plan your Oxbridge personal statement but have writer's block, and are staring at a blank screen
you might want to consider a simple device, sometimes known as the narrative arc.
Begin with some event, book, episode, class, etc. that prompted your interest in the Oxbridge course you're applying for, then describe how this inspired you to read more deeply on that particular topic.
You can then construct a chain, or arc, of concepts and readings that lead on to each other. In this way the Oxbridge admissions tutors will get a good sense of your intellectual interests and development.
If you're having problems getting started with your Oxbridge personal statement by all means contact me for details of my services.
I'm often asked what special consideration must be given to writing an Oxbridge personal statement for Joint Honours courses.
The challenge is especially important for those courses where your other UCAS choices are single honours,
and you are concerned about giving mixed messages to the other universities. Oxford Economics & Management
candidates who are applying for Economics elsewhere, for example, face this problem.
My advice is always to try to give equal weight in the personal statement to each discipline comprising the Joint Honours course. This may present difficulties if you are currently studying one of the disciplines, but the other is new to you.
Generally, the admissions tutors will want reassuring that you are equally committed to each element of the course. So you should be prepared to evidence your interest in the discipline you haven't yet studied formally and your motivation for choosing it.
A successful Oxbridge personal statement will provide the interviewers with
plenty of opportunity to pose ice-breaker questions that help you relax in
So, in effect, your preparation for the Oxbridge interview begins with the personal statement.
Your personal statement should therefore also suggest questions to the interviewers to ask concerning your specialist subject knowledge, especially your knowledge of your chosen degree course.
Similarly, a good Oxbridge statement does not create any hostages to fortune.
One if the criteria that a good Oxbridge personal statement fulfils is to reassure the admissions tutors
that you fully understand the nature of the course for which you're applying.
So the best personal statements explain the personal motivations and interests of the candidate in a way that coheres with the demands of the course.
In my experience it is a mistake to try to construct a personal statement that addresses more than one course (e.g. PPE and International Relations).
Rather, the best Oxbridge personal statements carry an unequivocal message that you are interested in one particular course only.
Your Oxbridge application can be seriously marred by sloppy grammar and punctuation.
My two personal statement reviewing services will pick up and errors and recommend alternative constructions.
You should be especially careful to ensure that your spell-checker is set to UK English: your Oxbridge application might otherwise be undermined.