Mastering University Applications: How to Create the Personal Statement that got me into Cambridge | Arianna Ponte | Skillshare

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Mastering University Applications: How to Create the Personal Statement that got me into Cambridge

teacher avatar Arianna Ponte, Cambridge, LSE and UCL offer-holder

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Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Starting your personal statement

    • 3. Structuring your personal statement

    • 4. Techniques to be concise

    • 5. Extracurriculars, supercurriculars and academics

    • 6. Conveying a sense of development

    • 7. Targeting multiple courses

    • 8. Pitfalls to avoid

    • 9. General advice

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About This Class

This class is a comprehensive guide for students going through the process of writing a university application, specifically the personal statement. It can be both helpful to applicants, as well as parents of applicants wishing to best guide their children throughout the process. The class includes extracts from the teacher's personal statement, which received offers from universities including the University of Cambridge, London School of Economics and Political Sciences, and University College London. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Arianna Ponte

Cambridge, LSE and UCL offer-holder


Hello, I'm Arianna.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to my school share video. I will be teaching you how to make the best personal statement possible to maximize your chances at getting into universities. You applied to a brief introduction to myself. I'm an Italian American. Used to They received offers from universities in UK, including Cambridge. I'll see at UCL, and there isn't mentioned. This is to attribute a sense of credibility to this video. I want you to know that I am very familiar with the system and have done extensive research on it, particularly as someone was learning about the system from the outside. This awesome is a Premier Li at state institution to apply UK system, but can also be beneficial to parents wishing to best guy. There's Children throughout the process. Andi also just people wished up General vice own applications from the optical, another educational systems. I have to say I wish you a lot of these things before I my application instead of learning along the way. So I really hope that I can save you a lot of time and effort. There is no way to write the perfect personal statement. They can come in many shapes and forms. So I won't just doing the best to offer my personal advisers well, us A couple to go with research. 2. Starting your personal statement: First of all, there's no perfect way to start off. But I have some suggestions, such as avoid cliches or cheesy introductions. But he's made the persisting and pure faith. I would suggest avoiding the use of quotes. I wasn't 100% highs against the use of quotes in the sense that I'm sure a few people could pull it off. But it's definitely harder, so I advise against. It also could be a waste of characters given very restricted work. If you're really stuff, I suggest using boring or often a statement over a cheesy state first and suddenly was better to write. Studying physics higher level sparked my interest in studying it further at university over a statement such as Ever since I was young, I knew I was destined to study physics. I would also particularly advise against the use of the expression ever since I was young. This is particularly in the introduction, but also throughout the personal statement. This is not to say that you can't reflect on and include experiences from your childhood, but it should be very brief. Universities care about your efforts in recent years. My personal introduction waas. I love to explore the forces that govern welfare sustainability. I'm development in our world. This thing was not particularly you. It doesn't particularly standouts, not particularly flashy. But it did the job. Essentially, my introductory sentence was able to outline the three components of my personal statement so that throughout I make me clear transitions between East receptions and it gave this sense of structure. So I would suggest if you are a little stuck with reading your introductory sentence, you essentially use it as a for a thesis statement. However, that being said, if you consider a form of thesis statement, I wouldn't explicitly say I'm going to discuss this in this In this process, you could just mentioned that you're particularly interested in this this and this in itself, evidence that that's the case. But it makes it seem less like an essay 3. Structuring your personal statement: this brings us onto the next question, which is how do I structure my person on? And I've heard propositions of using paragraphs. I think this is a good idea. You could make it work. I personally find it within the 47 line limit. It is wasn't an option for me. So instead of used the structure in my thesis statement in the beginning Hello. I would like my three sections, which are then presented us one body paragraph. So that is one of the options for structuring. Your personal statement is essentially doing more thematic structure. I think that many different kinds of structures could work in terms of individuals, sentence structures. I've heard off the method, ABC. We're essentially it's activity or action benefit. And then, of course, were essentially, you're describing what you did, what you go out of it, that applies to the course you're replying to. I think this is a really good way to structure your sentences, but it personally do you think that it takes up too much space? All right, so an example from my personal savings I'm gonna really love for you guys. All right. Living for a year to provincial working class area of Italy on reading the spirit level. Why greater equality Makes societies stronger, I think brackets at the authors on and against meritocracy culture. Power it So mobility bracket of the author. Further development interest in social and economic welfare. Essentially here I'm able to combine three activities with one benefit on, then essentially imply the length of the course because it's quite so self evident. Why improving my interest in this specific area, which is related to the course why that's connected to the course. Additionally, I did mention a book that was on one of my courses reading lists, which makes the making clear. 4. Techniques to be concise: see you. Next question people be addressing is which techniques can use to be concise. So you're gonna bring up another example for my own personal statement, I wrote. I tend to formally handed nations conferences in the US and Denmark is a deluge. An officer This year, I was chosen by school directors to be the deputy secretary general, president of the General Assembly. At conferences, 10th anniversary note that I did not mention specific names of common sense. I attended the countries they were in. The committee's I was in the country's I was representing on suggests essentially unnecessary details can be cut out, elicits particularly relevant what you're trying to say for the system given and many other activities people, including a lot of excessive details about when sister conferences to place. And I understand the sort of feeling, the need to provide evidence that you were there. Essentially, they will. They will believe you. You are. You are essentially hell accountable for your for your integrity of what your hand again. So I wouldn't worry about needing to provide specific details, but I think you could applies to a lot of different activities where it's necessary to really explain the names of different conferences because a little something that they're aware they won't really know what eggman big men or vomiting are. And it doesn't there's no association prestige to it. So it's a and have another example for my personal statement on how to be concise. So in 2018 I was selected by the Danish National Committee to attend the United World College Course in Malta. Other couch engaged in effective humanitarian aid through local work that yields concrete outcomes. First of all, I kept the words inedible college. Because this is an internationally recognized organization, however, I was able to more concise by for except not including this specific name of the off course I attended, instead implicitly suggesting what was about by the benefit that I agree from it on. It is something that could be applied to other activities, of course, where it's unnecessarily unnecessary to say you attended a conference that was titled This and Your reflections, you referring to it. It becomes quite evident, though, of course, if there's a point in the resulting, or you feel that by doing these kind of workplace things, you're being very completed or obscured that. Of course, I would avoid so ability on this. Admissions officers often don't really know about the directive. Easy. They are taken. There's no association whose prestige if they know it's this conference of this conference , because it's likely that they're unaware, especially if you are not studying in the UK and applying to UK. And it's tempting to include the names of your fancy, flashy conventions you attended. But I would just suggest talking out of that unless it's a globally recognized program. Working on they lost on Being concise is that if you or make Chinn books, I would suggest including the title and then putting the author in a bracket with their first name abbreviated to just the first letter. 5. Extracurriculars, supercurriculars and academics: the next question will be addressing is how much of the personal statement should be dedicated. Teoh Extracurriculars Super curricular on academics. First of all, I want to disclose to the stairs so first of all, very, very much according to different universities. What they look, what consumes. They look for what they value so that the effect effectively the ratio of of these different components of your application may better your chances. One university at lower chances on Secondly, you should always focused on your strong points. So if you have never read a book related to your course between a super curricular. But I've done aton of extracurricular activities, especially going from activities, of course include more of that. That said, I would say that about 2/3 of these 3/4 of your application should be dedicated to academics and super curricular. If anything, I would say super particulars are more important to mention that economics is to demonstrate further interests initiative. This is also particularly for offered in Cambridge, because they really emphasize super curricular zo ver extracurriculars. One way to ref. Refer to your academics, for instance, reflecting on your current courses or your current subjects is to draw connections between them on your super particulars, for instance, studying X subjects at school. Let me to explore the topic further in why. Additionally, when I didn't, my personal statement was that if the worst of extracurriculars, I thought would be good to mention, even though they weren't necessarily connected through the course, for instance, athlete valuable for five years, that's a long term participation activity, and they really value that kind of long term engagement. So the way that included it waas that I included in connection to another super curricular or a an extracurricular activity related to the subject. So my example is I I'm your blessing, the collaborative skills being through five years of playing volleyball in Italy, Denmark in US to promote a collective approach to our anyone in hopes of influencing its 500 local and foreign participants. 6. Conveying a sense of development: this Is this on to our next question, which, essentially, what do I do if I haven't done any long term activities or how to convey a sense of development throughout my personal statement? And this is really critical because an important part of your personal statements indicate that you've undergone some form of development. Commission's officers tend to more favorably upon applicants that have engaged in more sustained launcher activities, rather that those who have participated in a lot of in serious of destruct activities. So you may ask, What do I do if I haven't done any long term activities? Essentially, if you're able to reflect on your experiences and draw connections between them, you're able to convey the sense that you underwent a a broader development. Personally reflecting back on my personal statement, experience came to recognize that a lot of the personal statement is about retrospectively trying to create a picture of cause and effect. So we do is that you look back on the things you've done and trying to draw connections between the different things. So, essentially, what motivated this thing? How did this leap to the next isn't New York? You're creating the sense that there was a direct connection to different activities that you did, even though realistically speaking, this can't be the case because there are so many things going on that lead you to make certain decisions. But essentially you try to make you tried to draw. Overall, you try to convey noble girls. And still the example for my personal statement is in 2018. I was selected by the Danish National committed to attend a United World College course in Malta generation before I learned how to engage in effective humanitarian aid through look work that yields concrete outcomes. This later let me to help organize to 10 week courses with Danish NGO teaching refugee women. How disciple here, even though mission to separate activities, it gives a sense that there's a can convey a longer term image. So did I think at the time that there was such a distinctly between these activities? Probably not. Retrospectively doesn't make sense of there is a connection. Yes, that's fairly reasonable. Actually, that he take away here is that establishing connections, you convey a sense of chronology that needs you care more goal oriented, then you actually maybe another benefit to this whistling stock, too. How to make your personal statement concise is that drug connections between different activities don't know. Onley helped convey a broader development and makes your personal statement pure, more cohesive. It also helps you adhere to the word women for the character. It makes it a lot easier to crime in a lot of different activities when you're able to draw connections between them rather than having to waste a lot of characters on making transitions between colleagues. Or one thing to consider is that making correlations between defect different activities is really beneficial. But I would take care not stretching too far, making up your absurd, because I could make the personal statement of here messy, chaotic. 7. Targeting multiple courses: so the expression you will be addressing is how very personal statement that is targeted at not one but two or more courses. Did this quite common phenomenon? Not necessarily. Everyone knows that they want to study only a specific course. So I'm going to try and give you advice on how to gear your personal statement towards multiple courses. My suggestion is find a commonality between the courses on use. What I mentioned earlier, which is about thematically structuring your personal statement around them. However, the issue is that this could be very difficult when you have, for example, two vastly different or when you have two starkly different courses. So here's my edition strategy, if you are trying to very distinctly different course, is this is an application strategy that you mentioning in a more general in a later video up, the more general application process that have strategized within that. But the strategy, something that my friend of mine who was accepted toe Oxford use essentially, she wanted to apply to both English literature in international relations. But what you did waas that in order to have a very specific, targeted personal statement, she applied only to English literature UK. I've been I'd like to international relations in other educational systems. However, there this system. However, this approach isn't perfect in the sense that you are then grouping two considerations or two factors together. And so then, when you receive your feedback from universities, it may make it harder to make a decision because you'll have to consider two factors in conjunction with each other. Rather than being able to decide which subject I want to do, you might also have to understand you might want to consider old Do I want to study in that country? And the reason why I would suggest this one is a personal statements that appear vaguer and decisive tend to be less successful than very targeted on specific personal statements. I do have extra Neitz and applying to a variety of courses. They were distinctly different. They were quite similar to each other. I tried to human, social, political sciences, sociology, sociology and international relations, social sciences and sustainable development, which had a focus on the social sciences and take away from this is that I was able to generalize. The course is under this roof more generic description, which Waas, the social, the social sciences interdisciplinary, really, with a focus on sociology. That's next sentences, However, as you could tell sustainable development, which was, of course, that was one of the orphans out. I do think that that was one of the main reasons that actually, for that specific course, I was not accepted. Did you believe that the fact that I didn't dedicate enough space to sustainable development, my personal statement is one of the biggest reasons why I wasn't accepted. So that's why I would veer on the edge of caution when it comes to applying to courses that are quite different. 8. Pitfalls to avoid: one of the most important pitfalls to mention is acidly mentioning the name of university or course on the courses. Specifically, if you're applying to different variations, of course it's so. For example, I was planted courses with different names, so if I mentioned one of them, it would work against my application in all of the other universities. And of course it is okay to mention the university if you intended, of course, their friend says. But make sure not to mention it in any other kind of context, because the admissions officers will view that as a preference towards a particular university. Of course, additionally, it goes without saying, but don't lie or plagiarize in any part of your personal statement, they will find out will have really strong consequences of wood, excessively flamboyant and flushing language. The personal sting isn't a test of your vocabulary, and they can make the statement more convoluted as long as he used very vocabulary and very sentence structures. You should be fine. Here's an important football. So avoid controversial or particularly radical sounding statements. There are ways to communicate more radical ideas in neutral burner very much avoid using language that may seem pure, very confrontational or having a very sort of binary thinking process. I would also be cautious with humor. So what, you may think that humor will make your personal statements to end out. It's a more to know that your admissions officer might not have this in the same sense of humor is you, So it could very sleep work against you that next fall. Is that of course, you should be really honest, your personal statement, but you shouldn't be, including information that it's going Teoh appear very negative, very strongly negative. So if you have a if the subject teacher pop currently you feel they unfairly graded you. This is not the space for that. It's not a space for polemics. If you have any really specific concerns, there are There is a section dedicated to additional comments, and that's where that should take place, if at all. But definitely those kinds of fiction stay out of the personal statement altogether. And last but not least, if it full is mentioning university's reputation. Essentially, if you refer to the fact that you want Teoh apply place with the high reputation, very acclaimed University Out suggests States, saying these kinds of things and instead you're more for us if if that statement is important to you than maybe say in a way that puts a focus for the kinds of resource is that certain kinds of universities have, rather than mentioning reputation because it makes your personal statement appear shallow. 9. General advice: And finally, to conclude this video, you will just blast question, which is regarding general general application advice. So if the first thing I would say is don't compare your reading, persist others. Everyone has a different set of abilities on experiences. So just because you have a friend that started six months ago or a friend that is writing it the day before, essentially don't don't coordinate with them unless you're necessarily having study Group six that her up because you have no clue how their work versus where expansion this. Actually, just follow your own thing because people are different skill sets and what could take you an hour to take some of those 20 minutes? Another surprise is in order to adhere to the word limit character limit. It's just going largely going. I would suggest going significantly over the woodland and then cutting down this enables you to cut off fluff, and I would suggest really, really suggest cutting. Getting it over. I did about double the characters that this is necessary, but it definitely suggests going quite a bit over the word limit with character limit, because a lot of most of us are able to really concisely right the first time around on. So that way you're able to really make a writing dense. Another general piece of advice is to write your personal statement in a separate document . Another website does say you should work in there because sometimes if you pay, since in, the characters might get messed up. But I would simply suggest were from a suffer document because it makes it easier to track of characters you're using on. It's easier to get feedback on it and thereafter, pasted in check in the system to nature, you can see right. Another piece of investors really researched the course that you're lying, too. So this means going beyond just the general description, going to syllabus or reading lists and trying to understand. Okay, so what comes specific topics? Do they do they discuss? How could I maybe make up relevant personal safe? Also, another take away from this video is that it's often discussed that you should mention your future aspirations, your future career path, Universal statement. This is not something that I purse, that this is something that can be beneficial. Suggest that you know why you're taking the course and what you want to use it for. But I personally didn't mention it, and I'm sure a lot of people don't do that, assuming, because it's difficult to know exactly what you want to do. Have alternative to this. But just only they didn't do. But I just wish I had done is that in your personal statement, you couldn't show what your goals what? What? Your takeaways. You're hoping your takeaways will be from stating that course. So what kind of questions would you want to be able to answer with the course? And that suggests that you know that you know what you want to use core sport with without having to necessarily know what's the speaker. Your path you want to be on. I would suggest getting your personal statement run through these two different programs. I want every mind through word on Google docks, because sometimes release that I've organized that they don't quite think of everything, So that's a good sort of feel proof method. If you mentioned books in your personal statement, make sure to read them before and you mentioned that. Also remember that the admissions officer does not no use trying make everything is clear and concise as possible. And don't leave anything up to question or up to interpretation. And lastly, important approach you should take when writing your personal statement is that you should show up tell. So personal statements that were the writer demonstrates their addressed for a subject tend to be stronger than personal statements. Were they solely mentioned that passion for some subject? All right, thank you so much for watching the sculpture video. I really hope that it is useful to you. I felt personally obligated to share my experience because it does take a lot of time to do a lot of research of your own until steaks and I really hope I give you a bit of a short cut and I will be back with videos about other components of the application process. Thank you.