New Year, new application stress

Personal Statements, UCAS

22nd December 2018

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It’s a sad thing, but the modern world does have a talent for taking things that we love and making them feel a bit rubbish. The joy and happiness of Christmas subtly morphs to become a time of stress and pressure, and pleasure distorts into a kind of strained over-indulgence. Similarly with the New Year; a time that should be full of potential and excitement actually becomes filled with dread and a perverse self-flagellation as we look back instead of forward and think of the things we didn’t achieve. This ends up with us feeling demotivated, lacking in momentum – left only to contemplate the futility of making any targets for the New Year at all.


It can be tempting to just give up on New Year’s Resolutions. In a previous blog we talked about sources of procrastination – and one of the key ones was perfectionism. When I’ve avoided setting resolutions it’s been because I hate the idea of falling short of my own targets; the disappointment and guilt are more easily avoided if there’s no written evidence that I was ever trying in the first place.

But this thinking is fundamentally flawed; and it’s all to do with the fact that we’re very bad at reflecting in an objective way – we tend to be far too hard on ourselves.

So you aimed to read a book every month? You didn’t – but how valuable was the stuff that you did read? One poem that resonated, one idea that stuck in the head (or the heart?)

You wanted to lose weight but the scales haven’t budged? Frustrating, but now you can run 5km when at the beginning of the year you broke a sweat just getting up off the sofa.

You wanted to have mastered Italian by the end of this year, but you still stumble over the declension of simple verbs? So what, you can order a pizza like a boss and your next holiday to Florence is going to be ten times better for it.

Looking to the future

Where am I going with this? Well, the thing is that you’re coming up to a time when reflecting on the past and looking to the future are really important. Your ability to look objectively and genuinely on the things you’ve achieved in the past few years is vital in shaping what you choose to do now, and how you go about doing it.

So many people believe they have a fixed idea about what they intend to do at university, or where they intend to go, but only at the last minute do they see that the person they thought they were is not the same person as the one now writing a UCAS application. I myself had always intended to go to York and study English literature, because it was what my Dad had done. It was only a last minute intervention from fate that put me on track to study Law at Oxford – all down to an outreach program that I applied to go on simply because I had wanted two days off school.


It was the best thing that could have happened to me – I’d nearly sleepwalked into a path that wouldn’t have been right for me. But you can’t guarantee fate will step in with you – which is why I’d urge you to engage in some real and formal self-reflection:

What course and university are you currently thinking of applying to? When did you decide? What have you achieved since then? How might those achievements make things different? Try and write down on a piece of paper the reasons why you’re making that application. How easy is the process? Do the reasons just tumble onto the paper, or is there a mental block? How much is your heart really in it?

By engaging in this first little piece of reflection to check that you’re on the right path, you’ve also set a brilliant base for planning ahead. Particularly with the ‘what have you achieved since then’. By writing the things that you’ve achieved since you first ever even thought about university, you haven’t just brainstormed what makes you a ‘good’ applicant, you’ve brainstormed what makes you ‘you’. And this is what has the potential to set your application apart; not a long list of CV worthy achievements, but a picture of a coherent, dynamic and driven person who reads as interesting and interested.

It is this sense personality that is truly as important in your statement  – if not more – as a tickbox list of achievements. Indeed, it’s this that sets writers for Oxbridge Personal Statements apart too; we’re able to help you to craft a statement that doesn’t just highlight your abilities, but reflects the real – and best – you. With us, you’ll be anything but generic.

So, as we come to the end of this year, I say grab a piece of paper and try to write down who you used to be, what you’ve achieved since then, and who that makes you now. Double check your past so that you can be doubly certain about your future.

After this, make sure that your first resolution is to get that personal statement written. Remember, you’ve only got until the 15th of January– which, once the indulgence of Christmas has worn off – isn’t long. And if that resolution is already causing you a bit of grief, give us a call at Oxbridge Personal Statements so that we can help you to present your real self to the admissions tutors in the shiniest of possible New Year lights.