My Personal Statement Failings

From this September, I’ll be starting to apply for the university that I’ll attend either in 2018 or 2019.

WAIT, back up a second – I’ll be applying to university. That’s a scary enough thought in itself, without taking into account the fact that I’m terrible at making decisions about my future. I know what course I want to do but the university I want to go to? Not so much. I haven’t gone to enough open days; I haven’t done enough research and now I’m starting to panic about campuses, finance, making the “correct” decision and being happy.

The thing is, with universities you have to write a personal statement which is part of your application. It goes to the 5 unis you apply to so you don’t write individual statements for each university. Luckily, my course will be the same for each university but if you apply for different courses at different unis, you need to balance carefully what you put in and not mention specifics.

You’d think it would be easy to write one, right, especially for a subject which prioritises organisation of ideas in a coherent form? No. I’ve got the summer to write a few drafts but today, in school, we’re starting to think and write about it: we had a talk this morning about what to include and afterwards, we were in a classroom brainstorming for 3 hours. I’ve already been brainstorming in my head but when I tried to write stuff down, I realised something. I really don’t have much to write.

There are some questions on a sheet we were given and I’m going to do my best at answering them here. Not, of course, in a literary style; I have little energy to do such a thing at the moment. That “literary style” will be saved for when I actually get to writing the thing. These are just my initial “ideas”, hahaha, like I have any of them!

Why are you applying for your chosen course?
I really like the idea of combining the creativity and originality of creative writing with the innovative analysis of texts based on the times in which they are set and the interpretations which you can bring forth from them. You can also discuss your ideas with others – something I’m not so good at but that I enjoy (I won’t put that bit in my Personal Statement though). Also, I like how they compliment each other a lot in that you can transfer skills read in books, poetry and scripts into your own writing. Ooh, this is one thing I can talk about!

Why does this subject interest you?
I really love reading but that’s a generic answer. The Canterbury Tales as well as Jane Eyre got me interested in literature, along with my beautiful human being of a previous English teacher. Last Friday when I (sneakily) went into his lesson as he teaches my friend, they were looking at Chaucer and I literally squealed. I’ll be honest, my blog really got me interested in writing as a profession and something which I adored. I presume here I can talk about how much my blog inspired me to create new ideas without filling up the character count too much.

Include evidence to show that you understand what’s required to study the course.
With English degrees, you can get an average of 6 hours a week of contact with lecturers or professors. That means that you’ll have to do a lot of independent study, as well as doing a lot of wider reading which is part of it. I’m also guessing that you’ll have to research historical context; because I’m fascinated with that and the effect it has on writer’s technique, presentation of characters and the attitude towards certain groups, this will be fine. I think I’ll mention my interest in doing further reading in the statement because it actually shows I can vaguely do something… Maybe.

Why do you think you’re suitable for the course?
What I’d like to say: “Lol hi I’m A MESS I’d be shiiit; don’t accept me!”
What I will actually say and should believe: I’m able to work effectively in a group which is useful as we’ll be evaluating the work of others; I can… Um… I have a lot of enthusiasm… But everyone will put that! NO! I am able to effectively combine the disciplines of a writer and a reader – nooo, that’s too pretentious and awful! I’ll just think about that later when I feel more positively towards myself.

Do you have any particular skills and experience that will help you to succeed on the course?
Summer schools? NAAAAH oops… Same with Uni taster days oh god. However, wider reading and writing for a magazine may help, such as a school newspaper I want to set up (although it was my friend’s idea but shhh).

Do your current or previous studies relate to the course you have chosen?
Well I’d bloody hope so, seeming as I’m studying English Literature at A-Level. History will inform me of wider historical contextualisation of the themes. However, don’t they already know what subjects I do? The woman this morning told us not to write about the subjects because of character count and it’s needless information… Right then. That’s another one to go on the “think about later” pile, along with the 100000 other things.

Have you taken part in any other activities which demonstrate your interest in the course?
NO. The blog? Still nope; that’s not specific to the course itself. I wish I wasn’t so lazy and that I’d applied for summer courses early.

Personal Skills
There’s an A B C we were told about which is basically a model which lists the activities, the benefits of it and how it relates to your course. Here we go – or not!
Volunteering: punctuality which means I will be good at deadlines; organising people which means that I have good skills when working with people; encouraging others which means that I will be self-motivated for independent study as well as spreading positivity (yes, that doesn’t relate but it’s a good thing!).
Blogging: I’ve done it for 2 years which shows I have dedication, meaning that I’ll stick to an idea or a project; I’m able to share ideas with a large audience which will be helpful in group discussions when our work is being evaluated; I’ve become more open to ideas within society, meaning that I’m able to take in new interpretations and expand on my own thoughts.

And… That’s it. Oops.

At the end of this, I realise that I had more to write than I thought. On the other hand, there are still a lot more things I could do and could have done. However, there’s still time for me to do things. Speaking to a school in September will further add skills to my meagre list.

Perhaps I’m mildly angry that I don’t have much to say; I don’t have any leadership roles in the school and have little responsibility therefore. I’m what you may term average but that just means I need to find qualities and experiences within myself that make me unique. Even if you think you’re dull as hell, no one is utterly, 100% boring. Start listing skills you know you have first and don’t panic; there is still time.

Are you writing a Personal Statement at the moment or have you written one and got offers? What are your best tips? Any help would be really appreciated, especially because there will be plenty of people in the same position as me who don’t know what to write. I think this can benefit all of us.

From Elm 🙂

Books, History, and Everything in Between

I’m the type of person who can so easily get lost in the world of a book, in the stories, characters and words, so that when I try to resurface from it, I don’t know what to do with myself.

It’s not just one type of book: I’ve gone through liking so many different genres, and taking a fancy to one book, finishing it, and then craving a different kind of book – or conversely, getting sucked into ‘phases’ of genres for ages.

Now, it’s not like I’d just read that one genre of book. I’d read others, but that genre would prevail – I almost breathe it. You know those books that set up a fire in your heart, or give you that anticipatory feeling when you want to read them? That’s what I experience when I get a passion for a certain ‘brand’ of book and though I love other books I read, it’s the type I’m obsessed with at the time that makes me happy, until a book comes along that changes my preferences. Woah, it sounds like I have romantic relwhnships with books or something… Errr, moving on.

It happened with books along the line of Harry Potter first, then fantasy (Game of Thrones), then a long period of adoring Dystopia (The Hunger Games, Halo by Frankie Rose). Then Contemporary books and then a wild love for Science Fiction (the 5th Wave, Worldwalker Trilogy, Atlantis Grail). My tastes have flitted back and forth within these genres, fit with little subsections of them – LGBTQ+ Contemporary, books that are so clichĂ© it hurts (I read them after books that make me cry) and then, in between periods of going between genres, I read miscellaneous things here and there. You could say I have a… Varied love of books.

Now, after a stint of reading contemporary, and scouring Goodreads to find books, I’ve fallen in love with historical literature, and historical fiction. I’m not surprised either: history’s always been something I’ve liked, from Romans to the English Revolution to wartime stories; it’s now combined with my love of reading to create something that’s entirely too addicted to raving, and annoying people, with her rants about how amazing a book is.

I blame this on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, a book that made me cry so much that I made myself ill, but a book that rekindled my fascinwhn with the lives of ordinary people in war, of stories of people that didn’t change the world but were heroes and heroines nonetheless. It was amazing, and the thing is, stories like that happen every day in every war; it gave me a snapshot of things that could have existed, and showed me that war ends in tragedy for so many people.

I now have a deeply rooted respect for the classics, but specifically written in times of history which interest me. Take the Victorian period, for example; the lifestyle there is something I’ve always read up on, or tried to find out about. We’re studying Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontĂ©, which is set just in that time, and I couldn’t put it down.

True, I had a reluctance to read it when I was younger and even before I started, but that was because of its size, and I worried that the vocabulary would be too much. I was so, so wrong; I’ve nearly finished with it, occasionally start writing and speaking in the style of BrontĂ©, and have been known to scream “YAAASS OHHH SO CUTE!” when talking about some scenes between Mr. Rochester and Jane. I can’t help it: I got frustrated with Jane at the beginning, but the way she interacts with Mr. Rochester is great.

Historical fiction written nowadays is one of my favourite things, simply because it gives a new perspective on everything. Jane Eyre’s quite progressive for its time and I love that, but fiction written about the past with a modern view in mind is so interesting to me. After starting Jane Eyre, and needing a break from the very heavy language, I wanted to read some romance because a) I needed cuteness in my life and b) I was in the mood to not think too deeply for a while. Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t have started the Storm and Silence series by Robert Thier. I don’t know how to summarise these books, except to say it opens with Lilly Linton – potentially the most fantastic girl ever – dressing up as a boy and attempting to go to a polling station to vote. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, and it involves a controlling billionaire bastard who goes through character development, and also Victorian society, humour, solid chocolate, Feminism and a main character who sticks up for herself and is just. Brilliant. I could scream about this series forever, because it was just what I needed to get me interested in the Victorian era again, and coupled with Jane Eyre, made me crave even more.

Basically, I’ve concluded that I need to get a life that preferrably involves historical books, because I love them so much. I plan to read Pride and Prejudice, as well as Chaucer, and various other books as well as lots of historical fiction written recently. Um, and obviously do work as well, and study… I’ll never get anything done at this rate!

I wanted to share with you my simple love of books, and just how scarily ecstatic I get about it. It’s not a side you see often. Who knows – maybe next year, I’ll go back to constantly reading Sci-Fi; I’Ll just have to wait and see.

Do you have any recommendations for great books?

From Elm 🙂