Tim is the Founder and Director of Elite IB Tutors, and firmly of the belief that the International Baccalaureate’s educational ethos and structure makes it the foremost school-leaving qualification worldwide. Tim completed the IB at Antwerp International School in 2005 obtaining 44 points and went on to obtain an MEng from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 2009. He has been tutoring IBDP & MYP candidates since 2006, and started Elite IB in 2010. Here is his top personal statement advice:
Before even thinking about launching into your personal statement, start compiling your personal ‘CV’. This needn’t be a well scripted and formatted document, but rather a series of bullet points summarising all of your accomplishments, academic and otherwise. Set up a Google Document or a Word document on your desktop which you can update regularly with awards you’ve won in school, essays you’ve received top marks for, books you’ve read which in someway link to your degree. Fleshing out an arsenal of information as you go will make scripting the essay so much easier when it comes time to write.
With this in mind, start early but don’t write too early. Your writing style is likely to improve, and your motivations for following your chosen degree course are likely to be fine-tuned the closer to the submission deadline. Focus on carrying out research, reading other personal statements and compiling information on yourself first, rather than trying to get to the final product too early.
Schools give different information about the suggested weighting of academic vs. non-academic in essays. Our general advice is to ensure your personal statement is at least 70% ‘academic’. This doesn’t only need to be grades you’ve received in school, it should tie in with essay competitions you may have entered, societies you’ve been a part of and more. Don’t have a society which matches your degree course? Why not set one up at your school, not only will this show an entrepreneurial spirit, it may fuel a new passion.
When writing, try your best not to simply ‘teach’ the course matter, as tempting as this is, by simply stating facts about your chosen field. Remember that the personal statement should be personal. Talk about experiences you’ve had, clubs you’ve been a part of etc which in some way align with your chosen degree title. Ideally you can match your achievements with certain areas of the course. Do you design model rockets? Talk a bit about this, and how this makes you enthusiastic to study aerodynamics in your Engineering course. Enjoy speech & debate? Tie this in with the mooting society within the law department.
Remember that many degree courses involve a lot of independent learning, so find opportunities to prove how you will fit in to this different culture of learning, and that you aren’t reliant on instruction and rote learning.
Finally, be passionate and confident, but not arrogant. You need to sell yourself, and prove to the admissions officers how much you care about the course you have chosen, but let this jump off the page through the choices you’ve made to date, not just how great you are as a person!