(Original post by Paulwhy)
Currently there are no Economics Personal Statement in the wiki and unlikely to be until after September. Current AS students are starting their PSs and could do with some guidance. As I have got experience of what does and what does not work in an economics PS I have decided to do this thread. My plan is that you will post your questions. And I will then edit this initial post to give answers in a FAQ type format.
These answers are only my (hopefully informed!) opinions and should not be interpreted too religiously. In order to give understandable answers, my comments are liable to have excessive declarative force (e.g. a lack of conditionalisers)
What should be in an economics PS?
1) Explain why you are interested in and have ability in economics.
2) Want an example of an economic idea and your reaction (feelings and thoughts).
3) Using your experiences vividly to give examples of the relevant personal skills you have.
What is the role of each of those sections?
Section 1): Give background. Show that this is not just a random short term decision. That doing an econ degree is natural extension of your life so far. That it is a continuation.
Section 2): Show that you are an Economist rather than a layman. Take an idea from a book by a great Economist. Put the idea into a couple of sentences. Give your reaction: feelings and thoughts (1 or 2 sentences on each). In order to do this you will need to read some books in order to find the concept that resonates with you most.
Section 3) Show that you have the personal skills needed to do a degree. Don’t just give activities and skills. Instead give specific examples. So just saying “I needed to be a leader to complete the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award” is not great. Want an example of how doing the award required you to be a leader.
And are you sure that they want these 3 things?
I don’t claim to have a direct inside secret source. Breaking a PS down into 3 sections is a suggestion on how to give a PS shape: a lot of PSs I read have terrible structure. This is not good:it appears that you can’t/won’t write in a well-structured manner. And as economics undergraduates spend 3 years writing lots of essay it is very relevant.
As the PSs I have read are generally poorly planned, felt it essential to some advice on structure. As I only have 1 suggestion that is all I give. However, I do think it is a good plan.
But if you have an alternative plan on how to lay on your statement then go with it. It is certainly possible I have been excessively prescriptive. However the wiki similarly talks about 3 questions.
Are you sure that they want the thing about the economic idea? I haven't seen it much in personal statements but it does seem like something they would like.
I would not go as far as sure (are economists ever sure about anything?). But when there are 15 applicants per place you certainly want a strong application that sells you as an economist. Without any guidance from me nearly every PS I have read has listed the author and title of a book. All I am encouraging applicants to do is to show they have read the inside and not just the outside of the book. Hopefully by this will come across as an economist and not just someone who visited a bookshop once
What order should I put these sections in?
I think generally the best idea is to put them in the order I have numbered them (However, the most important thing is to have an order and not just have an unstructured PS with random sentences.) With the order I have suggested you start in the beginning with what life experience have made you an economist (section 1), give an example of where you are currently as an economist (section 2) and finally give the secondary personal skills that support your application (section 3).
I have read lots of PSs where the economics gets squashed into the 1st introductory paragraph. Not good.
Do I really need to have a deep knowledge of current economic affairs in the world? I'm just worried that I'll go to an interview and be asked "What do you think of....?" and not know what they are talking about.
Firstly not sure how many unis interview for econ. Secondly you are not at that stage yet: need a PS to get an interview before worrying about interview technique. Thirdly if you read The Economist or read a newspaper then you will be fine.
However wanting to understand current affairs could be one of the motivations you give for wanting to study economics.
Can you say something in the course that interests you? Like, "I am particularly interested in studying Econometrics because....."? .
Sounding like you have read the undergraduate handbook is good as it show you are serious and have done some research.
However not sure how you can from a position of ignorance finish that sentence well.
What book should I get my economic idea from?
There is no best book.
Reading more books gives you more choice and hence more chance of finding an idea that really resonates with you.
Which book is one I am likely to get something out of? Personally I don't care that much about real world stuff and prefer economic theory like demand curves but I don't mind reading anything that is interesting and will add some content to my personal statement. Is there a list of good ones? I heard Freakonomics is good, what else is there?
Asking "which book?" is like asking me "which gf?" (or bf depending on sexual preference). It is very subjective depends on you.
To find a book start with cheapest options:
i) Go to library.
ii) Go to charity shops.
Want to associate yourself with quality. So Nobel prize winners are good. Or people likely to (e.g. Krugman)
Oh and I can't recall any helpees getting anything good out of Freakonomics. Having recently the book ,I would not want to reference it in a PS. To me it is too uncritical and leaves me detached. I don't feel active.
How should I read the book?
With a pen and paper. When the book explains a concept that produces a cognitive and emotional reaction in you, write the idea and the reaction down.
Could you give me a list of books that would be good and could be mentioned on a PS?
I don’t have a list sorry.
Any online sources of economics ideas?
Do I need to know anything specific outside of the syllabus for the interview? I read in a book that Oxford have asked about the Philips curve and this has not come up in AS. In fact some Economics applicants haven't even studied Economics A Level so they wouldn't know either.
Flippantly: non-economics students probably will not get in as at top unis 80-90% of students have A-level economics. More constructively: reading 1st year undergraduate economics textbooks would be good (2nd hand from last 10 years fine). That can be a source of economic ideas for you to respond to. And that will let you know what you are letting yourself in for.
What do you mean by an economic idea? Something like David Ricardo's stuff about comparative advantage?
That would be an example. But you want a 20th/21st centaury example not one from 1815. Want a current active idea. E.g. an idea that won a Nobel prize. With old ideas:
i) You sound like a historian not an economist
ii) How can you possibly have a reaction about a concept that is now commonly accepted.
You can't just go and look for any book because, as you said, Freankonomics would not be a good idea, and neither would an old book (like The Wealth of Nations).
This sounds somewhat defeatist to me. And I am not saying you should not read popular economics books. Just be realist about them: reading one will not magically make you into or show you to be an economist. However it may be a pathway to other economics books that do. Yes, you may have to read more than 1 book if you want a strong PS.
Could you read a book about Game Theory or is it too much Mathematics and not enough Economics? How about a book by Stiglitz like his Globalization one? Or would that be too tough at my level? I just want something which will look good, give me ideas and not be too tough.
Game Theory would do nicely. I have not read the Stiglitz Globalisation book. But he is certainly a high class economist and if globalisation interests you then it sounds like a good choice to me. You can certainly try his book. Finally a book written by a Nobel Prize winner is stronger source material than one half written by a Clarks Medal Winner.
What sort of writing style should I use?
Direct: You are trying to sell yourself. So the PS should be like a Sales Pitch.
Punchy: As with amateur boxing want each sentence to score you points.
What should I do to sound clever?
Don't try and sound clever.
Just assemble clearly the evidence and explain the reasons why economics is the correct course for you.
What should I say about my A-levels?
i)there is already a box on the form for qualifications.
ii)PS space is finite and you do not want to waste it
iii) anything you say about why your A-levels make you good at econ will apply to anyone else taking those subjects. Hence you will not gain a relative advantage.
Should you really not say anything about your A Levels? Couldn't you say that studying Physics or Chemistry has made you think analytically and logically, and also say that you like Mathematics and that you're not afraid of the Mathematics you'll find in the Economics course? .
The admissions tutor will already know the virtues of Physics and Chemistry: so that would be a waste of your time. If you believe that one of your key strengths is maths, then sure you should demonstrate that in your PS. But that would not consist of talking about your A-levels or saying (weakly) that you like maths. Conversely introducing evidence (e.g. Maths Olympiad) or particular vivid experience would be strong.
Could I say that I achieved Bronze in the Mathematics challenge or will a uni turn their nose up at the Bronze? .
Well it is a hell of a lot better than talking about liking maths or what skills A-level Maths requires of you. And anyway you are applying for a degree in economics not maths degree. I am sure Keynes said that an Economist requires little bits of different skills. And a Bronze sounds like a decent dollop of maths to me.
What are the role of Extra Curricular activities?
No one is going to be impressed by your ECs in themselves. Need to use them as a launching pad to sell skills. So "I sing in the church choir" is not good. But you might use your singing experiences to show skills e.g.that you can co-operate, learn and interpret source materials.
What is the role of work experience?
No one is going to be much impressed by your work experience in itself. It is not going to be directly relevant to your ability to do economics: I can imagine no work experience that you can have done that can show economic ability.
However, I can think of two indirect uses of work experience:
1)If you have finance experience and say that you want to do finance in the future, as economic qualifications are valued in that industry, this will mean you have a certain level of commitment to studying economics when it gets tough.
2)Show personal skills.
I feel I haven't done enough extra activities for 3). What can I do? .
It is not possible that you have done no extra-curricular activities. You must have some relevant personal qualities. And you must have some activities that can show them. There must have been 5 or 6 occasions in your life when you had to use/develop personal qualities. If you can’t recall any such occasions then either:
i) You have had an accident and have concussion and need urgently to seek medical attention
ii) You are an android and need to be returned to the factory to have your humanisation software updated.
What should I do?
Start early on your PS.
Try to use your own voice. That way you will sound active.
Don’t ask people “Is my PS good?”; instead ask “How can I make it better?”
Write a PS that is primarily about you not about economics. i.e. don't start trying to write what you think an undergraduate economics essay should be like.
Use the PS Helper service: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=134
after reading the PS Helper FAQ first http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...5#post12978105
What should I not do?
Use lists (of books or skills or anything else)
Claim to read the Economist (so clichéd).
Use the Wealth of Nations as a book reference. Again clichéd. But also not where modern economics is at.
Make unsubstantiated claims (you will just sound arrogant).
Say you want to become an economist. Analogy: If you were applying to become a vicar you would not say that you want to become a Christian.
Where can I get general (non-economics specific) advise on PSs?
Lots of places:
i)The TSR wiki: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki..._Statement_FAQ
simple start. Can be trashy e.g. used to say that it was ok to do a joint PS for Business Studies and Economics which is terribly wrong. But it looks at the moment.
ii)Search in google for "UCAS personal statement Help". Ignore the rip of PS reading services (use the PS Helper service instead). Go for the university websites: they know what they like.
iii)LSE wesbite: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/und..._statement.htm
Solid advise from the best British university for Economics.