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How to write a good application form

This note is based on presentation by Dr. Rico Isaac from Oxford Brookes University (www.brookes.ac.uk).


Your personal statement is one of the most important elements of your application. It is your opportunity to sell yourself and secure an offer of a place. It’s crucial that your statement reflects your personality, as well as showing your motivation and commitment to your chosen course.

Why is a good application important?

Some subjects are over-subscribed (Medicine; Law; Pharmacy; Dentistry; Veterinary Science), so are many “famous” Universities, many individual courses can also be oversubscribed in undersubscribed academic areas.

Understand how university use an application

They look at your predicted grades (10 seconds);

They look at your achieved grades (30 seconds);

They read your Personal Statement (2 minutes) (Many A.Ts will make a decision here to offer);

They read the Reference (1 minutes) (Many A.Ts will make a decision here to offer or reject);

They ask for further information (several days) (A final decision must be made).

What the PS/SL is for

To tell the Admissions Tutor: About your interest in studying his/her subject; About your skills that will make you good at studying his/her subject; What your aims are / how you see your career developing; About how studying his/her subject will meet your aims; About which skills will be developed on his/her course; Why you love his/her subject.

What the PS/SL is not for

To tell us him/her why you want to study at their university; That you are a nice person; To tell us how good you are at sports; To tell us what your parents/guardians do; An exercise in Google/Yahoo use / A chance to copy; To provide us with witty quotes or a bibliography.

What must be included

The subject area; Previous experience of the area; Or evidence of deep research and thought; A skills audit; Passion (genuine interest); Insight; Brilliant construction.

Arming yourself

Finding out what to write (UCAS Entry profiles – read everything (www.ucas.ac.uk); Admissions website; Departmental website; Focus on 2 or 3 courses only (UCAS Only); Ask for further information; Prospectuses?; University websites?).

Create a checklist from the Entry Profile/ Admissions Statement etc. (Must haves....; Should show....; Must show....; Preference given to....; A knowledge of “X” is helpful....; Demonstrable skills in....; Must demonstrate knowledge of....; Industry knowledge....; Relevant work experience needed....; Current events....).

The first draft – an interview

List the basic questions (What does he have to ask you?; Professor has a checklist...); Answer the basic questions; Remove the basic questions; Restructure your answers so they flow in a logical order; Expand the answers and give examples; Apply the “so what?” rule; What other questions might he ask (Extend beyond the basics, demonstrate your understanding)?; Ask a tutor to read it; Rewrite it, again, and again, and again…..

So What?

Work Experience....Stacked shelves in a supermarket (Time management, cash handling, teamwork, responsibility, independent work)?

Extra Curricular 1....Sports (Delegation, responsibility, diplomacy, conflict resolution, motivation, self-reliance, team work, forward planning)?

Extra Curricular 2....Drama Production (Teamwork, Time management, cultural sensitivity, marketing and communication, resource management)?

Always apply the “so what” rule – make it relevant (Why /how does it relate to the study of..your career plan...your interest...your passion).

Anything Else?

Be creative (but don’t lie) - Market yourself – you are amazing; The greatest piece of fiction based on fact you will write for the next 3 years.

Don’t use quotes - We want to know what you think – not what Shakespeare thought.

Avoid Clichés - Having seen people injured in a fire I wanted to become a doctor – why not go into fire prevention? (I want to cure cancer… - then become a scientist, not a doctor).

Spelling, grammar, concision, metre, tone - does it sound nice and interesting?

What do I write?

There are no right or wrong formats. Here are just some suggestions.

Your course. Show you’ve researched your chosen course. Why are you interested? What sparked your interest? What specific topics do you enjoy? If you’re applying for more than one course try to identify common factors.

Combined course. If you are applying for a combined course, make sure you talk about why you’re interested in both subjects.

Career path. If you have an idea of the career path you would like to follow, explain how the course fits.

Work experience. Both related and unrelated to your course choice. Be specific about what you learned. Refer to transferable skills gained, for example communication, planning, time management and problem-solving.

Personal achievements. Include any personal achievements and what they demonstrate, for example, participation in a fund-raising event may have involved: teamwork, research and organizational skills, commitment and perseverance. Describe any positions of responsibility you’ve held such as student mentor or team leader.

Extra-curricular activities. You should include activities that support your course choice. Describe any visits you have made; for example, visits to art galleries for art courses or hospitals for nursing. Even if your interests aren’t directly relevant it’s important to give an impression of your personality, so mention any hobbies or gap year plans.

Top tips.

Aim to get your applications in as close to the start of the UCAS application cycle (beginning of September) as possible.

Start thinking about your personal statement weeks in advance – you’ll need to write several drafts.

As a rough guide, use half the space to write about your chosen course. Use the other half to write about your chosen career path, work experience, achievements and extra-curricular activities.

Write in a positive style that you feel comfortable with, using simple words and clear sentence structures. Don’t try to be funny as others may not share your sense of humor. Be analytical about yourself and the subject, rather than descriptive. Never start your personal statement, ‘I have always been interested in…’.

Be honest! You may be asked questions on your personal statement at university interviews.

Word-processed statements should be in 12-point type size as UCAS reduces the forms before sending them to universities.

Don’t rely on a spell checker – proofread as many times as possible. It can be helpful to leave a few days between drafts, as it’s often easier to pick up spelling and grammar mistakes after distancing yourself. Ask your teachers, parents and friends to make final checks.

Make sure all the details are correct – your address, email, qualifications and course code. Errors can delay your applications.

How to start?

Course choice. Remember, as a rough guide, use half the personal statement to write about your chosen course. Some competitive universities or courses may require a larger proportion of the personal statement about the chosen course.

Why have your chosen the course? ____________________________________

What interests you about this subject area? ____________________________________

What specific topics do you enjoy and why? ____________________________________

What other experience or research have you undertaken beyond your course curriculum (ie further reading, conferences, visits)? ____________________________________

Career path.

Do you know what career path you want to follow? Give details. ____________________________________

How does the course tie in with your chosen career? ____________________________________

Personal achievements and responsibilities.

Add any details where relevant, which you could include in your statement.

Have you been a perfect? ____________________________________

Have you been a member of your school council? ____________________________________

Are you involved in peer counseling or mentoring? ____________________________________

Have you completed the Duke of Edinburgh Award? ____________________________________

Have you helped to organize any events, for example a fundraising event? ____________________________________

Have you taken part in school/college assemblies or helped with open days? ____________________________________

Have you had to overcome any problems or difficulties and how did you resolve them or cope with this? ____________________________________

Extra-curricular activities.

Add any details where relevant, which you could include in your statement.

Do you play a musical instrument? ____________________________________

Are you a member of a choir, an orchestra or a band? ____________________________________

Do you play any sports? ____________________________________

Have you represented your school/college or other organization in a sport? ____________________________________

Have you represented your school/college in any other way? ____________________________________

Have you been involved with any dramatic productions? ____________________________________

Are you involved in any charity or volunteer work? ____________________________________

Do you have any other hobbies? ____________________________________

Have you been on any relevant visits, for example to art galleries for art courses or hospitals for nursing? ____________________________________

Anything else? ____________________________________

Your skills.

It is a good idea to mention any skills that you have gained through your work experience or extra-curricular activities and give examples of when you have used them. Your work experience or hobbies may not always seem to be directly relevant at first, but you will have used and developed important skills that will be valued by universities. You should mention skills that are related to the course, in addition to more general skills.

Communication skills; organizational skills; working as part of a team; leadership skills; using Information Technology; creativity; problem-solving; communicating in another language; negotiation skills; anything else?; consider specific skills relevant to your course.

Poor Examples

“To whom ever it might concern

Hello , My name is XXXX. I am from XXXX and currently in my senior year. I am XXXX years old and study in a Secondary school. In the past i have never really given much interest into my future, i did not care about what would happen but instead what is happening in my life right now. Unfortunatly i was blinded by the temptations of life at least for the better 16 years of my life. But then one day i realised to be succsesfull means that i need to work hard set forth and make my ideas happen.

I considered myself to that of a pack of wolves , each wolf a characteristic of my own whether it was my past, present future or yet devided i was. There was no leader for the pack, but luckily this past summer i went to this program in oxford called the oxford tradition, that truley changed my life. I studied there Politics and economics and through that i learnt where my future lies. In an instant i knew that i can help people with what i could learn in the future, and it is the future that i must change for the better of course.

I have four other siblings, all of them study in english programs/school except me, i guess i was the odd one out. Yet that only strengthened my reslove to get better in english and exceed them and many other students whose native language is english. I have never really given up and my way of life is "If you fall down seven times , you stand up eight" it gives me a burning desire to succeed in anything i do.

Over all i think i would be a great asset to any community , school , college. i would excel and pass many students and prove first to myself and then to everyone esle that not only i can do it but never doubted myself in the beginning.”

Good Examples

It will be unique; It will focus on you, your skills, the course(s) you have chosen and your aims; It will make a point just once; It will flow logically; It will create an argument supporting your admission; It will indicate your in-depth understanding; It will show how the course will help you meet your aims; It will show you to be a joy to teach; It may show that you have the required independent study skills not to be a burden to the academic staff.

PS В топовые университеты принимают только хороших студентов. Хороший студент – тот, кто подает документы рано, т.е. знает чего хочет и правильно планирует свои действия.

В среднем, на популярные специальности (MBA, Finance etc) в топовых вузах, на 90 мест приходит 1600 заявок со всего мира.

Полную стипендию от университета получают не более 4х человек.

Если к заявке можно прикрепить какие-либо файлы, конвертируйте документы в PDF.

Максимально используйте предоставленные возможности (800 слов в сочинении), это будет характеризовать вас с лучшей стороны.

Правильно расставляйте приоритеты.

Год обучения в магистратуре может составлять около 13 тысяч фунтов. Минимальные расходы на проживание составят аналогичную сумму.

Ivan ikov
16 апреля 2012, 0:22



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