Reading Around Your Subject


Personal statement time is upon us again with the summer providing the perfect opportunity to get on top of your UCAS application, regardless of which universities you are looking at applying to. If you have been attending open days or researching the best way to approach personal statements, you probably will have come across the terms ‘reading around the subject’ or ‘supra-curricular work’.

I really had no idea what this meant when I was applying. Especially as I had never studied Law before, where to start was a really daunting prospect and I was convinced I needed to read prestigious, academic texts that I knew I wouldn’t understand. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working with students across the country for various access projects and it turns out that the concerns I had at 17 are quite common. Therefore, I thought a quick article might help a few of you!

First of all, reading around the subject doesn’t necessarily mean reading books. Podcasts, magazine articles and documentaries are all great ways to engage with new content. Often, academics will chat about their research in an accessible way on the radio (have a look on BBC Radio 4) or feature in a podcast talking about interesting questions. Popping your headphones in on the way to school and listening to a discussion on thought-provoking areas of your subject is far less daunting than being faced with a huge book.

Furthermore, you are going to university to study - you haven't started yet! - and so the person reading your personal statement doesn’t expect you to be an expert, just to have an interest! Exploring a topic that you find fascinating and can form opinions about is far more impressive and important than trying to find the most academic text out there.

Still not sure where to start? I found scanning newspapers for any recent legal cases helpful as this provided me with a starting point. However, I wish I knew that Oxford have actually compiled a list of suggestions for each subject to get you started: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/suggested-reading-and-resources

Hopefully, this has provided you with some reassurance that ‘reading around the subject’ isn’t the big, scary thing that it can appear to be. Realistically, it’s a brilliant excuse to spend some time getting excited about the subject you are applying for and finding out a bit more!

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