• Question: What do you look for in a personal statement? And what can I do to improve my chances of getting into the uni of my choice? (I want to do engineering)

    Asked by JasperG on 10 Jul 2023.
    • Photo: Joel Goldstein

      Joel Goldstein answered on 10 Jul 2023:

      The main things are evidence that you are enthusiastic about the subject, and that you have thought a bit more deeply about it than just your school lessons. For most STEM subjects the quality of the writing is not too important, but spelling and grammar mistakes look bad so make sure you proof read carefully. And don’t try to be too clever – it could backfire.
      As a general rule for physics and engineering I would say that the most important factor in uni admission is academic achievement, particularly in maths. So concentrate on your studies!
      Extra-curricular activities can help a bit, and doing something independently and/or subject-related should count for more than school-organised generic activities.

    • Photo: Jonathan Edward Davies

      Jonathan Edward Davies answered on 11 Jul 2023:

      This is mainly a rehashing of the same things that Joel said. You just need to show the admissions team that you are a good fit for the degree programme that they offer.

      Demonstration of a strong grasp of Maths (and maybe other sciences but these are perhaps not as essential) will do a lot of the talking. If a candidate didn’t have this then they’re likely to struggle a lot and the course probably isn’t for them. This will probably be covered by your predicted A-level grades.

      Much as it can be difficult, some sort of evidence of your interest in the subject outside of the classroom is important just to show that you didn’t just randomly pick Engineering as the course to apply for and crucially that you are more likely to stick with it when things get difficult!

      I would say extra-curricular activities are worth mentioning if they relate somewhat to your course. If they are unrelated, you can still mention them if you like but they will probably not influence the decision-making that much.

      It’s important to realise that you will not be expected to know everything already (that is the point of the course!) so its just about showing your potential to succeed in the course.

    • Photo: Dora Veres

      Dora Veres answered on 4 Sep 2023:

      To add to previous answers, I think honesty is very important. Sometimes people try to stand out by writing things that are too good to be true (e.g. that they have read a very high-level book on the subject or they oversell an internship they did). If the university you apply to has interviews, the professors will surely ask about these things and finding yourself in a situation where you can’t answer adequately about your own personal statement will do more harm than not having a flashy personal statement in the first place. Also it is important to know that you are not expected to have some outstanding experience like an internship or job shadowing in your field of interest, because these things are really hard to find and arrange as a high school student and universities know this. You can show enthusiasm for your subject in many ways: reading books beyond just the school textbooks (but on an appropriate level and in a way that you really take away something from it), joining the school maths club or even better creating your own if there isn’t one already, mentoring/tutoring other students in your subject, etc. If you can easily get your hands on a short summer internship or can shadow an engineer for a week that’s great and I’m sure it will boost your personal statement, but it is not worth spending your time chasing unrealistic goals with your extracurricular activities, because your grades are ultimately more important than your personal statement.