Does Oxford's attitude to personal statements really vary by college?

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BoogieWoogie97
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Hi all,

So I found this article from a few years back whilst looking for what Oxford admissions tutors make of applicants' personal statements:

http://www.cherwell.org/news/2009/05...nal-statements

I've known for quite some time that Oxford is concerned mainly with academic ability and that personal statements are never considered important enough to make the difference between somebody getting an offer and not getting one, but the assertion in the article is a pretty serious one, I think.

Is it really true that some colleges don't read personal statements at all? I can understand the reasoning behind such a decision but it does seem a little too good to be true...

Does anybody have any experience with this? I've tried to look into it further and tried to find out which colleges do or don't read personal statements but have found almost nothing.

I'd really appreciate any answers, especially from current undergraduates at Oxford. Thanks.
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BoogieWoogie97
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Bump.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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I doubt any colleges have a college-wide policy on whether to read/use personal statements. I know of some tutors who don't read it, so I'd say it's more a tutor-by-tutor (as opposed to a college-by-college) basis :yes:
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BoogieWoogie97
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Hey. Thanks for replying.

That's a little unfortunate because I was hoping to apply strategically. xD You wouldn't consider sending me a PM about those tutors, would you? It's probably a long-shot because it's probably one of those things you're not allowed to share but hey-ho. :dontknow:

I guess I'll apply and see what happens.

(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
I doubt any colleges have a college-wide policy on whether to read/use personal statements. I know of some tutors who don't read it, so I'd say it's more a tutor-by-tutor (as opposed to a college-by-college) basis :yes:
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uniqsummer
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Its more subject than college or tutors to be fair. If your applying for a sciences then the chances of your statement getting read are slim to even none in some cases, but it will sure be read very thoroughly if you apply to many humanities subjects as the content is often used in interviews, and can show your thought process behind ideas or materials.

If you have a test associated with your subject then actually this often holds so much weighting that anything you write in your statement isn't going to have any affect if you don't perform well on the test.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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I don't feel it's prudent to share which tutors don't read personal statements Largely because it is irrelevant, in any case. Even if an Oxford don is not going to read your PS, your PS still needs to be stellar for all those other unis you apply to that won't be interviewing you (and thus where the PS will hold more weight).

Just write the strongest PS you can and see how you go!
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BoogieWoogie97
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That's the trouble: there's no admissions test for Biological Sciences. It's a little hard to believe that they'd use just GCSEs to see who gets an interview. xD

It is a science though so at least that's some consolation!

(Original post by uniqsummer)
Its more subject than college or tutors to be fair. If your applying for a sciences then the chances of your statement getting read are slim to even none in some cases, but it will sure be read very thoroughly if you apply to many humanities subjects as the content is often used in interviews, and can show your thought process behind ideas or materials.

If you have a test associated with your subject then actually this often holds so much weighting that anything you write in your statement isn't going to have any affect if you don't perform well on the test.
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Pars12
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(Original post by BoogieWoogie97)
Hi all,

Does anybody have any experience with this? I've tried to look into it further and tried to find out which colleges do or don't read personal statements but have found almost nothing.

I'd really appreciate any answers, especially from current undergraduates at Oxford. Thanks.
I think this is faculty policy not individual college. So you won't find it on the college websites.

e.g. Oxford PPE Website FAQ.

"We have the time to interview those applicants that we shortlist and personal statements do not play a significant role in our shortlisting decisions. We may use your personal statement to inform our discussion at interview, but we do not use its contents to award places as they are not written under controlled conditions."
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BoogieWoogie97
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Ah. I haven't noticed anything similar on Biology's website but here's hoping it's true for them as well. Thing is, I met another guy on this website who said that, when he went to the open day, the admissions tutors specifically said that people applying with medical personal statements (as I am) would be at a disadvantage because they're looking for biologists, not medics.

I'm not quite sure what they mean by 'disadvantage', which bothers me a little bit but hopefully I'll get into one of my medical choices as well so that I have somewhere to go next October.

Thank you for pointing out the FAQ to me.

(Original post by Pars12)
I think this is faculty policy not individual college. So you won't find it on the college websites.

e.g. Oxford PPE Website FAQ.

"We have the time to interview those applicants that we shortlist and personal statements do not play a significant role in our shortlisting decisions. We may use your personal statement to inform our discussion at interview, but we do not use its contents to award places as they are not written under controlled conditions."
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BoogieWoogie97
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Yeah, it does, but it's a medical personal statement. :/ The reason why I'm being so ambitious with my fifth choice is that I don't see the sense in what a lot of other medical applicants do with their fifth choice in treating it as an 'if I don't get medicine offers, I'll do this and do medicine through graduate entry' option.

I've researched this a lot and graduate entry is, in my view, the worst possible way to get into medicine and should really be treated as a last resort in situations where somebody's grades are so bad that they can't go for any of the other routes into medicine, such as resitting or studying abroad. I would just reapply if I didn't get medicine offers in that situation.

So, for me, the fifth option, however low my chance of success, has to be worth doing for its own sake rather than simply treating it as a fallback option to take a roundabout route into medicine.

Sorry for ranting. xD

(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
I don't feel it's prudent to share which tutors don't read personal statements Largely because it is irrelevant, in any case. Even if an Oxford don is not going to read your PS, your PS still needs to be stellar for all those other unis you apply to that won't be interviewing you (and thus where the PS will hold more weight).

Just write the strongest PS you can and see how you go!
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Good bloke
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(Original post by BoogieWoogie97)
Yeah, it does, but it's a medical personal statement. :/ The reason why I'm being so ambitious with my fifth choice is that I don't see the sense in what a lot of other medical applicants do .
Expecting an Oxford College to take seriously an application from someone who is obviously using it as a worst case back-up is a mite ambitious. The other potential medics are, perhaps, being more realistic in applying to fifth-choice universities at which they have some chance of success.

You should consider only having four choices and applying again in a year's time if you don't get an offer.
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Doones
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(Original post by BoogieWoogie97)
Yeah, it does, but it's a medical personal statement. :/ The reason why I'm being so ambitious with my fifth choice is that I don't see the sense in what a lot of other medical applicants do with their fifth choice in treating it as an 'if I don't get medicine offers, I'll do this and do medicine through graduate entry' option.

I've researched this a lot and graduate entry is, in my view, the worst possible way to get into medicine and should really be treated as a last resort in situations where somebody's grades are so bad that they can't go for any of the other routes into medicine, such as resitting or studying abroad. I would just reapply if I didn't get medicine offers in that situation.

So, for me, the fifth option, however low my chance of success, has to be worth doing for its own sake rather than simply treating it as a fallback option to take a roundabout route into medicine.

Sorry for ranting. xD
You have little to no chance of a succesful application if [email protected] is your 5th choice for an otherwise entirely Medicine application elsewhere. It's simply not worth doing it.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Ah I see why you are asking now. I'm afraid I have to agree with the others - I don't think applying for Biological Sciences at Oxford with a medicine-based PS is a good idea, at all :nope: I think your statement is more likely than not to be read, and they will realise straightaway that you are not a "serious" Biological Sciences applicant and probably not invite you to interview :sadnod:
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BoogieWoogie97
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Yeah, thought so. :/ Thanks anyway.

(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
Ah I see why you are asking now. I'm afraid I have to agree with the others - I don't think applying for Biological Sciences at Oxford with a medicine-based PS is a good idea, at all :nope: I think your statement is more likely than not to be read, and they will realise straightaway that you are not a "serious" Biological Sciences applicant and probably not invite you to interview :sadnod:
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BJack
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I seem to remember meeting somebody at interview who'd applied for biochem as their 5th choice with medicine, so you might stand some chance – but as the others have said, it's a bit of an outside shot.
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BoogieWoogie97
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Haha, thanks. I don't mind if it's an outside shot. It's just an experiment really. If it's unsuccessful, it's really not that big of a deal for me.

That guy must have written one hell of a personal statement. Trying to make handing out teas in a hospice relevant to biochemistry must be quite the challenge. :rofl:

(Original post by BJack)
I seem to remember meeting somebody at interview who'd applied for biochem as their 5th choice with medicine, so you might stand some chance – but as the others have said, it's a bit of an outside shot.
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Pars12
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(Original post by BoogieWoogie97)
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This is what Keble says ...
Applications to Oxford University for Biological Sciences are competitive, and not all students that apply are offered an interview. Applicants who fail to meet the selection criteria to a high standard will not be called for interview. Students are selected for interview from their UCAS forms on the basis of: examination scores (achieved and predicted); referee’s report; personal statement – showing an interest in, and an academic potential for Biological Sciences
source: http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/admissions...dback/biol2014


The lack of aptitude test probably weakens your chances but If you could get through to interview you might be able to argue your case.
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BoogieWoogie97
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Yeah, that's the main hurdle, I think. Thanks for finding it for me, I appreciate it.

(Original post by Pars12)
This is what Keble says ...


source: http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/admissions...dback/biol2014


The lack of aptitude test probably weakens your chances but If you could get through to interview you might be able to argue your case.
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dragonkeeper999
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I knew someone who applied for medicine with Biological Sciences at Oxford as their back-up, and they were rejected before interview. Since their grades were excellent I can only assume that they looked at the personal statement, saw 'medicine' and rejected her. Obviously it might depend on which admissions tutor is looking at the application, but even those who don't properly read personal statements probably have a quick glance through to check there's some interest in their subject...

But if you know you have zero interest in anything other than medicine or Biological Sciences at Oxford, I guess you aren't losing anything by applying just in case...
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BoogieWoogie97
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(Original post by dragonkeeper999)
But if you know you have zero interest in anything other than medicine or Biological Sciences at Oxford, I guess you aren't losing anything by applying just in case...
This is the philosophy, yes. I have no intention of doing graduate entry medicine because it's quite simply the worst way into medicine and should be avoided at all costs by people who have the grades and relevant work experience for the normal route into medicine.

It does seem a bit like a lottery as far as personal statements go. Somebody who wrote a purely Biological Sciences personal statement and mentioned a bunch of wonderful stuff relevant to that might as well not have written anything if her personal statement gets picked up by one of these tutors who refuse to read them on principle.

On the other hand, somebody who didn't write one relevant to Biological Sciences would, if that same tutor was looking at their application, neither be advantaged nor disadvantaged. I wish UCAS would either just allow people to apply to five medical schools or let them write a separate personal statement for the fifth choice. It's such a mess, medical applications. :/

Out of interest, was that person applying with achieved grades or with predictions?
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