Choosing your course….and why I chose a joint honours degree…
When it came to choosing what I wanted to study at university I was rather undecided. I wasn’t sure what career route I wanted to go down or what subject I enjoyed enough to want to study it exclusively for the next three to four years of my life. I knew that I enjoyed both Maths and Physics so when I discovered that you could study both of these alongside each other this massively appealed to me. Studying joint honours gives you a huge amount of flexibility as you can easily transfer to a single honours degree should you wish to or you can keep studying both subjects equally.
In the first year, this is especially useful as university teaching is very different from what you will be used to from school. Studying both subjects allows you to experience multiple topics in various teaching styles which allows you to see what you prefer. You might even surprise yourself by falling in love with your most hated topic at school!
The writing process begins…
I began writing my personal statement around the middle of September in my final year of school. Beginning the process then, gave me a couple of weeks to settle back into my daily rhythm and routine after a work-free summer where I was able to have a good long break before starting into the madness of the last year of school.
The first step that I took was to make a plan. It can be so tempting to just go straight into writing your personal statement to simply get it done but I cannot emphasise enough how much having a good, structured and detailed plan will help you. In my planning, I made a list of all of the reasons why I wanted to study Maths and Physics and all of my skills, qualifications, hobbies and achievements. I then thought about how these related to Maths and Physics. For example, I was able to develop essential problem-solving skills through being the vice-captain of my cricket team.
The next step in planning is to decide on the structure and layout you’d like your personal statement to take. What order do you think would be most effective in conveying your passion and desire to study your chosen course? Remember you want to stand out from the very start!
The first draft…
The first draft is always going to be far from perfect and will always require editing. Do not let this put you off, instead use it to your advantage. When I was writing my first draft I included everything, knowing that it was most likely going to be over the character limit.
I highly recommend including everything initially because it is much easier to remove points and phrases on editing than it is to try and add them later. It is inevitable that you will have more motivation and enthusiasm at the start of the writing process so try to get as much down when you have this passion. Trust me when it gets nearer the end you will simply just want it to be over and to never have to read or write about yourself again!
Once you have written your first draft, my advice would be to give it to someone who you trust to give you honest feedback. For me, this was my dad. Someone reading it with fresh eyes will be able to spot areas that aren’t relevant or don’t make sense much better than you will. Go through your draft together, removing areas that are unnecessary and editing it until you reach the appropriate character count.
For a lot of people, the character count can be their worst enemy and reaching it seems impossible. Do not fear though, it is most definitely possible to reach and I know you can do it. It will take time and a lot of reading and re-reading, so make sure you’ve got plenty of snacks on hand!
“I’m on my 10th draft and still don’t think I’m finished, am I doing it all wrong?”
Absolutely not! I quickly lost count of the number of versions that I had written. It is all part of the process so do not be alarmed at all. You have most likely never written anything like this before so it will take time and making mistakes is normal. The fact you have to meet specific character requirements makes the writing process even trickier as you have to keep editing and re-editing your document in order to make the length appropriate.
Even when I thought I had my final version written, one that met all of the requirements when I tried to upload it to the UCAS system it was denied as the UCAS character counting system counted more characters than my computer so I had to go back and edit it further, creating yet another draft!
How to know when you have reached the final version…
I knew that I had reached my final version when the character count was met, all of the spelling, punctuation and grammar had been checked by both my computer and by a human with fresh eyes. I knew that there was nothing more that I could include that was relevant. As soon as all of this was done I uploaded it to the UCAS system and breathed a sigh of relief! One you too will be able to breathe soon…