Well thank goodness we’ve got those needy Oxbridge and medical students out of the way!
I’m only kidding – but the run up to the Oxbridge deadline is a fraught one, and you’d be amazed how many students – future doctors, prime ministers and CEOs – left their application to the last minute.
Luckily, because of our experience at Oxbridge Personal Statements, it’s rarely a problem for us to help out the slightly more disorganised students. But there are limits to what we can do – and sometimes because students have left it to the last minute, the quality of the information they come up with can be a little sparse. If they’d just spent a little more time thinking about it, they might have recalled more impressive or illustrative experiences that would have made their application shine.
It’s for this reason that we urge applicants to get their application started early. It’s easy to think that it’s just a page of writing, so if you set aside half a day a week before the deadline you’ll be sorted. But think how many times you’ve promised yourself that – that summer job application, your AS level essay – the list goes on. How many times have you left it to the line, and in the end you’ve managed to just about get through it, but with a vague feeling that you could have done the work so much more justice if you’d given it your full attention. With so much riding on your application, do you really want to fall into the same bad old habits?
How to write your statement
The real key to delivering an excellent personal statement is to build it piece by piece, rather than trying to hammer it out all in one go. The first stage is brainstorming – and that might not happen all in one go. Frustratingly, when I’m sitting on a big deadline, I find that all my inspirational thoughts and perfect phrasings come just as I’m settling in to bed and can’t be bothered to get up and scribble them down. It may sound like a tired cliché but if you can keep a notepad next to your bed (or, let’s face it, since we’re in the 21st century, just make sure you have a note app on your phone) then you can get down the good ideas as they occur.
Start to expand these ideas or phrases into coherent, complete thoughts and paragraphs that have a clear theme within them. As they grow, see if a common thread starts to emerge – a way that these paragraphs can be joined together to give a structure that flows. At this point, don’t worry too much about your word count (within reason – don’t go crazy because it can be very tough to trim down later).
When you’ve finally got a statement which flows and you’ve trimmed it down to the tough-to-meet 4000 characters, it’s time to proofread. Trust me, this is so much tougher than you think – not the work of mere minutes. Most significantly, it is almost impossible to proofread something you’ve just written (really, there are studies on this). Your brain reads what it thought it just wrote, not what’s actually on the page. So you really want to set the document aside for a good couple of days, and then go through it again and again and again.
At every stage of this process, Oxbridge Personal Statements is on hand to help you along the way – from organising your ideas, to structuring them and pulling out the key threads that will set you apart. And if you’ve already managed to get as far as getting your ideas down on paper in a fully-formed personal statement (and congratulations if so), we’re also here to edit, proofread and offer improvement suggestions.
Whatever path you do decided to follow, think how good it will feel to have it out of the way by Christmas (though we here at Oxbridge Personal Statements are armed and ready for the deluge of calls we’ll inevitably be getting on January 14th!).