There are two things Oxford and Cambridge are looking for. They are looking for excellent grades and passion for a subject and you need to get these across in your, statement but writing a personal statement for Oxford can be hard because you cannot say in there “I've always wanted to go to Oxbridge for the whole of my life” because as soon as other universities see that, they're going to reject you straight away. Remember, all of the universities see one personal statement, so you can't tailor it too much towards one course or one college because as soon the other universities realized what you've done, you're just going to go straight in the ‘no’ pile. It's really, really tricky to get across your passion, get across your interest while keeping it as broad as possible, because the worst thing would be you write a personal statement that is tailored for Oxford, all the other universities reject you, and then Oxford refuses you as well and then you're going to have no place, you’ll have to go through clearing or maybe take a gap year and apply next year. We don't want that to happen. We want you to get a place.
Most Oxford colleges have some form of additional admissions requirement either a test or written work, so you are going to have the opportunity to show off how awesome you are. Cambridge send you an email afterward, asking for more information. This is the Supplementary Application Questionnaire. And this is where you describe if there's anything you love about Cambridge, the course, or people you want to work with, then that is the place not put it on your application, not on your main UCAS form because it's going to put off a lot of other universities. It doesn't just have to be in your personal statement.
In your personal statement you need to get across the fact that you live, breathe, are passionate about the subject you are applying to study, because you are going to be doing three, four, five, potentially even six-year study just around this one subject. It's going to be hard, it's going to be intense, it's going to be full on. You need to prove to Oxford that you can cope with that much intensity all focused around a potentially rather tiny little subject. You need write in your personal statement to get your passion across sand this is excellent advice for applying to any university, getting your passion across. You need to just tell them what has motivated you to apply for the course, why you're going to be perfect for the course. This needs to be way above, and beyond what you've studied at school because if you're getting a place at Oxford, let's just assume that everyone has perfect A-level grades, everyone can recite their A-levels entirely down to the very last detail of the specification, but that's not going to get you a place. You need something more, something that's going to make you stand out. Just being able to teach A-Level or recite A-Level back again better potentially than your teacher is not going to get you a place. It has to be above and beyond. You have to be independent, motivated, gone out and found something else out all by yourself. Cambridge does not want wishy-washy people that are kind of like, "Awe yeah, maybe I'll do this course. "Maybe I'll do that course." They want people that are going to live and breathe that course. So make sure that you are coming across as enthusiastic, committed, and sincere. But don't use all those cliched phrases like, "I have wanted to study medicine ever since I was born." Because you haven't. OK? I have a two-year-old. He does not want to study medicine. He wants to hit things with a hammer and play trains. Cambridge wants to know about any interest you have within the field. A common question is "Tell me something you're interested in." If you can't answer that question confidently, then you are going to have a problem. You need to be interested in the course you are studying. If you want to go out and study medicine, become interested in medicine. If you want to go and study natural sciences, start reading "New Scientist," and find something you are interested in. You are going to need to way to develop or to express your enthusiasm for the subject and the things that you have found out yourself, outside of your course. Cambridge does not want people that can just regurgitate the A-Level course back to them, because that's boring, and honestly, it's not that hard. Just remembering stuff that your teacher has told you, I mean, it's going to get you a good grade, but it's not the sort of people Cambridge are looking for. Cambridge are looking for people that have gone above and beyond what their teachers have told them. So, are you researching around the subject? Have you taken a subject and actually gone and done a load of reading around it, because you think it's really interesting? Or did you come across a scientist in your course, your teacher mentioned something off-hand, and you thought, "Hang on, that's actually really interesting." And then you've gone and done loads of research behind it, yourself. These are the sort of people Cambridge wants. If you have done this, then tell them. Tell them that you're really passionate about intermolecular bonding, or whatever it is. Get your passion across, but make it genuine. Don't make it fake, because they'll be able to see through that straight away. If you have a certain career in mind. If you know you want to go do something, and the course is a natural progression for that, then let them know. If you want to go work for Médecins Sans Frontières, and this is your passion. This is what you've always wanted to do, and a stepping stone to this is getting your medical degree, then great. You have a career plan. You have a passion. Let them know this, because again, these are the sort of people, the passionate people, the committed people, people that have thought about it and have a plan that Cambridge wants applying and wants on that course.
Extracurriculars are only meaningful if they are relevant. So, they are not necessarily going to care about the fact that you were in the Scouts if you are applying for a journalism degree but writing for the school newspaper is going to be relevant for English and it's not the number of extracurriculars that you have, it's the quality of them because we know loads of people that have excellent connections that got into this course, or got this because of who their parents are or who they know. Oxford are not interested in who your parents are or who you know. Cambridge want to find the truly academic students, The ones that are truly going to excel. You can have the most fantastic work experience but have got nothing out of it and not being able to talk about it or you can have work experience which is just around the corner from you but has gone so, so much from it, be able to talk about it with relevance, with interest, be able to draw things out of it that are unique. If your big extracurricular was volunteering somewhere, like at a vet's or doctor's or hospital, or if you're applying for medicine or science, or experience in a lab. That is what Oxford are interested in. It's not necessarily having the fanciest work experience, the most elaborate extracurricular activities, the most expensive ones, the most exclusive ones; it's whether you can talk about it, whether you've got something out of it, whether you can do something with the time that you spent there. Make sure it reflects you, make sure it reflects your personality. If it's relevant extracurriculars, then write it down. If it is not relevant extracurriculars, then don't write it down.
Don't write irrelevant stuff because they are not interested and please, please, please try and avoid all of these like websites that say they will do it for you or websites that show you examples because they can see that a mile off and it will not help you in anyway at all. There are loads and loads of example personal statements out there. And while it's good for you to see what other people have written, but there is the temptation, just to take inspiration, maybe a little bit too much. And you might end up copying. This is the worst thing you can do with a personal statement. Do not end up copying someone else's, because UCAS will check to see if you've plagiarized it. And if you have plagiarized it, then that's it. It's out, straight out the window. You've got no chance at all. So do not plagiarize your personal statement. Go and look at the other Cambridge personal statements to maybe get a bit of inspiration, See what they've written, what they're like, but do not copy them. Do not plagiarize. Otherwise, you'll be in big, big trouble.
How to write a personal statement for Cambridge
How to write a personal statement for Oxford
How to start writing your personal statement
How to structure your personal statement
How to make your personal statement stand out
How to show passion for a subject
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