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Oxbridge Personal Statements

Writing your Oxbridge personal statement? Being two of the most prestigious universities in the world, and having many applicants who surpass their requirements you may want to consider a few pointers to help you stand out in your Oxbridge application.

Talk about the subject

  • Be passionate. A requirement not often mentioned in guidelines for Oxbridge applications but which is of just as much importance is genuine interest and love for the subject you desire to study. Try to illustrate this in your personal statement not just through your achievements but also through actually talking about the subject.
  • Tutors will expect you to have followed up on your interest in your subject through extracurricular activities and having read around the subject. Make sure to mention what you’ve read and done and talk a bit about them to show that you really know what you’re talking about. Remember the way to show genuine interest is not to tell them 'I’ve read X and I’ve done Y' but to make it implicit from what you’re saying. Talking ABOUT the content of what you’ve done or read as opposed to mentioning it in a sentence is a far better way of doing this.
  • Express your opinions, feel free to criticise or state your point of view on anything related to the subject as it will show analytical skills which is what the admissions tutors will be looking for.
  • Be honest. Don’t lie about having read books that you haven’t or being interested in things you aren’t as you may get caught out at the interview stage. Most admissions tutors are looking for potential as opposed to prior knowledge so try not to make stuff up. In the past people who’ve gotten in have quoted from the likes of Harry Potter or nursery rhymes; which if done well, comes across just as well (if not slightly cooler) than quoting from a well known academic. If you do choose to use a famous quote or talk about a well known book then try to say something different!

Talk about yourself

  • Make them want to meet you! Oxford and Cambridge place a great deal of importance on the interviews so to make sure you get selected for one, try to show the real you in your statement. It shouldn’t just be a list of your achievements (though I’m sure for some of you this could fill the entire word count). Whilst what you’ve done may be impressive, giving them a feel for your real interest and ideas will make them want to meet you and talk about these in an interview.

Be original

  • Try not to be clichéd and just tell them you read magazines like the Economist, as they’ll already be rolling their eyes as they read it. Talk instead about an article you found particularly interesting or your opinions on that newspaper to make you stand out from the crowd and show you have something to say.
  • A strong opening is vital. This may seem pretty obvious but far too many people start their statement with a line about how they’ve recently become interested in the subject they’ve chosen to study. Think of different ways to start, perhaps with a quote or a story or talking about an article you’ve read, again remember not to go for overused quotes or stories again.
  • Don’t necessarily stick to the standard format for personal statements. Whilst it’s important to include all the necessary information about your subject and yourself if you can think of a different way to present it then don’t be afraid to go for it.