Getting into HE Workshop: Writing references and personal statements Jonathan Tinnacher Head of Student Recruitment, Division of Marketing and Communications University of Leicester James Seymour Head of Schools and Colleges Liaison Aston University Perfect Personal Statements….. James Seymour, Head of Schools and Colleges Liaison Aston University, Birmingham [email protected] Subject “Fit” Interested in Biology Biomedical Sciences, Human Biology, Genetics, Optometry, Zoology Geography Business, Environmental Sciences, European Studies, Logistics, Surveying, Town Planning Maths Accountancy, Computer Science, Engineering, Internet Gambling Studies 20%+ of Scientists/Engineers go into Finance/Accounting 50%+ of Graduate Jobs advertised don’t specify a particular degree Application Strategy may be subject dependent Selective Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Pharmacy, Vet Sci, Physio, English, Psychology, some Business, History, Sports courses high competition, higher grades, can vary between Universities Seductive Some Engineering, Chemistry, Languages, Sociology (compared to Psychology), Philosophy, Physics Less competition, sometimes lower grades (but often excellent career prospects!) What do Admissions Tutors look for? Academic Potential (Predicted Grades) Academic Record (GCSE, AS) Reference from School/College….. Evidence of: Motivation and Commitment Leadership, Teamwork, Communication Evidence of research into subject Relevant, well written Personal Statement IT/Business/Key Skills (if relevant) NOT Nobel Prizewinners, just general enthusiasm…. The Personal Statement – consider 3 main issues 1. 2. 3. Why do I want to study this course? What are the reasons for my choices, any career aspirations/ideas? Related academic or work experience? Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you are interested in. Some consistency in your 5 choices What can I offer to the course? How do my academic interests and strengths match up with my chosen course? Have I done anything which highlights my skills / knowledge / initiative? any relevant experience eg paid / voluntary work? What am I like as a person?! Have I held any Positions in and out of school/college? Am I a member of any teams or societies? What are my relevant interests, hobbies, leisure activities? Personal Statements – Practical Ideas Consider dividing form up into paragraphs, maybe with headings Consider 5 paragraphs Practice on a “dummy”, brainstorm Spelling and Grammar ARE Important…… Reduced in size and still printed by Universities Use your “Key Skills”/accredited evidence Don’t list endless sports/hobbies Always make it relevant Humour rarely works - don’t risk it! School/College examples from previous years Closing statement Personal Statements - Style Positive words- achieved, developed, learned, discovered, enthusiasm, commitment, energy, fascination…. Short, simple sentences in plain English - not contrived, not verbose or grandiose Personal touch if possible- but be careful with humour and vernacular/’chatty’ approaches Use evidence wherever possible to support claims/statements Dos and Don’ts DO Plan the statement as you would an essay Clear and Concise - the more concentrated the points and facts, the more powerful Be honest- ‘truth will out’ - don’t copy/buy! Similarity Detection Software at UCAS Draft and redraft (X10 not unusual), and seek other opinions DON’T Waffle or try to include your life history Start with “ I’ve always wanted to be a……” Use gimmicks, or quotations- unless they are very relevant and you deal with them in a way that shows your qualities Mixed UCAS Choices Avoid very different choices if you can (though of course accepted for 5th choices for Medicine/Dentistry/Vet Sci) If choosing joint or combined courses, write about your interest in each subject such as to reflect the balance in the course Different course titles may be fine - check the actual contents for similarity. The principle is to be coherent so that whoever reads your statement, it makes sense for their course Show your appreciation of links between different subjects where applicable eg of Optometry and sometimes Pharmacy at Aston…. Plagiarism – Similarity Detection Service (SDS) Universities are informed by UCAS with an SDS score out of 100% We can then view the statement online with the “similar” elements highlighted Policies then vary between HEIs and courses – eg reject, asking to explain or resubmit a statement In our experience there is already another reason for a rejection before this becomes a factor SDS is not made available to Universities regarding references, YET!! Students should not panic about this but consider their statement as confidential from their friends. The Main Message Why this subject choice Relationship to current/past studies? Career ideas? Work experience and Other life experiences bearing on choice? Many Universities can easily call up the statement online via their application systems – it does matter, especially at results confirmation and for borderline cases Encourage your students to be proud of what they have written – we have no Facebook page on them but interviews will be based on what they have written – or may be their only chance to pitch themselves. Please don’t write this type of stuff…..! “I enjoy the Theatre and used to go a couple of times a year.” (Drama) “I am a keen reader and am committed to the study of human behaviour through TV soaps!!” “I have led a full life over the last 18 years and it is a tradition I intend to continue” “I describe myself in the following two words: “TO ODIN!!” the ancient Viking war cry” (Law) “My favourite hobby is bee-keeping & I want to be an engineer” “My interest in Medicine stems from my enjoyment of “Casualty” and other related TV series” “I enjoy socialising with my friends” Realistic but positive…. Vast majority receive 4 or more offers (80% plus) Applications per place – don’t forget students are making 4 other applications! Check entry requirements and specific requirements (eg A/AS/BTEC/GCSE/IB) eg: Aston: 2010 entry: c15,000 applications for c2000 places: 78% of applicants received conditional/unconditional offers. Average grades on entry 2009: ABB from best 3 A levels.