People sometimes think that there is a trick to writing a personal statement for Oxford, or that we are looking for some special secret formula, but this is not the case. Writing a personal statement for Oxford is no different from writing a personal statement for any other university. In fact it’s important to remember that the same wording will be seen by all the universities you apply to and should therefore focus on the course you want to study, not the universities themselves. Please read this helpful advice from UCAS about writing your personal statement.
How important is the personal statement?
Universities build a picture of you as a student from all the different information you provide, to help decide whether or not to offer you a place. The picture is made up of several different pieces: your personal statement, academic record, predicted A-level grades (or equivalent), and your teacher's reference. For most courses at Oxford you will also need to take an admissions test or submit written work as well (check the details for your course). If your application is shortlisted, your interview will also be taken in to account. This means that your personal statement is important but it’s not everything: it’s just one part of the overall picture.
What are Oxford tutors looking for?
Tutors at Oxford are only interested in your academic ability and potential. They want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university but it’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college. This can include any relevant extracurricular activities.
Try to avoid writing your personal statement as though you are ticking things off a list. There is no checklist of required achievements, and tutors will not just scan what you have written to look for key words or phrases. Tutors will read your personal statement to try to understand what has motivated you to apply for their course. It’s a good idea to evaluate your experiences, to show what you have learned from them and how they have helped develop your understanding of your subject.
Should I include extracurricular activities?
If you're applying for competitive courses, which includes any course at Oxford, we typically suggest that you focus around 80% of your personal statement on your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include discussion of any relevant extracurricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extracurricular activities.
There’s a myth that Oxford is looking for the most well-rounded applicants, and that you will only be offered a place if you have a long list of varied extracurricular activities. In fact, extracurricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course.
Do I need experience of work and travel?
We understand that not everyone has the opportunity to do work experience or to go travelling so these activities are not a requirement for any of our courses. Tutors won’t be impressed by your connections, or the stamps in your passport, but they will be impressed by how you’ve engaged with your subject.
For example, some of our applicants for Medicine may have had work experience placements in prestigious hospitals but not be able to evaluate their time there. If you have no more experience than some simple voluntary work, or even just discussing medical matters with your friends and family, you can still write an effective personal statement by reflecting critically on what you have learned and discussed.
To give another example, for the History of Art, tutors will not want to hear about all the galleries and exhibitions that you have visited around the world if you cannot discuss the art that you saw. You can come across more effectively in your personal statement by evaluating art you have seen, even if you’ve only seen it online or in books without ever leaving the school library.
Don’t be put off by any friends who you think have more impressive things to say in their personal statements. Remember that tutors do not have a checklist of achievements that they are looking for: they want to see how you have engaged with your subject.
I’m applying to different courses at different universities – how should I write my personal statement?
If you are thinking of applying for completely different courses at different universities (eg Physics and Accounting, or Biology and Music) we’d encourage you to reconsider. It’s important to choose a subject area that you really want to study, and focus on that one area when making your applications. Also, you can only write one personal statement which will be seen by all the universities to which you apply, so it needs to be relevant for all your courses.
If you are thinking of applying for related courses at different universities then we suggest that you avoid using course titles in your personal statement. We recommend that you write about your interest in the general course themes, and how you have engaged with relevant subject areas, so that your personal statement is equally relevant for each of your course choices.
Does my personal statement need to stand out?
Students sometimes feel that they need to say something dramatic to stand out from the crowd and be really memorable in their personal statement but this is not true. Applying to Oxford is not like a talent show where you may only have a few seconds to make an impression. Tutors consider each application carefully on its individual merits, looking for evidence of your commitment and ability. If you use your personal statement to demonstrate your academic abilities and your engagement with your subject or subjects, then your application will be memorable for all the right reasons.
Where should I start?
Think about talking to your friends about what you want to study at university: what would you tell them? What have you read or watched or seen that has inspired you? (This might have been at school, at home, in a museum, on TV, in a book, on YouTube or a podcast or anywhere else.) Why was it interesting? What do you want to find out next? What did you do?
If you find this difficult, it might be time to think about whether or not you’ve really chosen the right course. If you can’t think of anything that has inspired you, this lack of enthusiasm will probably come across in your personal statement, or it will become clear at interview, and you’re unlikely to gain a place at Oxford. If you find it easy to answer these questions, you will have a long list of ideas to help you write your personal statement.
When you start to write, remember not just to list your achievements but show how they have affected you, how you have benefited, and what you’d like to learn next. Be honest about yourself and what has inspired you, whether that’s been text books, museums and literature, or websites, podcasts and blogs. Be sure to tell the truth, as tutors might check later, so don’t exaggerate and certainly don’t make any false claims. Don’t hold back either – this is no time for modesty.
When you've written a first draft, have a look back at the selection criteria for your course and think about the evidence you've given for each of the criteria. Have you covered everything?
How many versions should I write?
Ask a teacher to read through what you’ve written, listen to their feedback and then make any updates that they suggest. You may need two or three tries to get it right. Don’t keep writing and rewriting your statement though, as it is more important to keep up with your school or college work, and to explore your subject with wider reading. (See suggested reading and resources.)
Some dos and don’ts
- DON’T be tempted to make anything up, as you might be asked about it at interview.
- DON’T copy anyone else’s personal statement. UCAS uses plagiarism detection software.
- DON'T list qualifications like your GCSE grades or anything else that's covered elsewhere on the application.
- DON’T just list your other achievements: you need to evaluate them.
- DON'T feel the need to be dramatic in order to be memorable.
- Apply for a course you really want to study.
- Be yourself: tell the truth about your interests.
- Sell yourself: this is not the time for modesty.
- Reread your personal statement before an interview – the tutors will.
- Read the UCAS guidance on personal statements.
Both accounting and finance are right at the heart of the business decision-making process, its a fast-paced, dynamic subject that requires students to be adaptable, flexible and intelligent. In today’s world there is much more to it than just spreadsheets and calculators, these days accounting and finance graduates need to have technical expertise, be excellent communicators and have good IT skills. All of these are abilities which have been identified in research with employers as critical for accounting professionals.
|This popular degree has a career-orientated focus, and will help you develop a good mix of subject-specific, technical and more general transferable skills. In a student it will develop practical accountancy and finance skills for both a UK and international context, and will help to build real business knowledge and personal transferable skills. It will equip you with the broad based competencies required for a career in the accounting and finance world. Students will develop the expertise required to make sound judgements for financial measurement and presentation, together with gaining an understanding of the legal framework regulating operational practice.|
Most degree courses are accredited by the following major accounting bodies: ACCA, CIOT, CIMA and ICAEW. Depending on the options taken, some can offer students partial professional qualification exemption. These accreditations or exemptions are dependent on the units that students choose to take. For more information on this point you should contact the course academic team, who will be able to give you guidance on the best units to choose to suit and support your career aspirations.
Accounting and finance degree course overview
Lectures are contemporary and focused, with case studies looking at the published results of real companies, and many courses inviting high profile business guest speakers to share their experiences and insights with students. In addition to the lecture and seminar programme, you will receive regular skills-based and exam question focused support sessions to help you study effectively and to prepare for forthcoming examinations.
Assessment is done by various methods, including group work and reports, oral presentations and computer-based work, as well as academic essays.
Typical course modules and areas of study on a accounting and finance degree
- Introduction to accounting
- Introduction to economics
- Business management
- Financial reporting
- Management Accounting
- Audit and control
- Advanced Accounting Theory and Practice
- International finance
- Company and employment law
- Strategic management
- International taxation
- Financial regulation
- Professional and Financial Skills
- Statistical Decision Making
- Financial Strategy
- Managing Performance
- Global Finance
- Principles of banking
- Elements of the law of contract
- The law of business organisation
- Mathematics and Quantitative Methods for Accounting
Students will learn about
- The key functional areas in accounting and finance.
- Business administration.
Students will learn how to
- Communicate orally and through writing.
- Produce professional reports and assignments on current business issues.
- Prepare and present arguments in a structured professional way.
- identify financial problems early on.
Accounting and finance personal statement
Below is a accounting and finance personal statement written by one of our writers. You can use this example to gain an idea of how to structure and put together your own one. You are strongly advised not to copy or plagiarise it, instead use it as a resource to inspire your own creative writing.
Accounting and finance personal statement example 1
"The world of finance and investment banking attracts many top graduates. For many people this degree can lead to a stimulating and rewarding career that is associated with very high salaries, glamorous lifestyles and stable long term careers. For me personally one of the biggest attractions to this subject is the bewildering array of career opportunities it offers to suit all interests including; auditing work, management consulting, corporate finance, IT consulting, tax planning, human resources and insolvency.
As a person who likes to be in charge, have responsibility and be accountable, I see myself in the future as potentially running my own business or being in a management role. After studying accountancy for the first time at college, I discovered that it was the language of business, primarily because its sole purpose was to communicate information to decision makers. As I want to be a future business decision maker, I have decided that this is the subject I need to learn, as it will show me how to get valuable information, teach me what it means and also train me in how to use it to make better decisions.
At some stage, all organisations have to present their performance in the form of financial statements. Accounting and finance professionals have to present and interpret such statements to verify and monitor the health of the company behind them. It is this particular aspect that has always appealed to me, I am keen to learn about the financial and accounting decisions that businesses and organisations need to make to be profitable and survive. Another major reason that attracts me to this course is that it is the first step towards possibly running my own business in the future. I have always wanted to be my own boss, and after graduating, and then working in the industry I eventually want to be able to progress to launching my own business in the financial services industry. In my view if you want to make money, to manage money or just to be the master of your own finances, then this degree course is for you.
I consider myself a well-rounded individual, who is equipped with the core skills that are needed to thrive in the modern business environment. I have drive, motivation and a ‘never give up’ attitude that helps me to overcome problems and issues that seem insurmountable. I am fully up to date with new developments and change in the national and international business world, particularly in key areas such as taxation, regulatory and institutional issues.
I studied accountancy at college and learnt a great deal about the specific rules and practices of accounting in areas such as auditing, as well as looking in greater depth at management accounting and its relationship to broader aspects of leadership. I came to realise the importance of control, validation and the accuracy of accounting records, and was learnt how to prepare financial statements for organisations as well as how to apply accounting principles and concepts to the preparation of accounts. Through my college education I have built up a comprehensive understanding of concepts such as good corporate governance, investments, valuation theory, asset pricing, market micro-structure, capital structure and dividend policy, risk-hedging and liquidity management.
Over the summer months to earn extra money and also gain relevant work experience, I took a temporary job as a Financial Accounts assistant. Working as part of a team I was involved in the reconciliation of balance sheets, invoice processing, completing monthly VAT, income tax and National Insurance returns and also general cashier duties. The duties I performed were highly valued and impacted visibly on the business and people within it. I didn’t just process numbers but was involved in collecting and organising vital information for senior managers.
I am applying to your university because I feel it has a strong international focus, and a developed global perspective to business. Your institution is highly respected, and the accounting and finance degree courses you run are entirely relevant to today’s business world. It is important to me that future potential employers know that I have a studied a rigorous degree at a renowned university like yours. In a nutshell I feel that I am suitable for your course because I have a good head for numbers, am commercially aware and have a strong desire to enter this profession."
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