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Personal statement and Reference Writing. THE PERSONAL STATEMENT. WHAT ARE ADMISSIONS TUTORS LOOKING FOR?. Independent learning skills Motivation and commitment A realistic understanding of what the course entails Good numeracy and literacy

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what are admissions tutors looking for
  • Independent learning skills
  • Motivation and commitment
  • A realistic understanding of what the course entails
  • Good numeracy and literacy
  • Essay writing and research skills (how to use the internet without plagiarism)
  • Time management skills
  • Enthusiasm to learn and to go beyond the syllabus
  • Potential for success on the chosen course
what evidence do admissions tutors use
  • Academic results
  • Predicted grades
  • Personal statement
  • Referee’s report
  • Interview (if held)
  • Piece of written work requested by university
  • Admissions test
personal statement and reference writing1
  • Close relationship between personal statement by applicant and reference
  • Discuss/negotiate who covers what
  • Repetition undesirable
  • Purpose of both is to:
    • optimise the chances of admission to an HE course
    • highlight potential
the personal statement1
  • The only part of the application where applicants have the freedom to tell the HE selector
    • all about themselves
    • in their own words
  • Make the case for being admitted
  • Explain what they want to do and why
  • Give evidence of motivation and commitment
the personal statement2
  • Extra evidence to help HE selectors make decisions …
  • … and hence make an offer
  • Important for both selecting and recruiting courses
  • Assume that admissions tutors will read it
  • In many cases it will substitute for an interview
personal statement
  • Refer to proposed career
  • Indicate relevant experience, work, skills and interests – emphasis on what they have got out of the experience
  • List achievement of all kinds not listed as qualifications eg sports, adventure activities, summer school
  • Mixed choices in context of invisibility of choices - common personal statement
evidence in the personal statement
  • Evidence to tell HE selector what they are like, i.e.transferable skills and personal characteristics:
  • Committed and motivated
  • Self-reliant and well organised
  • Autonomous learner
  • Interested in and aptitude for subject
  • Good team-worker
personal statement 1
  • Students should:
  • Give reasons if applying for deferred entry (gap year)
  • Mention any special circumstances
  • Remember that good presentation matters
  • Consider possible structures
  • Be clear and concise
personal statement 2
  • Students should:
  • Be careful over spelling and grammar
  • Use a reflective approach
  • Use their own words
  • Avoid repetition of qualifications information
  • Be truthful and be prepared to elaborate on p.s. at interview - keep a copy and take to interview
a successful applicant
  • I feel a need to respond to what I learn. The first topic I chose was dealing with biblical translations and the process of writing one. I have studied New Testament Greek for the past two and a half years and love it, however hard it can sometimes be. Well I started doing research and kept getting distracted, so I chose instead to research local elder care and how the public can participate. For about a year and a half I have been greatly involved at a convalescent center and have done a variety of volunteer work with them. Alas, I had trouble finding enough information about elder care so once again I decided to switch my topic. Finally, I settled on one I would grow to love and be transformed by. I chose to write my research paper on the role of American teens in the fight against global poverty. I threw myself into the research and found myself talking constantly about the topic, ordering resources and joining campaigns. Through this paper, I found that it is important for me to find connections between the subject and myself and to react to what I learn.
a successful applicant1
  • I went on a bit of an American literature rampage recently and am currently in an AP US history class and the supplemental reading helps. My journey into American lit has been positive and through it I have discovered John Steinbeck. This quote struck me as I was reading Steinbeck's East of Eden; "If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule - a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting - only the deeply personal and familiar". This quote is interesting from a historian’s point of view as history is a story, the story of our world. It doesn't matter if I know the dates of every major battle, or the reign of all of the monarchs, if I cannot connect history to today. I think that the most enjoyable part of studying history is seeing how people, events and ideas of the past influence how we live today. I like to trace the patterns through the ages and see how decisions have manifested their importance later on. I enjoy finding the commonalities and differences that exist between societies. History excites me.
a successful applicant2
  • Some people find it absurd that I am applying to university in the UK. But to me and those close to me the idea is not in the least surprising. The beauty and historical setting suits me. I suppose I have rather idealized Great Britain since I was young. As I have already mentioned, I love European literature, and one of my favorite things to do is curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. I grew up reading Noel Streatfeild, C.S. Lewis, and James Barrie. As I got a bit older I discovered Tolkein, Herriot, Austen, Dickens and other great British writers. As I learn more about the life and time of my favorite authors I begin to understand their works better and my overall view of Great Britain's history is becoming better pieced together. I love to pair together history and literature, as literature makes history personal.
  • Apart from academics, I have been rather involved in my high school. I was the class chaplain for three years and then was chosen to be on the student leadership team. I have been a part of student government, National Honor Society, French Honor Society, and many service projects. I am self-motivated and disciplined; I work hard and I enjoy it. I often times allow myself to be absorbed by my studies, as I can become extremely focused on one goal. I think the most important thing is that I truly love to learn. I have taken to heart what Immanuel Kant said during the Enlightenment, "Dare to Know", because I find myself exploring and seeking knowledge. But I'm pursuing more than knowledge, I'm pursuing Truth.
writing the referee s report 1
  • Statement of school/college’s curriculum policy:
    • anything distinctive
    • range of opportunities
    • vocational emphasis
    • key skills policies
    • curriculum enrichment opportunities
  • How does individual applicant’s programme and achievement relate to the stated curriculum policy?
writing the referee s report 2
  • Assessment of potential
    • interpretation of performance to date
    • realistic predictions of achievement taking into account possible re-sits
    • any factors which could influence achievement eg
      • illness
      • special needs
      • family problems/personal circumstances
      • social deprivation
      • teaching problems
writing the referee s report 3
  • Assessment of suitability for HE course including:
    • motivation/commitment
    • skills achievement including communication skills
    • powers of analysis and independent thought
    • relevant curriculum enrichment/extra-mural activities with emphasis on skills
    • relevant work experience
writing the referee s report 4
  • Supporting applications for a mix of subjects in context of invisibility of choices
  • Timing of reference for mature applicants and those on one-year courses - follow-up references
  • Widening participation issues
  • Progression arrangements with a particular HEI - but caution if applying to other HEIs
writing the referee s report 5

Reference no longer confidential:

  • referees do not have to show reference to applicant but D P Act means that UCAS and HEIs have to if applicant asks
  • applicant to see report or at least know the gist of it - should be no surprises later


  • Universitis of in Scotland looks for:
  • Evidence of ability;
  • Potential to benefit;
  • Evidence of commitment;
  • Depth of discernment
  • Information from Dr Steve Townsend, University of Aberdeen


  • Can the students cope academically?
  • Do they have knowledge and understanding of course/ subject applied for?
  • Have they developed higher-order cognitive skills?
  • Are they capable of using HE teaching and learning provisionto achieve?
  • Is there evidence of these?
  • Information from Dr Steve Townsend, University of Aberdeen


  • Can the students take personal responsibility for their studies?
  • Do they have sufficient self-discipline for study?
  • Can they cope with pressure?
    • Social/emotional
    • Course-related
    • Financial
  • Can they provide evidence for these?
  • Information from Dr Steve Townsend, University of Aberdeen


  • Is getting this degree the students’ main short-term focus?
  • Can they give evidence of strong interest in the subject?
  • Have they a good history of sticking to the task?
  • Can they provide evidence for these?
  • Information from Dr Steve Townsend, University of Aberdeen


  • Degree content:
    • Have the students made the right choice of course?
    • Do they know what they are letting themselves in for?
  • After graduation:
    • Have they a realistic idea of the graduate career prospects?
  • Information from Dr Steve Townsend, University of Aberdeen
reference from a teacher counselor
  • I have had the opportunity to teach, mentor, and work alongside x during the last two years. She has several outstanding personal characteristics and strengths that make her an outstanding candidate for high-level collegiate studies as I evaluate her as a person, student, and leader. She is an excellent student who has excelled and achieved academic success because she has been passionate in her studies. She is a learner par excellence. She demonstrates critical reading and analytical writing skills equivalent to those gained by students who have successfully completed a college-level introduction to literature and composition course. Her writing is clear and focused, well organized, and engaging. In addition, she contributes well to class discussion with thoughtful and insightful questions and statements. Faculty members have admired her ability to transfer concepts that she has recently learned in one discipline to approach new concepts in another discipline. Case in point, she was readily able to correlate Greek to her study of French, or to integrate an historical or a literary fact that related to the current topic in French class. she possesses an enthusiastic work ethic. Her motivation is to learn and to be enriched by the discipline; she is not simply en route to passing a test then putting the material behind her. Her thirst for knowledge has been evident since the first day she entered our classrooms until this day four years later.
reference from a teacher counselor1
  • She is also a person of impeccable personal character that flows out of her own personal faith and strong moral convictions. She is deeply respected among her peers and by her teachers as a young lady of integrity, compassion and friendship. She has consistently been involved in community service projects meeting the needs of children, especially those dealing with global poverty and disease. In particular, she has been a powerful catalyst in the growth and organization of our school's Africa Project. This community endeavor has sought to respond to the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, and our student body has raised over 500,000 to help build new schools and hospitals, provide medical care and anti-retro viral treatments, and feed hundreds of needy families in one African community being ravaged by the HIVAIDS virus.
reference from a teacher counselor2
  • She has been an advocate in presenting the incredible need and opportunity to respond as fellow human beings to our student body. She has also run creative fundraising projects herself, and plans to travel to Africa to see the need first-hand in the future. I believe that she will be a wonderful collegiate student leader who will invite others to join her in making this world a better place as we respond to the needs of others
  • In summary, she is truly a tremendous young lady and one of the highest caliber students to come through our school. She has made a significant positive impact upon the lives of students and the academic culture here at X Academy during her high school years. I have no doubt that she will continue to take the initiative to grow as a student learner and promote meaningful social change in the next four years of her educational studies. It is my pleasure to give her my highest recommendation, and please feel free to contact me with my any further questions.
  • Working to improve progression to HE
  • Using ICT to give a better service
  • Responding to curriculum change
  • Visit the UCAS website