Today I have a post from American student Elsie about the difference between personal statements and personal essays:
One thing I’d like other international students to realize (especially if you’re from the U.S.,) is that writing a personal statement for UCAS is incredibly different than writing a personal essay for the Common App or any other college application form.
The UCAS statement is purely academic, and should reference your interest in your course and the qualifications you have for that course, whereas a Common App essay usually focuses on some type of personal anecdote that will tell the college admissions office more about who you are as a person/your life experience, information completely separate from your academic achievements.
When I visited Oxford for the Open Days, the Egyptology faculty emphasized the importance of proving a genuine academic interest in the course in my personal statement, and that a good way to do so would be to mention some books I’d read or places I’d visited related to Egyptology/my interest in ancient history. In my personal statement, I made sure to emphasize my lifelong passion for the subject, and referenced a few specific Egyptology books I’d found interesting as well as a few museums I’d visited whose Egyptian collections I had enjoyed.
* If you’re interested in studying any kind of history or humanities subject at Oxford, it really helps to be well read on the subject and to try and visit a relevant museum/exhibit if you can.
* When it comes to being well read, go for quality over quantity. It’s better to have read three books on your subject really closely and be able to talk about them in-depth than to have read twenty books and not remember a thing about them!
*Remember, everything you mention in your personal statement you can and WILL be asked about in your interview.