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How to Write a Standout Personal Statement for Oxford and Cambridge

In business, a company’s special value is often referred to as its USP – its unique selling point. Your personal statement is your opportunity to share your USP: what makes you different from the hundreds of other applicants who have a shining academic record? The answer: your commitment to, and your passion for the degree that you would like to read at Oxford or Cambridge. 

 If you apply to Oxford or Cambridge through the UCAS system, you will be asked to write a personal statement. We know from our experience that this is the perfect opportunity – and your only opportunity before the interview – to convince the tutors of why you would love to study the subject that they specialise in. Your academic grades, your written work, and your entrance exam (if you are asked to perform these) will prove your academic competence, but the personal statement allows you to convey your passion for the degree that you are applying for. This is your chance to add personality and flavour to your application, prove your commitment to the degree at hand, and further demonstrate your academic capabilities. You can as well try out our Optimizer – it will rank the colleges to help you with boosting your success rate! 
oxford personal statement
cambridge personal statement

As you know, Oxford and Cambridge are extremely academic universities.

Your personal statement, therefore, should reflect this fact. We have found that it is the most successful when the content of your personal statement should be at least 80% academic, if not more. Oxford and Cambridge appreciate that you are applying to other universities – universities that value extra-curriculars more than they perhaps do – and thus understand that some of your personal statement (less than 20%) may be devoted to your extra-curricular activities. We would suggest, however, that if you would like to mention extra-curricular activities, you frame them in a way that supports your academic application.

For example, if you are the captain of the swimming team and you are applying for Physics at Oxford – have you looked into how hydrodynamic drag affects your swimming capabilities? If you are a keen musician, and applying for English at Cambridge – has your interest in jazz music informed your understanding of Jazz Age Literature? Where possible, make a valid and sophisticated connection between your chosen extra-curricular activity, and the degree that you are applying to study. Remember – if you need any help with this, you can always come to us! 

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It is important to stress that Oxbridge academics reading your personal statement are entirely interested in your academic and intellectual aptitude, and your passion for the subject at hand.

You won’t win a place at Oxbridge because you are the captain of the rugby team. That is not to say that you should not mention this, but if you want to make your application as competitive as possible: frame this in a way that comes back to your academic interests.

Whilst one may be wary of the amount of ‘extra’ curriculars that they include in their Oxford or Cambridge personal statement, you are actively encouraged to discuss many of your ‘supra’ curricular activities! Supra-curricular activities are things that you have done outside of the confines of your syllabus to deepen and better your understanding of your chosen subject. For example, have you attended a university level lecture on the period of History that you’re studying at A Level? Have you listened to a Ted Talk, or podcast, that relates to your subject? We are happy to help if you want a brainstorming session – sometimes, other people see more in you than yourself. 

In addition, we recommend you BBC Radio 4’s fascinating series called ‘In Our Time’, and covers topics from History, Literature, Culture, Science, and a range of other academic disciplines. These can be found on the ‘In Our Time’ website, as well as Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Both Oxford and Cambridge offer a number of talks and lectures online that have been made available to the general public. Remember – it’s always good to listen to what the insiders have to say. If you want more insider info, we got you has well! 

These are all brilliant ways to show tutors that you are passionate about your subject. A key thing to remember when writing your personal statement is to show, not tell. Telling the tutors that you are passionate about Psychology is not good enough. You need to show it, and the personal statement allows you to do so, by demonstrating the ways in which you have gone above and beyond the confines of your school syllabus, to explore the subject that you are applying to spend the next 3,4, or even up to 6 years studying.


The Oxbridge Personal Statement Service

Perfecting your personal statement to match Oxbridge high standards

What our service includes:

While there is no set formula for a personal statement, here is a suggested structure:

1. Make a point:

‘I am fascinated by Modernist Literature’.

2. Ground this in something you've done/read:

‘I read Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Waves’, and was intrigued by her use of soliloquy because…’

3. What next? What has this inspired you to do?

‘My enjoyment of Woolf’s novels encouraged me to explore some other Modernist fiction. I read Dubliners and watched Jeri Johnson’s lecture on James Joyce. I found it fascinating that…’

For every statement you make, back it up with evidence: a book you have read, a class you have attended, a museum you have visited, etc. For every piece of evidence you provide, what has this thus led you into thinking or doing? Clearly outline your intellectual journey, so that the tutors are able to understand the way in which you have engaged with the subject, thus proving your commitment to it. 

How else can I maximise my chances of getting accepted into Oxbridge?

Did you know that which college you apply to is more important than you probably think?

Whether you are applying to  the University of  Cambridge or the University of Oxford, we are here to help streamline the application process and give you insider intel and a great advantage. You have a ~15 – 20% chance of getting into Oxford or Cambridge University (slightly higher offer rate for Cambridge, but often with more demanding conditions of acceptance).

We can show you the colleges for your course where the offer rate could be as high as 50%!  It’s said that you can’t play the numbers. Don’t believe this. You can take advantage of the differences in competition, and we will show how. We can’t guarantee that you will get an offer, but we are providing you with supersmart insider intel. Then it’s up to you.   

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