Charlotte's blog post on writing a undergraduate personal statement

Charlotte's blog post on writing a undergraduate personal statement
A popular past post of mine was about how to construct a personal statement. Since that time, I myself had to re-write my own
personal statement in order to re-apply for my literature degree. Going about doing this on my own was quite tricky, as I didn't
have the same amount of advice as I had had in sixth form due to already being at university. Also, second time round I was writing
for a more academic institution opposed to a performance based one (conservatoire)
In my second personal statement, as I have mentioned fairly briefly in another post, I was able to veer away from the specialist
music performance element I had first had to focus on when writing for a conservatoire directly. This was interesting as it meant
although the academic side of things was not too different (I talked about my A levels, how they tied together with useful links and
resources) yet my hobbies included not only my music education and extra-curricular but also my interest in writing, being
published in the school newspaper and hiking. It was quite surreal really, writing it a second time and in a much shorter period of
time, to find myself branching out and talking more about other things I loved because I didn't have to focus in on one thing in as
much depth. I think this is because there was the opportunity to talk about literature hence all the books I have enjoyed reading
and all of these are so different. Being able to be eclectic opposed to specialist was something I found easier to achieve, although
the aim was of course to be eclectic within a set, defined, structure.
With September coming up, Oxbridge and conservatoire students will probably be finishing up their personal statements for the
earlier October deadline whereas those of you applying elsewhere might have a little longer, but will none the less be trying to
cancel down those characters so that you have a concise partial definition/presentation/recommendation of yourself to submit as
soon as possible. If you're struggling with this, here is some information I found useful to bear in mind when I was writing my
second personal statement (academic)
1. Write a list of your qualities + mind map everything
I remember when I was first starting my second year of sixth form, our tutorial teacher told us that if we found it difficult to talk
about ourselves or didn't know where to begin, to make a list of our qualities and to ask our friends, families and peers to provide
us with their insights into who we were as people. Did they think us responsible, sensible, studious, creative, funny? Any of these
details were useful because it meant we could see ourselves not only from our own perspective but also many others. This meant a
better idea of how to express ourselves as an individual on the page. Because we were able to see more clearly what our unique
attributes were in a surround sound kind of way.
Once this list was ready, I was luckily mindful enough to keep it so going back to that this year enabled me to create a huge mind
map of all of the things that I thought were important to get into my personal statement. This meant jotting down the links
between previous classes, courses, experiences and work in my life and then talking about my attributes in relation this. For
example, being creative through music and being eager in my studies via extra reading. Class wise, being able to spot that there
was the opportunity to talk about my enjoyment of Russian music as we were studying Shostakovich at the same time as we were
writing a 3500 word essay on 500 years of Russian history. Having these contrasts balanced out the mind map (along with several
others) so by being able to go into more detail on certain things it became obvious that these were the content worthy options to
go for.
The reason this is so useful is because it almost leaps straight into the second of these tips - you find some structure in the chaos
which will save you a lot of time. And because mind maps sprawl across the page, it is supportive in a reassuring way - it makes you
feel like you are getting somewhere and you definitely do have something to say, even if it isn't written up neatly and edited yet. It
takes the stress off (or the immediate stress, at least) for sure. Plus, it can be pretty fun to color code it all!
2. Plan out a structure
Every kind of university has a recommended set up for your personal statement as they each look for different qualities. For
example, a conservatoire will want to hear about your performance based attributes and hobbies, whereas Oxbridge and most other
universities will value the academic over the majority of other content (though you should make sure it is well rounded enough to
feature some information on your hobbies, classes, and how these create a positive, fresh outlook and new input into the subject
you are applying for that makes you and your ideas different)
Of course you will need an introduction and a conclusion, the rest will differ according to your university/course. For myself, I found
it the simplest solution to leave my hobbies till just before the conclusion and to use the bulk of my personal statement, split into
two, to talk about my academic progress so far and my academic hopes for the future and how these two things suited the course,
why, etc. Make sure that you tailor your content to be suitable for your course as otherwise your intentions will not fully bloom, this
meaning that the course supervisor might not be able to see as clearly why this is the path you want to take or why it is right for
you. But bear in mind that you are probably applying for several universities, so it needs to fit all of those to an extent (for example,
don't mention specific university names) Those are the types of questions you should answer in your statement. It is good to share
your interests, just make sure you explain how this is relevant to the course and how you are supporting this. For instance, you
might have a love of American literature - you might state that you hope to go on to do some dissertation research into how
American dystopian literature has impacted on the literary works of Europe and beyond in the twentieth century.
Also, don't make your structure too detailed. Keep it simple - as I said above, what worked for me was something along the lines of
what you can see below. By keeping it simple, you can always throw in the extra detail later but for now you can look at your
concise plan and not be frightened by it and also clearly understand it if you leave and come back to writing later.
What my structure looked like:
- Introduction
- Current study/study so far + how has developed + how is relevant to course (A level links)
- Future plans + connection to past study + more future aims + how is relevant/suitable to course
- Hobbies + interests + how this develops your interest in applied for subject
- Conclusion = Summary of the above + reminder to university of why you are suitable/interested
3. Write without word count
When you are writing any piece of work, especially one that has a deadline or is particularly, ominously important, it is easy to fall
into the bear trap of wanting to procrastinate, or of feeling afraid, or not knowing where to begin. I, as many probably have before
me, have set in front of the open document with the cursor blinking back at me making no progress in several hours and feeling
worse for it than I did before.
You can avoid this by starting to write without the word count. Of course you need to cancel down to a specific amount of words
and characters, but you shouldn't let this rule you. The number one rule in this process is that what you are writing is your work you want to make something that you are proud of and you can't do that if you are thinking inside a box. You need to unleash your
mind and use that empty canvas in front of you to show off all those amazing things you are, will be and have achieved so far. So
don't keep yourself on a leash.
The second rule is that you shouldn't get too attached to phrases or words you come up with (for when you start editing/cancelling
everything down) as otherwise it is going to be impossible to get down to the amount you need. If you come up with particularly
interesting ideas that you have enjoyed talking about but seem to be taking up precious statement space, you can always make a
side note of these in an exercise book or something to save for another day (you could even start a student blog, like me, full of
those ideas!) You are author and editor which is what makes it a difficult job. But remember you don't just have one shot to write
this - you have time to edit. So make the most of it, but don't start editing before you have even started. The best personal
statements begin to a bumpy start, and by the time hard work has led them to be completed, they are unrecognizable from those
initial first drafts (rule number three - constantly save your copy so that you don't lose anything!)
4. Edit, draft + cancel down
Once you have written a full draft according to your none word count policy, you can then return to it and begin cancelling down
your draft and editing it. This also gives you the opportunity to change completely the sections you don't like, to go back in the
process and add in anything else as a replacement if you think it is more significant.
When I cancel things down, I like to imagine I am the examiner/teacher/university admissions officer. When you take this approach
you are able to take on a relatively unbiased outlook upon the material and think, this isn't necessary, why is this here? When you
look at it this way, it is almost as though you are looking at it afresh with new eyes. But cancelling down to the right amount of
words isn't just enough, use the first part of this particular paragraph to be your advice when you are drafting. Draft as much as you
can and remember that things don't always come easily first time. When I drafted my personal statement two years ago now, it took
me 24 attempts to be 120% happy with the final project.
5. Proof read, proof read, proof read!
This is a must! Proof read in the library, on the computer, printed off and with a red pen. Scour for mistakes, pick them out, erase
them and place the right spelling, punctuation or grammar there instead with utmost scrutiny. The more you proof read the more
likely it is that your personal statement will be clean of all those dreaded typos. Let your family and friends (the trusted ones who
won't plagiarize) read through and help you - the more eyes, the merrier, and the more supported you will feel. Proof read because
this is your last job, other than exams, to prove to the University of your Dreams that you are capable of working hard and are in
possession of the skills which will lead you to the greatest success.
必須關注的專業音樂表演元素。這很有意思,因為它意味著雖然事情的學術方面並沒有太大不同(我談到了我的 A 級,
面形式,在學校報紙和遠足中發表。真的很超現實,第二次寫這篇文章,並在更短的時間內,發現自己分道揚 and,更
隨著九月即將到來,牛津劍橋大學和音樂學院的學生可能會在 10 月初的截止日期前完成他們的個人陳述,而那些在其
1. 寫下你的品質列表+思維導圖一切
音樂的享受,因為我們正在研究肖斯塔科維奇,同時我們正在寫一篇關於 500 年俄羅斯歷史的 3500 字的文章。
之所以如此有用,是因為它幾乎直接跳到了這些技巧中的第二個 - 你在混亂中發現了一些可以節省大量時間的結構。
而且因為思維導圖在頁面上蔓延,所以它是一種令人放心的支持方式 - 它會讓你感覺自己正在某個地方,而且你確實
2. 規劃一個結構
多所大學,因此需要在一定程度上適應所有這些大學(例如,不要 提到具體的大學名稱)這些是你在陳述中應該回答的
文學 - 你可能會說你希望繼續對美國反烏托邦文學如何影響二十世紀歐洲及其他地區的文學作品進行一些論文研究。
另外,不要讓你的結構太詳細。保持簡單 - 正如我上面所說,對我來說有用的東西就像你在下面看到的那樣。通過保
- 介紹
- 目前的研究/研究+如何開發+如何與課程相關(A 級鏈接)
- 未來計劃+與過去學習的聯繫+更多未來目標+如何相關/適合課程
- 愛好+興趣+如何發展你對申請主題的興趣
- 結論=以上摘要+大學提醒您適合/感興趣的原因
3. 無字數寫入
規則。在這個過程中,最重要的原則是你所寫的是你的作品 - 你想要製作一些你引以為榮的東西,如果你在盒子裡思
艱鉅的工作。但請記住,你不僅要一次寫這個 - 你有時間編輯。因此,請充分利用它,但在開始之前不要開始編輯。
4. 編輯,草稿+取消
並非總是第一次變得容易。兩年前,當我起草我的個人陳述時,我花了 24 次嘗試才對最終項目感到滿意 120%。
5. 證明閱讀,校對,校對!
字。讓你的家人和朋友(那些不會被抄襲的信任的人)通讀並幫助你 - 眼睛越多越好,你的感受就會越多。證明閱讀
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