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Life as a student in Bath

Tagged: Application

Writing a personal statement for a Science course

  

📥  Undergraduate

As we are well off into the winter term, with UCAS deadlines creeping up, I am aware lots of students are starting to construct or finish their final statement drafts. I remember being in that position a year ago and I specifically remember trying to find constructive advice online and ending up with rather vague tips. And so, I’ve decided to summarize what I learned throughout my application journey in 5 steps and how I received 5 offers from top universities.

Making progress on my personal statement

1. Do additional reading around subject

This is quite an obvious point, but nonetheless very important. If you have already caught up with this task during the summer holidays- great, but if you’ve found yourself in a position where you need to get on with this quickly here are some tips.

Don’t think additional reading relates to books exclusively. This can also relate to scientific journals with research that interests you, and most of these journals post electronic copies online for the public. Another source is scientific articles (make sure the website is verified for authenticity), which will elevate you above peer applicants as you will build up knowledge of the forefront of your chosen course and be able to reference, or even talk about, relevant scientific developments. For example, in my statement I talked ‘a bit about Solid State Physics and more specifically PVD (physical vapour deposition) developments, which is a very budding field in my respective course. And the third source of “reading” I’d recommend is documentaries! This is a very fun and interactive way to get your head around a topic, especially for people who benefit from visual methods of learning.

2. Demonstrate course-specific vocabulary and knowledge

This, of course, relates to my previous point and requires some in-depth reading on your part to acquire some of that vocabulary. Through reading other successful statements I’ve discovered that admissions officers appreciate when applicants use degree-specific terminology, rather than overused phrases, references and quotes. Some of these overused phrases include:

“From a young age…”

“I’ve always been fascinated…”

“In today’s world…”

These recur in nearly every application, so it would be best to find similar phrases to avoid these clichés. There’s another thing to consider when using terminology is to remember to use it in an intelligent and relevant way. Just sprinkling scientific words won’t necessarily boost your application. I will come back to this in point 5.

3. Show a genuine passion

Many applicants will attempt to do this, even if they don’t necessarily have given passion, by using phrases that include “passion” and “desire” rather than expressing it by demonstrating fore-said knowledge all throughout the statement. A really good way to approach this, without coming across as trying too hard, is to relate seemingly unrelated experience to your course in a positive way. For example I related my art skills to my ambitions and skills in Physics by referring to the practice, dedication, organization and focus needed. But, as you have a limited word count, don’t overdo it to the extent of it taking over the majority of the text. It should be subtle references all throughout the text.

4. Balance pastoral and academic aspects

Although most universities don’t admit mainly focusing on the academic portion of your application, it is very much reality. When we look at it subjectively, universities receive thousands of applications and hence will try to sort students purely on the academic highlights. The bad news is that this in turn means you should only include a small personal part (roughly 5-10% of the statement) talking about hobbies, interests and pastoral extra-curriculars. The good news is that you can promote any achievement and elevate it to a higher level by relating the skills you acquired and how they’ll help you in future studies. If you happen to be a high-achieving student, it is very important to choose which of those achievements to mention, as you don’t want them to take over the majority of your statement or to be focused in one paragraph like a list (admissions officers don’t appreciate lists).

5. Seek feedback

Also- a very obvious point, but I need to say my two cents on the matter! Obviously, you’ll want to have met with or start setting up meetings with your respective subject’s Head of Department. But what I would also advice is to meet with teachers from different fields to get different perspectives. What I personally did was meet with an English teacher for tips regarding my vocabulary and statement structure. Basically- seek advice from any teacher willing to give you their time and although sometimes you’ll find different teachers’ advice contradictory, that is when you have to decide which solution would boost your application in what way and whether it would benefit the way you want to present yourself to the admissions officer. A great way to approach teachers for advice would be to send them a draft beforehand, arrange a meeting (give them enough time to read through it and deduce what needs to be talked about) and bring a printed copy of your statement to the meeting so you can work through the text and take notes on things your teacher addresses. Through doing this a few times you’ll end up going through different drafts and hopefully  come out with a personal statement you and your teachers think reflects you and presents you best to the universities you’ve set your eyes on.

 

Why I accepted my Bath offer

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📥  Eman, Faculty of Science, First year

Making that final choice in your mind about where you’re going to be studying/living for the next 3/4 years is probably the most significant decision you will have to make during your school years. You’ve been in school for almost your whole life, progressing into each year as if it was routine and most likely attending schools that were convenient in terms of where you live or which were influenced by your parents. Choosing a university differs in that it is seen as the beginning of what you intend to do for the rest of your life.

So far this all sounds very serious but accepting the offer from the university you want to go to is actually a very exciting feeling. It makes you start to think about what university life will be like and also gets you motivated to perform well in your exams in order to get the results you need.

When I was researching universities, Bath was not one that I had thought about as much as others so I was quite surprised when it stood out to me. The main thing that attracted me to Maths and Physics at Bath was the course itself. I had looked a lot into what my course was like at different universities and the specific modules on the Bath course were exactly what I wanted to do. I felt that I couldn’t fault the course and this surprised me as I managed to find something wrong with all the other courses that I had looked at.

This played a huge part on my final decision to accept my offer from Bath. I knew that I would be at university for at least 4 years, and I didn’t want to have to spend even a day not enjoying my course. When you already know which exact course you want to study at university, it’s easy to focus on other aspects when making your choice, thinking that your course is pretty much the same at most universities. However looking in detail at which modules you’ll be studying every year of your degree is a must because for me, I found that my dislike for some made me stop considering certain universities.

As well as the course being a major factor for me, I wanted to make sure I made the right choice in terms of “university life”, looking at aspects such as the campus, facilities, what else the university has to offer aside from an education and just generally whether I’ll feel at home there.

When my research into universities first began in year 12 (back when I was curious so before I properly started to look into everything) I ended up really liking another university. I must have been on every part of their website, finding out everything I could about it, which only made me like it even more. There was a time when I was certain that that was where I wanted to go. However, when I expanded my research and went fully into depth, attended open days and spoke to different people, I realised that I became less fixated on that specific university and grew more and more interested in Bath. Attending the open day for Bath showed me that it was the one over every other university as it was the only university I felt at home at. Being on campus, I remember thinking how I could picture myself there for the next few years and it just felt right; something I didn’t experience at any other university.

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

When it came to accepting my offer, there was the whole “this is it” feeling for me. I knew that the university provided one of the best degrees in the country so it was really down to whether Bath was where I wanted to be. So many questions crossed my mind, all along the lines of whether this university was right for me. However, even though I thought about all these questions and hesitated before making my decision, I just knew that it was the right choice, especially because no other university felt right the way that Bath does.

For me, choosing a university was a really big deal, which is why I thought of pretty much everything that could potentially influence my decision. However, one thing I would say is that it’s easy to find things you really like about a certain university and because that might be the main thing you want from your university choice, you could overlook so many other aspects which you might not notice until you get there. I was fixated on one university but didn’t realise that I wouldn’t have liked so many small things about it if I hadn’t noticed those same things at Bath when I visited. Make sure you keep your options open so that when it comes to making that final decision, you won’t hesitate as you’ll know it’s just right.

 

Plotting your Personal Statement

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Hallelujah! You’re reaching the end of Further Education!

There’s mention of UCAS applications in the air, and you’ve heard on the grapevine that said applications entail a personal statement. Before you can grip onto the freedom that university offers, you first have to wiggle your way in. Due to the growing volume of people wanting to go, getting into University is a very competitive task. Sadly, many will face being turned down unless they really shine on the platform that is UCAS Track.

On some courses, universities will ponder your application, but may also interview you (although generally not at Bath unless you apply for Pharmacy or Social Work). Although this is another way to show what you can offer the university and to truly demonstrate your commitment, determination and other jazzy virtues (please, try and be original here! Don’t just play the ‘I’m really good at team-work card’…. Everyone does that!), many people get into University based solely on how they appear on their online application.

At the heart of the UCAS process is writing a brilliant Personal Statement. I’m not going to sugar-coat this process: for me, perfecting my personal statement was a long, ol’ toil. It means sitting down for long periods thinking about what’s good about you, what challenges you and what fascinates you. You’ve got to balance making yourself appear as a strong contender and driven leader, whilst not blowing your own trumpet too much and appearing a little on the arrogant side.

Don't fear it! Your personal statement is totally doable!

Don't fear it! Your personal statement is totally doable!

Tapping out your personal statement also entails thinking chronologically through your life about all the character-building things you’ve done, and advantageous adventures you’ve been on. You also need to think back to qualifications you’ve scooped up, the volunteering you’ve done, conferences and talks you’ve attended and influential people you’ve met. It’s tough, but once you press that ‘submit’ button, it really is worth it.

When writing your personal statement, remember to be unique and special. Don’t eyeball what your friends have done and regurgitate this with a few different names, places and books. Don’t Google ‘chemical engineering personal statement template’ unless for inspiration and try and avoid using common words such as ‘confident’, ‘fuels my interest in….’, ‘my future plans…’, ‘passionate’, ‘fascinates’, ‘I enjoy’ or ‘interesting’. These may sound apt, but on the page to admissions tutors reading your personal statement, they become generic and repetitive and consequently, you may not stick out as a ‘keeper’ for the university.

Try and make your personal statement seem new, fresh and insightful not mundane or monotonous. Don’t ramble on about your Duke of Edinburgh award for too long, or underline for paragraphs and paragraphs how playing the saxophone has built your self-confidence and ability to perform; try thinking about things which make you different. Have you explored a different country and seismically changed how you thought about something? What are your true ambitions for the future, not just what sounds good? What books or documentaries have you seen/read that you went out of your way to view, not just what was prescribed by your subject teacher? How will you contribute to the university?

Once you get started, it's hard to stop and don't! It's great to get it off your chest !

Once you get started, it's hard to stop and don't! It's great to get it off your chest !

Another handy tip is to swallow your pride and let as many people read your personal statement as possible. I know it might be a little embarrassing, and your uncle might read out funny segments in an odd accent but it’s worth it as people you know can be critical and let you know if your personal statement really represents the real you. Ask people what they think you could change? Does the structure need to be re-shuffled? Do you sound a little too crazy about quantum physics to the extent that you don’t have a social life? Make sure it’s balanced, and oozes who you really are.

I vividly remember the frustration I felt when trimming my personal statement down to exactly 4000 characters. This was painful, really painful. I recall that there were some parts I just couldn’t get rid of even if they were a little too ‘rambly’ or irrelevant to the personal statement. Getting someone to help you out here is handy too, and be strict with yourself – don’t keep putting off cutting it down and don’t skimp on adequate grammar and punctuation, even if it hogs characters. You need to look as if you can construct a sharp and coherent piece – perfect for university essay writing.

Another pointer when putting together your personal statement is to remember the importance of quality over quantity. Although you could indeed try to list all the school trips you’ve been on, every single book you’ve ever read and all the awards you’ve swiped up; unless you explain how these have boosted you as a university candidate and what you’ve practically taken from them, they don’t carry much weight on your statement.

Instead of merely highlighting that you’ve volunteered at a local museum, add on what you’ve gained from it. Did this help with your interpersonal skills? Did it soup up your knowledge of a certain era or invention? What would you do differently if you got the opportunity again?

One final tip for this 'Personal Statement 101' is to make sure that your personal statement is clearly structured. Ensure that the information doesn’t blur into clashing parts or dart about. Have a clear introduction (although keep this short and snappy) and a summary or conclusion closing on your future plans or why you’re giddy to get into University life. Make sure your sections are concise, Universities really buy it!

Best of luck,

Charlotte.

P.s. If you have any Personal Statement tips of your own, feel free to comment on this article!

Personal Statement... where do you start?

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Matt, School of Management

If you are starting to think about applying to university in September then you will probably be starting to think about (and hopefully not panic about!) your UCAS personal statement.

Writing a personal statement is somewhat like beginning to write a blog post - you have no idea how to start it and next thing you know, it's your deadline day and you write the first thing that comes into your head. That's what I'm doing right now and yes, it makes a pretty witty start to this blog post but if you do the same thing with your personal statement, it probably won't work. And if it does work, you should probably forget about Uni and just jump straight into being an author, write a good book, make millions and retire at 35.

When it comes to your personal statement, you need to dedicate the time and effort that it deserves because even if you can get 4 A*s the person with the same grades and a cracking personal statement may take your university place from you, so here's some advice!

Introduction

First impressions count, even on paper - your introduction should be short but effective. I know some people who start using quotes, others who suggested ideas that they had relating to the course they wanted to study. I wanted to study French and International Management so I used a bit of both by saying:

"If I asked you to think of the greatest invention of all time, what would you imagine?

I believe that it is language and the ability to communicate with other people."

Writing about your Choice of Course

After this it is good to talk about why you chose the course you're applying for. Things you should think about are:

  • Why you enjoy the subject
  • Is there a particular aspect that you are interested in?
  • Do you look forward to studying the subject in greater depth?
  • Did your work experience confirm your interest?
  • Do you have a particular career in mind and why do you want to follow it?

Writing about your work experience

This is a good opportunity to show the university how your work experience has confirmed your interest in your area of study. It is also an opportunity for you to list any skills that you may have had a chance to develop, such as:

  • Communication
  • Team work
  • Independent work
  • Computer literacy
  • Managing others
  • Working to deadlines
  • Diplomacy
  • Problem solving

If you have had a work experience placement through your school or college that has nothing at all to do with the course you are applying for, don't worry! If you want to, you can talk about how your work experience affirmed that you did not want to work in that area. If this is the case, be sure to state something that affirms the choice of course you are making now!

Writing about your school / college experience

In this section, you should concentrate on your most recent years of study as experiences you gained when you were 13 are not as relevant as your more recent experiences. You should use this section to show the university that you are able to cope with the pressures of studying at university. Things you should show you are:

  • Self-motivated
  • Self-disciplined
  • Sociable
  • Independent
  • Able to strike a balance between work and relaxation

Writing about your extra-curricular activities

For most people, the vast majority of relative experiences will be gained within school and college but if there is something that you have achieved or experienced outside school that you feel is relevant, you should mention it here. This can be anything from hobbies to part time work or maybe a club you are part of outside of school or perhaps a sporting involvement.

Conclusion

You should use this last, short paragraph to sell yourself one last time. Bring the reader back to your choice of degree or your ability to be successful at university. It is important to present yourself as someone who will be able to take care of themselves at university. Do not be tempted to mention why you want to go to a certain university as this may prejudice any other universities that you have selected.

Final Tips

  1. Make sure your spelling and punctuation is perfect. Get someone to proof read it for you.
  2. If you have a reference writer, work with them. Plan it so that you are both saying different things. This way you maximise the amount of content you can include. If you both spend time talking about the same thing, it’s a waste of characters.
  3. Do not have unnecessary repetition
  4. Do not confuse self-confidence with empty boasting - they'll just think you're a spanner.
  5. Avoid negative words like "bad, fault, fail, hate"
  6. At the end of every sentence, ask yourself, "So what?" This will help you to make sure that you haven't wasted any characters. Every single sentence should give the university one more reason to want you.

So go and do it. Don't stress out. You will redraft it about 400 times. You will probably drink 476 cups of coffee. Just try not to miss the January deadline.

Good luck!

Why England? Doesn't it rain all the time?

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📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management

For us lucky university students it is already the Christmas break and I can write this in silence (!) in a big room. I don’t hear anybody shouting outside and when I open the fridge I see more than just a pack of cheese. So why did I want to trade this comfy life at my parents home for living in university halls in a country where they don’t speak the same first language as I do?

I have asked myself this question at one point or another in the last 12 weeks at the University of Bath. Mostly this question came to my mind when I tried to sleep but then I heard somebody just coming back from a night-out or when I wanted to have a nice dinner but then I remembered I only have cheese and pasta in my cupboard. But then I always think back. I think about why I wanted to study in England in the first place.

Quality of universities
England is known worldwide that they have some of the best universities of the world and that universities have world-class facilities like at the University of Bath where you can go to the Library 24 hours a day (not that I have ever been to the library after midnight but I could if I want to) or where we have a 50m Olympic size pool.

Language
My mother language is German and apart from Austria, Germany and Switzerland nobody speaks German, so for me going to England is the chance to improve my English and to be able to work anywhere in the world. English is the language nearly everybody learns and understands and I always wanted to be fluent in more than one language.

Employability
Everybody talks about how it is getting more and more difficult for university students to find a job after graduation.  At the University of Bath the employability rate of graduates after 6 months is 86%.  Furthermore, if I go back to Austria after graduation, my CV will stand out because I have studied in another country.

Sense of independence
Before I came to university I was certain that I would gain more independence from my parents and my family, but now I can say this is only true to a certain amount. I live more or less on my own and I don’t have to tell my parents what I do or where I go and I am responsible for my own washing, cleaning and cooking. But I do depend on their money. I know my parents are happy to pay for my living and I am grateful for that because as an EU or International student you don’t get a loan for accommodation and living, but to be honest I don’t like to live on my parents expenses. So maybe for the next semester I will look for a job to earn some money!

Internationality
England is a melting pot where many different nationalities and cultures live together and learn from each other and I always wanted to get more international friends, and now I have got them. On my course (Management with Marketing) we have students who are from Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Germany, Russia, Dubai, France, Lebanon, Poland and Belgium, and I think it is wonderful to have all these different cultures in a lecture hall.

History
I have never been to the University of Bath before I applied and even though I knew the University of Bath is a relatively new university (next year we are celebrating 50 years  of the University of Bath), I always hoped the University would have some old historic buildings, but I was fooled. The only old thing about the University of Bath is the logo. Everything else is new. I am still not sure if I like that but if I want to see some old buildings I just pop down to Bath because sometimes you even feel like you are in a Jane Austen book as nearly all the buildings are old and are from the 18th or 19th century. So even though the University of Bath unfortunately does not look like Hogwarts at all, you can still walk through the city and imagine that you are part of Northanger Abbey (a book from Jane Austen, which is based in Bath).

Roman Baths... and Bath Uni's logo

Roman Baths... and Bath Uni's logo

Now that I am home again I can tell you what I really miss about Bath.

The Bus Service
Most University of Bath students moan about the bus service as there are times when you have to queue a ridiculous long time to get a bus to the city centre but actually I think they are awesome. Bath is such a small city compared to my home town Vienna, but at least you can catch the bus till 3am to go back to campus during the week(!). In Vienna you have to take a taxi after midnight and only on Friday and Saturday you can take the underground 24hours.  Also something that is quite unique about Bath is that you always know somebody on the bus- I think there was only one time when I wasn’t able to greet anybody on the bus and that was on a Sunday evening when I was the only passenger!

The Campus
As I am an only child and live in the outskirts of Vienna I never had my friends around me all the time. In Vienna it takes me about 30 min to meet my friends and people never want to visit me because I live too far away. Bath it is different. You are with your friends all the time and sometimes it feels like a really long summer camp, and you are hardly ever alone if you don’t want to be alone and that is wonderful.

P.S. I don't think it rains all the time, because actually  I think the weather is quite nice most of the time but my friends always moan about the weather and my flatmate said in 11 weeks it has rained 9 times on a Monday.

 

Decision making

  

📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management

To be 17 or 18 is just horrible. You are just about to finish school and people are already nagging you with questions like: "What are you going to do after school?", "What do you want to study?", "What do you want to do with your future life" and all you want to at the moment is to enjoy your time with your friends.

Let’s just assume you already know that you want to go to university because you have heard student life is great fun  (to be honest it is great fun) , but now you have to think about 5 universities you want to apply to if you want to (or if you are an international student like me you might even broaden your horizon and look at other good university countries like Switzerland or Germany).  How do you know which university to go to?

I want to help you a little bit by sharing my top 5 list of things you should look at before applying to universities.

  1. Course. Think about what sort of area you want to study in. I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to study but I knew that it should be something with Economics but not quite Economics.
  2. Town or city. Do you want to study in a small town or in a big city? If you are not happy in a big city like London then don’t apply even though they have really good universities- you have to spend at least 3 years there and these years should be awesome ones.
  3. Location. Where is the university and how are you going to get there? I know this might sound silly but I considered location as I quite fancied the idea of going home to Vienna for a weekend.
  4. Rankings. University rankings might not be the most important thing to look at, but I think it is quite pleasing to know that you apply to a university or course which is one of the best in the country.
  5. Extra curriculum. What does the university offer? Do they have a gym? Do they have many societies? Do you actually want to join a society? (Yes, you definitely want to!)

So why did I apply to Bath in the end?

  1. Course. “Management with Marketing with a placement year” sounded brilliant. It was just what I was looking for.
  2. City. Bath is probably one of the most beautiful cities to study in and I quite fancied the idea of strolling through the city centre with a coffee in one hand and a book about marketing in my other.
  3. Campus. Isn’t it great to think that you would live on a campus, which is like a small town just for students and the staff. (It is quite brilliant to live on campus. My friends in Vienna have to leave about 30 mins before a lecture starts, whereas I just leave 3 mins before!)
  4. Rankings. I read online that 93% of students in Bath are satisfied with the university
  5. Placements. The University of Bath is great when it comes to placements and in my opinion a placement year is a great way to get an insight into an industry or company where you would like to work after graduation.

And if you are in doubt about your decision just visit an Open Day. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to one but I had already been to Bath once and I knew that I could definitely live here for the next 3 years.  However, I am going to be one of these annoying, cheering student helpers this year that helps out on Open Days and tells you how great the University of Bath is  (apart from a few ugly 60s or 70s buildings).

So was it the right choice to choose the University of Bath?

I have only been here for just over 2 months, so my opinion is mostly based on the great Fresher's week and all the other fun stuff, but just look at the lake:

The stunning lake

The stunning lake

Who wouldn't want to study here?

And if I had known before how awesome my flatmates are (especially Lydia), I would have applied even sooner.