Is my personal statement strong enough?

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Academicbee123
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I’m a year 13 and I’m considering taking a gap year for many reasons. I didn’t apply to Oxbridge last time but I might try this year.
I will apply for Biology (Oxford) or Biochemistry (Oxford) as it’s unlikely I’ll get into natural sciences at Cambridge as I don’t do maths.
These are the extracurriculars I’ve done:

- I did the HE* programme where I did higher level experiments for biology and chemistry
- I participated in university gel electrophoresis experiments
- I’m a leader in my college’s psychology society
- I’m a school mentor and help younger students
- I’ve read junk DNA by Nessa Carey and The Theory of evolution by Charles Darwin
- I’m a science tutor to GCSE students with long term health conditions ( MS, cancer) for free
- I used to be a British Red Cross first aider

I don’t know if this would make a good enough Biology personal statement for Oxford, St. Andrews, Bristol, Imperial College London, UCL
Last edited by Academicbee123; 1 year ago
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USI_15
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Hi, I am a current second year Biological Sciences Student at Imperial.

I definitely think you have enough achievements under your belt to make a solid personal statement - However it's very hard to judge if your personal statement is any good before you do actually write your personal statement. My advice to you would be to draft your personal statement first and then get feedback on that. After all, the PS is a lot more than a bullet point list of what you've done and the way you present each of the above things is crucial to deciding whether you get accepted or not.

Good luck, USI
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Academicbee123
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(Original post by USI_15)
Hi, I am a current second year Biological Sciences Student at Imperial.

I definitely think you have enough achievements under your belt to make a solid personal statement - However it's very hard to judge if your personal statement is any good before you do actually write your personal statement. My advice to you would be to draft your personal statement first and then get feedback on that. After all, the PS is a lot more than a bullet point list of what you've done and the way you present each of the above things is crucial to deciding whether you get accepted or not.

Good luck, USI
Thank you for the feedback! Do you have any advice for making a good biology personal statement?
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Interrobang
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The main thing you should focus on (especially for Oxbridge) is the extra reading/other stuff directly related to your course choice and why the things you have done/read have been interesting
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yeekwan.law
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Hi, I'm a penultimate-year Biochemistry undergraduate at Oxford. It's worth understanding more, and writing about gel electrophoresis experiments (when Western, Southern and Northern blots are used and why the respective reagents are added) - if you do this, you MUST be prepared to be asked questions on electrophoresis (this was the case for me, I was asked why it was important for SDS to be added and about variants such as 2D electrophoresis).

Have also read Junk DNA by Nessa Carey - it's a good book, I would encourage you to try and distill what you learnt from it into one or two sentences. Also might be worth reading another book on epigenetics, to gain more perspective, perhaps Kat Arney's Herding Hemingway's Cats (it focuses more on X chromosome inactivation)? One criticism as a biochemist is that (assuming I recall correctly) it doesn't go into the beauty of the epigenetic code, e.g. H3K4 can either be methylated (heterochromatin) or acetylated (euchromatin), so think about the transition and/or competition between these two states; also, think about the various components that are involved in a working epigenetics system. For a working mechanism, there needs to be at least 'writers', 'erasers' and 'sensors'. Think about how else there can be competition - if the same residue also undergoes other modifications, such as ubiquitination, etc. - modifications are often mutually exclusive. Another thing you could potentially do is comment on the title 'Junk DNA' head-on, and think about why non-coding DNA is important (for example, just because it doesn't produce mRNA you can detect doesn't mean it's not produced at all) - if this is something that interests you, I would encourage you to look at RNAi-dependent nucleation centres, and more specifically, the role of Dcr1, Ago1 and Rdp1 at mediating heterochromatin formation.
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artful_lounger
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Just to note, please do not post your personal statement on this thread (or any public forum on TSR or otherwise), as it will be cached by google and flagged by the UCAS anti-plagiarism software. If you want feedback on your personal statement directly, then you can make a thread in this forum: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/for...lay.php?f=1083 which is a private forum where your post will not be able to be cached by google etc, and you will get feedback from the dedicated PS review team
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Academicbee123
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(Original post by yeekwan.law)
Hi, I'm a penultimate-year Biochemistry undergraduate at Oxford. It's worth understanding more, and writing about gel electrophoresis experiments (when Western, Southern and Northern blots are used and why the respective reagents are added) - if you do this, you MUST be prepared to be asked questions on electrophoresis (this was the case for me, I was asked why it was important for SDS to be added and about variants such as 2D electrophoresis).

Have also read Junk DNA by Nessa Carey - it's a good book, I would encourage you to try and distill what you learnt from it into one or two sentences. Also might be worth reading another book on epigenetics, to gain more perspective, perhaps Kat Arney's Herding Hemingway's Cats (it focuses more on X chromosome inactivation)? One criticism as a biochemist is that (assuming I recall correctly) it doesn't go into the beauty of the epigenetic code, e.g. H3K4 can either be methylated (heterochromatin) or acetylated (euchromatin), so think about the transition and/or competition between these two states; also, think about the various components that are involved in a working epigenetics system. For a working mechanism, there needs to be at least 'writers', 'erasers' and 'sensors'. Think about how else there can be competition - if the same residue also undergoes other modifications, such as ubiquitination, etc. - modifications are often mutually exclusive. Another thing you could potentially do is comment on the title 'Junk DNA' head-on, and think about why non-coding DNA is important (for example, just because it doesn't produce mRNA you can detect doesn't mean it's not produced at all) - if this is something that interests you, I would encourage you to look at RNAi-dependent nucleation centres, and more specifically, the role of Dcr1, Ago1 and Rdp1 at mediating heterochromatin formation.
Wow! That’s all very useful, thank you so much! I will definitely take into account what you said when I write up my personal statement! From what I can gather... it looks like I need to explicitly explain what I’ve learned from my reading.
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Interrobang
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(Original post by Academicbee123)
Wow! That’s all very useful, thank you so much! I will definitely take into account what you said when I write up my personal statement! From what I can gather... it looks like I need to explicitly explain what I’ve learned from my reading.
There's a balance between showing what you learned more like an essay and saying why it was interesting (which is more appropriate for a PS)
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USI_15
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(Original post by Academicbee123)
Thank you for the feedback! Do you have any advice for making a good biology personal statement?
Sure thing! I can give you some general tips:
- First and foremost keep in mind that this PS is an advertisement of you and that you are in competition with a lot of other people who have also done lots of amazing things. You therefore need to demonstrate why you are good for them and why their course is good for you.
- Avoid making your PS a laundry list of things you have done - demonstrate how each thing has made you a superior candidate. You read X book/did a placement/climbed mount everest/rode the Loch Ness monster etc etc So what? What insights did that experience give you? How has that experience made you better than all the other people you are competing with? (some of them also have cool achievements!) Don't hesitate to engage a bit with the technicality of a subject you bring up - e.g. if you mention a book, maybe mention one of the more interesting ideas in it and reflect on this in a sentence or two. I also find quality is better than quantity - a few achievements that really highlight your strengths is much better than smothering the admissions tutor with a list of achievements that you have barely explained.
- Show personality - Think if you were an admissions officer reading through PS after PS after PS and were bored out of your mind. The last thing you want to read is something monotone and generic - you need to stand out - try to include your personality (e,g. slip in mention of a hobby & show some excitement for the subject! ). Note though - do not force this too much either - it can be a tricky but important balance.
- It's hard to realise when something you have written sounds a bit odd, especially after reading it over and over until your eyes are sore. My advice would be try have your PS read out to you (e.g using MS word 'read aloud' function) because this can sometimes help me notice when something reads a bit weirdly. Obviously, also get the opinion of as many others as you can too on your PS. Avoid flowery language (technical terms relevant to biology are ok), but don't be informal either.

I think there's lots of other generic points too you can find with a quick google for 'guide to writing a PS' but the above are often the hardest I find when writing and also when looking at the PSs of others.

Good luck and stay safe!
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