Life After Sixth Form

Helping you get that university place or career


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Targeting your Personal Statement

Most of you will be applying to five universities.

Each of those universities see just the one Personal Statement, and do not have access to information about where else you have applied. So somehow, you need to perform the trick of making your statement seem to each admissions tutor who will read it that it is their specific course and institution you are applying for.

Obviously this is, strictly speaking, impossible. If you are applying to Durham, you have the option of sending a substitute personal statement while Cambridge has the Supplementary Application Questionnaire, but such formalised opportunities to provide additional information are rare.

So, what can you do to get round this problem? well, firstly, for most courses, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The core content of an undergraduate course is likely to be broadly similar whichever universities you are applying for. However, you need to check all the core modules and options of each course you are applying for and make sure they are right for you, and you for them, and tailor your application accordingly as much as possible.

You should have a clear idea of which course you most want to get onto, so it may be that you wish to slant part of your application in a direction that links with some specialism of that university, in a way that still shows generic skills and interests that would apply to any course. For example, if you want to study English at Newcastle, a look at their website reveals: “we now have strengths in, for instance, creative writing, post-colonial literature, children’s literature, film, as well as in traditional areas such as Renaissance drama and Romantic poetry.” So you may want to make reference to an interest in one or more of those areas in your personal statement: doing so would certainly not be detrimental to applying for courses that didn’t happen to have those particular specialisms.

You will also find that many universities have quite specific guidance on what they look for in a personal statement. For example Durham has some very detailed guidance most of which is relevant to almost all applicants to any institution. Nottingham Trent has a guidance page that is perhaps a little simpler and more structured in approach. Almost all university websites will have reference to the selection criteria and qualities they are looking for from applicants in each subject, often with specific advice for the Personal Statement, so make sure you search thoroughly for such information. It would be helpful when looking at your draft Personal Statement for you to provide links to any information of this type you have used, so that I can see that it is indeed tailored appropriately to your specific choices.

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October Half-Term Opportunity

The National Citizen Service programme was piloted for the first time this summer; one of our students was involved and alerted me to this opportunity.

Places are available for this autumn and will take place around your school commitments. The website gives the following description of the programme:

National Citizen Service is a life changing experience for 16 and 17 year olds in England (it is also open to 15-16 year olds in Northern Ireland) – you do outdoor activities, meet new people and have the chance to put something back. By doing NCS you learn new skills and have a great experience that looks great on CVs, and applications to universities and colleges.

You can find out more and register your interest here: https://nationalcitizenservice.direct.gov.uk/ncs-in-detail