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Saturday, 29 September 2018


Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford

Still struggling with a UCAS statement which is too long or just not working? Staying within the UCAS-set word limit is one of the most challenging tasks ever encountered by many students. Here is how to do it and make the contents more impressive at the same time.

            1. Don't repeat  yourself. Once you’ve said that you found your  holiday job with a children's play scheme really inspiring,  you don’t need to add that you acquired valuable team-working skill and like working with people. However, mentioning that it has taught you about something course related, such as child psychology, is worthwhile.

            2. Do say what drew you to the course. Was it a lesson, a book, a school research project, an excursion, a talk or some TV programme?  How are you trying to find out more? Is there a science book, poetry collection or article on the latest stone age finds you have enjoyed? What you want to show here is that you are capable of intellectual activity beyond or  independent of what you're doing for school.

            3. Don’t list everything you have done. Just mentioning six different extra-curricular activities is pointless. You just want to show that you are organised enough to do a couple of challenging things alongside your studies. Have they taught you any skills useful for your course? Do they suggest particular strengths or character traits?  Also, are there any prizes you have won or  disadvantages overcome?

            4. Avoid space-filling generalisations such as “politics is a truly fascinating subject”. Just tell the reader what fascinates you personally about it. By briefly mentioning personal concerns or life experiences you may become more convincing, as well as more memorable.

            5 Don't focus on your degree subject in terms of your future career. Far too many Oxbridge applicants write that they chose Economics because they are "hoping for a career in finance”. What admissions tutors want to know is which course-related financial, social or mathematical problems are of interest to you and how you are already exploring them.
            6. Write in clear, non overly long sentences, using correct subject terms. As strong writing skills are prized by most  admissions tutors, it's alright, though, to mention a well received essay or research report (which the school may be asked to send in).

                  7. Don’t try to solve your space problem by copying a UCAS statement found online. Admissions tutors now have the software to identify plagiarism. Asking a well-educated relative or family friend to write your statement for you is not a good idea either:  any admissions tutor can tell the writings of a middle-aged graduate from those of a sixth former. Also, the type of student Oxbridge seeks has considerably changed over the years!
                  8. Now re-read, and re-read again, and not just for spelling errors.  Have you said too much about the future you are aiming  for, but too little about what you bring to the course? Are your extra-curriculars  taking up more space than your academic interests? Since what university students do most is read, did you remember to list any course-related book(s) or article(s)? Most importantly, don't leave checking all this to the last moment, as the result could be not just typos but a muddled narrative or fatal omissions.
Still unsure how to make a strong, memorable application? For more detailed, course-specific advice on this and on tests and interviews read the new edition of OXBRIDGE ENTRANCE: THE REAL RULES

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