0351d. Personal statements

Tuesday 6 May 2014
by  G. West

Personal statements for the British system

Students are always asking for advice on how to go about doing a personal statement. In general you must explain why you want to study your subjects, what you already do to pursue this interest (reading, projects, traineeships...), why you’re interested in studying in Britain, what kind of person you are (personality, hobbies, ambitions,important experiences, etc.) and give the whole statement a personal touch which will convince universities to choose you. You have 4000 characters or about 47 lines in which to do this.

You only write one personal statement and it mustn’t therefore mention specific universities or subject choices that you aren’t making at all universities or you’ll compromise your chances with your other choices. (In general you have a right to select 5 programs at 5 universities (except in medicine where it’s 4) Theoretically they do not know what other universities you are applying to.)

What you do with your personal statement once you’ve written it can be explored at the electronic application(see) for the UK. Please see that article. But below are a few anonymous examples of past personal statements which may inspire you. However do not COPY them! Plagiary checkers on internet make this a good way to be refused at every university you apply to. These statements should only serve to give you an idea of the kinds of things you might mention. Please understand that we do not have statements for every possible subject or subject combination!

For more about how to write a good personal statement and what not to do, go to this link and listen to Imperial college’s Jane Marshall explain dos and don’ts.

Below you’ll find personal statements students in the past wrote to get admission (successfully) for:

Anthropology, Architecture, Art, Astrophysics, Business, Criminology, English, Physical Therapy, Politics and Economics...

Anthropology

I decided I wanted to study history when I was a child and have never since changed my mind about that. I may seem stubborn, but I’d rather say I am passionate. I am always willing to learn more, and I think history extends over such a wide range of periods and areas of knowledge that one can always learn more.

However, I have decided to study ancient history because it is the subject that fascinates me the most. Indeed a few events in my life have deepened this fascination. First of all,_ I have been to Greece several times during summer holidays, and I think I can say that I now know Ancient Greece rather well as I have visited almost all the major Greek archaeological sites from the smallest to the greatest, from the Kouros on the Island of Naxos to the Parthenon in Athens. I have also been to two of the greatest sites of ancient Roman civilisation: Rome and Pompei. These visits to Greece and Italy have brought to me the grandeur of these ancient civilisations with their fascinating ways of living, their amazing and extended mythology, their ability to build such big stadiums and temples, etc. I have also read numerous books on Ancient Egypt especially books written by the famous egyptologist and French writer Christian Jacq, and these books have been of great importance to me. As I have never been to Egypt, they made me travel by imagination into the world of Pharaohs with their strange rituals, so it increased my wish to learn more about ancient civilisations.

I have visited many other countries including Japan where I lived for one year. Even though I was only seven years old, I consider this experience as the most rewarding because it developed my fascination for other cultures and opened my mind.

I am French and my first language is French. Nevertheless I am passionate about the English language and culture and I think studying history in England is the best means of mixing my two passions. It is also a way to cultivate my interest in meeting new people and discovering new places, an appetite I enjoy satisfying. British universities have the asset of proposing courses with a wide range of options which is a good way of not specialising too early, and I think the way British teaching is organised with quite personalised lessons is crucial for personal development. They also encourage sports, often having their own sport facilities which I personally find particularly interesting. Indeed I have achieved a level high enough in swimming to enable me to compete for my region of France, and I hope to be able to swim next year. I very much hope I will be able to study in the UK next year to benefit from the high quality of British education, to widen my knowledge of both history and English and to meet people from different horizons.

Architecture

I am 17 and I spent eleven years of my childhood in England, and then four years in France. It’s time for me to choose where I will carry on my higher studies. I wish to go back to England for three reasons: first to feel again the spirit of the country I liked, then to benefit from English study methods and finally rediscover this country on my own. Studying in Britain will offer me the chance to work there. It will also allow me to benefit from British pragmatism while also drawing on my French cultural experiences. Being in a modern and innovative building moves me, and I often think about how a space can be adapted to how people choose to live. Therefore, I have chosen to study architecture during my university studies.

I am interested in building technologies and in the way they can benefit people. It’s the mixture of these two aspects which appeals to me: what the client wants (a sociological facet, for example, considered in Urbanism) and what engineering techniques can produce. Also I would like to discover management approaches to architectural projects and work in a team to complete a project.

The Baccalaureate I am taking this year has pushed me to consider studying abroad. With 5 hours of literature and 4 of History in English per week, the International Bac gives me a point of entry into the British world. In parallel, we also have lessons in French considering the world from the French point of view. Therefore, we learn to become fully bicultural and bilingual. This access to a multi-cultural environment has brought me insight on how both cultures live and how they interact with each other (especially important in our more open and mobile society.)

Outside of academic pursuits, I actively participate in theatre productions in my secondary school in English. I am happy in a social environment, but I enjoy my time alone as well. Moreover, I often fiddle with objects (models, construction sets) and I have done various art projects with passion, such as designing a hotel/sport complex in the Alps. I am thoroughly interested in Art and I actively draw (technical drawing as well as real life representation) and design buildings with CAD. I read Beaux-Arts magazines from time to time (an important French art review) and visit galleries about local and international art (in Grenoble and Paris). Lastly, I have good sense of mixing ingredients to cook creative dishes. I am an independent person,want to manage my own life and look forward to life in a British university environment.

Art

This Foundation Course in Art and Design would provide me with bases in Art to do Graphic Design Studies by developing my skills in various media (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.) and letting me discover new ones. The mix between studio work and art theory interests me: I enjoy the concrete side and am also fond of Art History, having read several books about artists like Munch or Boticelli (whose harmonious linear design is very appealing)or which explain the evolution of art through the ages. I loved the parts where they explain why art changed for religous, economic or philosophical reasons. As for coursework, I would like to do projects as diverse as possible for this will help me find what I really want to study next. Though already thinking of Visual Communication, I would like to be aware of all options.

Aside from art, I have long played piano, sung, skied, and ridden horses. Determined, imaginative and curious, I love reading, appreciate original people, and cultural diversity, coming myself from an Italian-Swiss family. Enlarging my cultural horizons by studying in Britain is important for me. I hope you will give me an opportunity to take this course.

Astrophysics

Space and the unknown have always been of interest to me because we know so little about our universe and the huge range of knowledge that physics, astrophysics and astronomy offers makes me want to study in these domains. There is so much to be discovered and this is one of my major motivations. I have followed with great excitement the latest space missions, such as the exploration of Saturn’s surroundings by the spacecraft Cassini, or the pursuit of the comet Tempe l by Deep Impact. My interest in the subject is constantly held by the fascinating questions that scientists are trying to solve, for example: is there any life elsewhere? Was there anything before the Big Bang? It is this type of question that has brought me to consider more carefully the physical laws that govern our universe.

Although I have lived in France all my life, I’ve always wanted to study in England. I often visit my family on my mother’s side and have noticed a different type of social environment in Britain, which I find attractive. Studying in England would allow me to widen my way of thinking and deepen my cultural awareness.Another reason for my application is the quality of study that British Universities offer. I find the way of teaching with lectures, tutorials and practical sessions a very interesting way of covering the programme. Also, I believe the student/ teacher ratio is lower in Britain than in France, therefore it enables students to develop relationships with their teachers, which I think is essential for the students’ well being and the quality of their work. In addition to that, your excellent facilities have caught my attention because I enjoy working things out with colleagues or on my own in a library or on a computer. I hope to make the most of those facilities because I’m not afraid of working hard in order to succeed.

My friends tell me that I’m too curious and am always looking for rational explanations to things, but I try to use this as an asset in all that I do. I am a dynamic person ready to take on any challenge and I know when to work and when to have fun. Socially, I’m not shy and tend to develop friendly relationships with people. My classmates and teachers say they appreciate my kindness and reliability. During my spare time, I enjoy going out with friends for sport games or just to see a film but I also spend time reading scientific reviews (such as Science & Vie), doing documentary research in a library and keeping up to date on astronomical events. I also try to observe stars through telescopes when I can.

On a more personal level, I love travelling and experiencing new cultures. I have a mixed cultural background through my parents which have given me the chance to grow up with three different cultures (in which one can find similarities), and have led me to adopt a more subtle way of thinking judging and reacting. Apart from that, I am a bit of a sports addict. I started athletics, sprinting to be more precise, four years ago now. I compete in 50,60,100 and 200m during competitions, at an interregional level in France. But I also run relays and have competed at National level. We came 4th during the French championships final on the 4x100m relay, in Paris last July. Prior to that I played football at a regional level for five years. To be honest, I really enjoy high-level competition and I try to apply this competitive spirit to all that I do.

To conclude, I would like to confirm that I am determined to study astrophysics because of the various careers in space research it can lead to; I have various thoughts for future careers, and hope to find the most fascinating one as my studies progress.

Business

I have lived in many different countries due to the fact that my father was a French diplomat. I was born in Cairo, Egypt, lived in Reunion Island for three years, moved to Miami, Florida, where I lived for six years. I then spent four years in Wellington, New Zealand, and am presently living in Grenoble, France. I am completely bilingual (French/English), having a French father and English mother.

My extensive travels throughout my life have exposed me to many different cultures and I have experienced different ways of life. I believe that this has made me an open-minded and adaptable person who is curious about the world around him. I have had the privilege of being able to experience both the Anglo-Saxon and the French schooling systems. However, I have a preference for the Anglo-Saxon educational system. It is because of this preference that I have chosen to go into an English university and I believe that this will enable me to develop my full potential. What is more, I am attracted by the more balanced nature of the British university system, which encourages independent thinking and personal development.

I would like to study Business and Management at university. I have always been interested in the world of business, and my economics classes at school have reinforced this interest. As a result I have chosen the economics section for my French Baccalaureate. I am interested in understanding the relationship between people and business organisations, and management in the different organisational structures. I am very keen on learning the core business and managerial skills, which will help me increase my career prospects. My weekly reading of The Economist has given me a taste of the international business world and has stimulated my interest in this field. I am a willing learner and have consistently done well at school. I have always adapted to my changing schooling environment. I was voted class representative this year and I enjoy this role of speaking on behalf of my peers, and defending them whenever necessary. This is a new skill I have acquired and this position has allowed me to improve my self-confidence and leadership skills. I now enjoy taking on responsibilities and decision-making.

To date I have not had the experience of working in an office due to my young age, but I have done summer jobs for the past two years. I worked in the fields in the South of France detasseling corn the first year, and the second year, I was a cleaner for a local Grenoble cleaning company. Although these were not "glamorous" jobs, they taught me perseverance,determination and responsibility and because of this, I believe they were a good first step into the working world.

I am passionate about rock-climbing and for the past three years I have been training at competition level with the Rock Climbing and Mountaineering University Club of Grenoble. I am in the top 50 in France for my age group and I aim to participate in the French National Rock-Climbing Championships this year. Living in the heart of the French Alps, I have also become a keen skier and snow-boarder and join my school’s skiing club each winter. I like to keep fit and go running, cycling and swimming on a regular basis. I am really looking forward to going to an English university as I believe that I will be able to further myself academically and develop my personal skills which will ultimately prepare me for the working world that will present itself to me in the not so distant future.

Criminology

I have always been very curious and eager to discover, learn and understand new things. Therefore, I have long known that I was bound to work in an area that covers many subjects. When I discovered criminology, I instantly felt that the rich, varied, interdisciplinary content of such studies was for me. Human behaviour, the way our minds function, and how people can be influenced fascinate me. Thus, subjects such as sociology, history, biology and even philosophy have always interested me most.

I love communicating with others and I find I can learn a lot through relations with others. I also realise that I pick up much about myself and others just by listening and being attentive to non-verbal communication. I find it important to share points of view and often find myself using my imagination to work out how others feel under certain circumstances or why they think or act in a specific manner. I think this approach is more effective than restricting myself to a single point of view.

Criminology intrigues me; there is a great deal to explore about criminal behaviour, ways to prevent it, and other phenomena related to crime. Outside of school I enjoy reading about crime and psychology. Recently, for example, I read the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, a remarkable crime thriller which weaves together considerable historical, religious, philosophical and moral considerations with an exciting plot. Freud’s Five lessons in Psychoanalysis also proved captivating in its explanation of how the subconscious affects the whole body as well as in its methodical approach to analysing the complexity of the mind.

Due to my English background through my mother and my classes in the British section of the international high school here in Grenoble, I am familiar with the British school system which I much prefer to the French one. Furthermore, I suspect that studying abroad will make me a richer human being because living in a different country teaches autonomy, responsibility, social skills and open-mindedness. Therefore, I consider studying in England a great opportunity for both my studies and for myself as a person.

Outside school, I feel I am rather dynamic. I take pleasure in doing a lot of different activities. For example I do sports such as horse-riding, dance, and ski, but I also enjoy other pastimes such as photography, playing piano and handicraft. On weekends I like spending time with my family or with friends doing simple things: going to the cinema, going for a walk and so forth. I am highly ambitious about my studies and plan to pursue them energetically to obtain a PhD after my first university degree.

English

Currently studying at Grenoble’s International High School, I am French, but have been taught English since I was a small child. Through the years I have taken several trips to Sydney, Australia, where I attended classes such as English literature, history, visual arts, visual design, and society and culture. Not only did these trips make me familiar with studying abroad, they also increased my confidence and ability in English.

The International High School curriculum in English and History here in Grenoble prepares us to take British A levels through the Option Internationale Baccalaureat exam system (OIB) which is run through Cambridge University. In addition to these studies in history and literature, I have also been taking classes in economics, sociology, Spanish and philosophy this year. (The French program involves very heavy workloads.) My interest in literature stretches back to my childhood and reading and writing are my favorite leisure activities. I enjoy the diversity of literature and its direct link with history.

Among the authors we have studied this year are Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, Ayckbourn, Arthur Miller, Emily Brontë, and Sylvia Plath. What I like most in Sylvia Plath’s writing, for example, is the way she uses strong imagery and makes us feel her emotions. The prospect of further study of a broad range of literature pleases me greatly, but poetry is perhaps what attracts me most of all. I believe I would like to work in literary research while honing my skills as a poet and writer.

Outside of school, I have also developed a great interest in psychology and Icelandic language both of which offer additional mind-broadening perspectives for the study of literature and creative writing.

On an entirely different note, perhaps I should add that I am also an avid pilot and love to fly. Finally, I want to study in Britain not only because of the fine university atmosphere for exploring literature, but also because I have been struck by the beauty of London, the rich cultural life it offers with theaters, art galleries, cinemas and concerts, and the way the British preserve and study their own history.

Physical Therapy

Throughout my life I have always been looking for hands-on and physical activities to fill in my spare time, at first it was this that led me to physiotherapy which seemed to offer an opportunity to combine problem solving, practical application and work in a caring profession. It took me a long time to find a career option that really interested me, as I have always found it hard to be motivated by the more academic subjects at school. The more I looked into it by reading about it, talking to friends and family members in the medical profession and visiting a local physiotherapist, the more I found the area interesting and finally found something that I could see myself doing in the future.

The practical aspects are something that I am good at and I greatly enjoy, but I would also look forward to the prospect of working closely with other people. I am also keen to be involved with children or sports, although I realise that there are many more areas available and that it would be a few years before I needed to decide on a specialty; until then my options are very much open, and I have arranged some different work shadowing during this academic year to give me more ideas about the diversity of careers in physiotherapy. For me physiotherapy offers a novel and developing career that I would find satisfying and rewarding. For the most part I suppose that this is because I would like to be in a position to provide state of the art therapies as well as exercise-based therapies and can imagine that I would enjoy participating in development and research as part of the practice. Physiotherapy is a domain that I feel very enthusiastic about as a whole.

I have good inter-personal skills and relate very well to children. Confident in both the hardware and software aspects of I.T., I feel that I am well-prepared to take any technological evolutions in my stride. Having a cross cultural experience will serve me well; I think it has made me a better observer and improved my ability to analyse situations.I attend an international school; this means that I follow the French curriculum, in French but take extra English following the English curriculum. Having moved to France at age 12 I have now lived there for over six years. It was initially difficult being in a foreign country but it has overall been a great experience. I am bilingual and am able to appreciate both French and English ways of doing things. I believe this will greatly help in my studies and future career, adding another dimension to what I do above and beyond being able to speak a second language fluently. Recently, I was elected secretary of the Maison des Lycens, a registered association which deals with everything related to student life at my school, including creation and financing of clubs and redecorating of common rooms.

I have always enjoyed taking part in sports and have been going to watch football since I was 6 and playing it in a club since I was 9; on my arrival in France, before starting school a local football club was where I made my first friends. Although football has been my primary pastime I have also been part of a school rugby team, have taken up skiing and have tried a wide range of sports including volleyball, gymnastics and even rock climbing (despite a fear of heights). Aside from sports I have also self taught myself a lot about computer hardware and image and video editing, spending probably too much time making spoof movies with my brother who like acting.

Politics and Economics

Living in a culturally diversified city (Paris) stimulated my interest in societies and people; my questions on the subject drove my family mad until I attended high school, where I grew interested in Economics and Politics. I am currently attending Economics and Languages classes at Grenoble University, but wish to explore Economics and Politics in depth to fuel career-related ambitions. Both appear crucial for social evolution and decision-making in today’s world.

At school I have always been successful in every subject. Since I began studying Economics and Social Sciences four years ago, I have enjoyed how this breadth of knowledge has helped me better understand society. History and Geography furnished useful satellite information while Mathematics provided me with analytical and problem-solving skills. After learning German for eight years and Italian for three, I am able to express myself in both with ease verbally and in writing. I love to be challenged in my ideas and these communication tools enable me to debate politics with friends and family. To expand my knowledge, I have read, amongst other things, France is Falling, by Nicolas Baverez, and Democracy and Market, by J.P. Fitoussi. The latter provided insight into the often excessive place that economics takes in policy decisions. I also took "Introduction to Politics" classes in addition to my regular programme in Year 12, and am an avid weekly reader of "Courrier International" and "Alternatives Economiques", magazines which nourish my thoughts on world affairs. Last year I also attended the Grenoble Political Institute’s conferences about the future of Europe, debating the stakes of European integration.

In French schools I have gained essential skills, such as rigour, efficient work methods, and a capacity to deal with heavy workloads despite my perfectionism; university has taught me the importance of autonomy. A forty page project and presentation on the Erasmus organisation which my team and I carried out in 2003 taught me much about teamwork, opinion survey techniques and statistical analysis. Years of drama classes also allowed me to acquire team spirit and improve my communication skills whilst maintaining my composure (helpful for oral exams.) I was elected class representative twice at school which meant commitment and organisation, put me in a privileged position of confidence for my classmates, and taught me to take responsibility.

Trips to California and Australia, playing the violin and volleyball, as well as fencing and taking dance classes added to my personal development. I consider myself open-minded, and moving home several times has taught me independence and adaptability. I started learning English on my own very young and have worked hard ever since, attending the "Cité Scolaire Internationale", forming close relations with English and Australian acquaintances, and using the language daily.

I am attracted to the prestige and high quality of British universities, Britain’s international political position, and its multicultural society. Furthermore, studying in the United Kingdom constitues a wise step towards a high-level political career with decision-making responsibilities, nationally or internationally. If accepted, I intend to make my studies an enriching, constructive experience.