If you were to write your personal statement now, what would you write?
If you are struggling to answer the question but you think you should be able to, I'd suggest you continue reading.
- Write all key dates down in your diary. I don't just mean the UCAS deadlines. I mean dates/ deadlines for all summer school programmes, and other programmes offering support with UCAS processes. Warwick Outreach is offering plenty of programmes for year 10, 11 and 12 students. The applications are closed for this year but if I were you, I'd begin to check this (and other websites you find) page from Autumn onwards until it is updated. I was also part of the UCL Uni-Link programme and another organisation called the Social Mobility Foundation (I particularly recommend this one). I am still with the SMF and benefit greatly from their events and support. We also have an SMF campus network where I know other students studying different subjects who are also part of the SMF.
- Let your passion drive you and do things not to tick the boxes but because you want to. I didn't do a DoE or NCS programme. Not saying that these don't count but do what you want to do. I did blogging. I used to blog about my science research. Now I have sort of moved away from blogging about science and blog about my experiences as a chemist and write my reflections as I learn and develop more as a chemist.
- If you want to read books regarding the course(s) that you're considering applying for, go for it. Again, I never read a single book. I was an avid reader of a chemistry journal 'The Mole' by ChemNet, written for 16-18 year olds. It made more sense than a sophisticated book about oxygen I tried to read in year 12 but couldn't finish it because it didn't make sense.
- Attend taster classes related to the courses. They can be so useful. I couldn't decide between biochemistry and chemistry and these classes really helped me decide.
- I started a science debating club in my school (and called it Mad Scientists). If you have a club, get involved! If not, start one? Considering how interdisciplinary most field are, a debating club in any field is going to only increase your knowledge, your awareness of the sector and your communication skills.
- Get involved using social media. Use it to learn more about your sectors. I learnt so much about chemistry on Twitter and this would also help you decide about universities to choose. One of the reasons I chose Warwick was because of all the research I was reading about on Twitter.
- Join relevant organisations. I appreciate this isn't always easy since you have to pay for membership with some organisations but if you can, do it. Having said this, remember it is not the membership but your involvement with the organisation and the skills that you develop that count.
- I did something called a Nuffield Foundation Research Placement where I spent my year 12 summer in a research department looking at the brain scans of preterm and term babies and seeing the differences. I wrote up my research, did a poster presentation, got a certificate as well as a CREST gold award. Sounds cool, right? Then, consider it! Ate away most of my summer but I got a bursary and my travel expenses reimbursed.
- Does your school offer you an Extended Project Qualification? Mine was a very interdisciplinary one looking at forensic science, politics, law and media. I learnt, through my EPQ, about the link there is between science and politics and how the two should go hand-in-hand to benefit society and thanks to my EPQ, I am so interested in politics (and my Twitter is the evidence for that). These look good on your personal statement but remember to do it on a topic you actually enjoy. Don't try to link it to your subject preference for the sake of UCAS. Mine had nothing to do with chemistry and still I dedicated a paragraph in my personal statement to my EPQ discussing all the skills that I developed.
- Have some hobbies and other roles to show skills that you have (and develop new ones). I was the deputy head girl but even if you don't want to get involved with school leadership, help out at events like careers fairs, parents' evenings and other charity/ fundraising events.
Depending on your year group, some opportunities might no longer be available to you (if they are, try to get your applications in early) but hopefully this post has given you some ideas about what you could do and now you have the whole summer to think about what you might want to do. There are, of course, many other opportunities out there. Let your passion drive you. Do what makes you happy and makes you content that you've chosen the subject that you have. This is very important because every activity would then prove to you that you really enjoy what you've decided to study.
Any questions? Comment away or happy to discuss this further if you need any help. Email me at email@example.com or use Twitter @TheChemicalist.