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Not sure what to do for the best (SIL)

(19 Posts)
jacks11 Sun 24-May-15 13:56:05

I've posted before about DB/SIL. To cut a long story short, we don't get on very well (long backstory) and the feeling is mutual. Only reason we really see each other is family events.

SIL recently left her job and is now applying for degree course at University. She asked me to proof read her personal statement (did so at a family get together, so didn't feel I could say no without appearing rude).

The problem is that what she has prepared is of a very poor standard- spelling, grammar and content. I have corrected the grammar and spelling but not sure if I should tell her that the content isn't great as I think it will open up a can of worms. On the other hand I don't want to be partly blamed if she doesn't get in (which I'm sure I would). In addition, if I help her and she does get in, I strongly get the feeling she won't cope with the work required- so essentially giving her false hopes/setting her up for a fall.

She showed me a previous piece of work she'd done for a work course- she told me she basically "jotted down some ideas/paragraphs" and the administrator pulled them together in a coherent way (total 750 words or so). What she had put down bore very little resemblance to what was produced at the end. On the basis of this, she believes she is able to do this course.

From what I can gather it is either an access to biomedical science or a biomed course- she was quite vague. I should probably ask but hadn't anticipated that what her work would be as bad as it is, so didn't think it would matter.

DM says I should just correct grammar and spelling and leave it at that, unless specifically asked for my opinion on the content. DF thinks I should try and explain where I think the problems lie, and let her decide what to do.

Other than really wishing I had not agreed to do it (I know, I know, my own fault), I'm now torn as to what the best thing to do would be- I'm erring towards just correcting the basics and keeping my thoughts to myself. Any flack I get re the outcome of the application, I'll just have to ignore. I have this nagging feeling though, that in her position I would want to be told that my work wasn't up to scratch and if I really wanted to go ahead, I'd need to put a lot of work in to improve (long-term, not just for this application).

So is my DF right- AIBU to not tell her what I really think?

butterflyballs Sun 24-May-15 14:00:03

I would correct the spelling and the grammar and say you aren't sure about the actual content so perhaps she could find someone else to look at it for her.

Trills Sun 24-May-15 14:00:08

What were you asked to do?

Were you asked to help with spelling/grammar?

Or were you asked to give your opinion?

Frankly if I did not get on with this person I would be surprised at being asked. Why YOU?

diddl Sun 24-May-15 14:01:48

She asked you to proof read & you did.

Leave it at that.

If you improve her work & she gets in, she'll be forever asking for help!

Icimoi Sun 24-May-15 14:02:34

She asked you to proof read, so limit your reading to that, i.e. spelling and grammar mistakes. When you give it back to her, emphasise that that's all you have done and say you're not in a position to check content. If she really pushes for your thoughts on that, maybe refer her to somewhere where she can research further.

Purplepoodle Sun 24-May-15 14:03:42

If its an access course I'd just leave it with grammer and spelling corrected. They can give her feedback if she doesn't get in and may suggest other things for her

Fatmomma99 Sun 24-May-15 14:04:14

I think I would give it back to her and say (via a note if poss to send it)
Hi X, I've made some changes to the spelling and grammar. I've not made any comments on the actual content, but do let me know if you want to hear my thoughts. Hope the application goes well, Jacks

Then if she asks you, have in mind 1 positive, 1 negative and 1 positive to finish with (so, [as appropriate] some good ideas, could have written in more detail about x, this bit's description is good).

Good luck, and I think you've done all you need to, esp for someone you don't much get on with.

Birdsgottafly Sun 24-May-15 14:10:01

When I look back on the work I produced pre access, I'm surprised I was accepted.

The criteria for mature students is different, across different courses.

It took until my second year on my BA for my writing to start to come upto scratch.

You could ask if she has a guide to ideal content, or if she has time for student services to have a look.

There are guides Online that you could suggest, so if asked you could say that you don't know what they will be looking for, so she's best to do some research.

Wether she does, will show how committed she is.

flora717 Sun 24-May-15 14:12:11

Is she currently on a course? I would point her towards available careers / UCAS support. Point out you've made spelling and grammar corrections but the input of someone with wide experience of applications would be an advantage as these courses are usually oversubscribed.

From my (limited as administrator for the Access courses at a College - checking forms fit criteria, arranging tests and interviews) experience the student's ability to do the course is assessed by testing; the next stage is very much looking at commitment, wider ability to meet the demands of a course in the future (relevant work experience, demonstration of specific career goals and motivation). The experience did tell me a lot and I could generally predict successful applicants on the quality of their personal statement.
It might be worth her while seeking a level two "booster" prior to the level 3 access. Getting the study skills going and developing an attitude ready for 4-5 years of learning and development.

jacks11 Sun 24-May-15 14:30:58


She said it was because I was the only person she knew who'd been to university (or at least that she felt she knew well enough to ask). I am also involved in university applications as an interviewer- not for this course or university though.

BaronessBomburst Sun 24-May-15 14:41:52

I would only check the spelling and grammar. The content is entirely up to her.
As a native English speaker living abroad I'm often asked to check over work by colleagues or the neighbours' children. Sometimes I really, really want to change the content but mustn't!

Yes, the rise of popularity of the gothic novel in England was because it rains all the time, and that was why it didn't take off in the Netherlands. confused

yellowdinosauragain Sun 24-May-15 14:49:09

I'd check the spelling and grammar and advise her to approach someone who knows more about the course she is on about the content. If you work in a field such that she would approach you about content too I'd send her fatmomma's email.

Haffdonga Sun 24-May-15 15:03:51

She hasn't asked you to comment on the content. She may be touchy if you do comment on the content AND it's debatable how much the statement will/wont affect her chances of being accepted anyway. So I wouldn't. She can't possibly hold you responsible for her not getting a place if you haven't changed her statement. But if you did rewrite it and she still didn't get in, then you would get the blame (and perhaps rightly so.)

If she asks for criticism of the content I'd go with generalised feedback such as you need to relate your experience to the course or you need to explain what you skills you gained from the experience.

(A tip that I like is the ABC technique. Write about the Activity you've done, the Benefit it gave you and how it relates to the Course . Tell her that one and leave her to it.)

FunnyBird Sun 24-May-15 15:45:37

I think it would be right to just correct the spelling and grammar.
You could ask if she's open to comments about the content, but I think that might be going beyond the call of duty.
And if she doesn't get in, well, are you an academic in the field? How would you know what they were looking for?

BettyCatKitten Sun 24-May-15 15:49:34

Let get get on with it

SylvaniansAtEase Sun 24-May-15 15:57:07

'Hi SIL, here are my comments on the grammar and spelling for your application, as you can see I've caught a fair few errors for you so hope it will help. Of course I haven't got the skills to comment on the actual content as it's not my area at all so I've no idea if what you've written is ok, if you're not sure about it I'd say definitely find someone in biomed area who would be able to proof it for you.'

Supply this in writing, so that if/when you get grumbled at, you can re-send the text/email with a 'Did you not see this email/text from me? Did you not get someone to comment as I suggested? I was quite clear in what I said so I'm sorry that you didn't take the advice to get it proofed and sorry you didn't get in because of that'.

ImperialBlether Sun 24-May-15 17:20:04

Is she applying for a degree or for an access course? All degree applications had to be in ages ago, so I'd be surprised if she was applying now for such a popular course.

I think you have a duty to the college/university she's applying to to let them see the quality of her work. If you just write it for her then they will think it's fine and she'll get in and not cope.

Btw, does she have GCSEs? If not she'll have to do a pre-Access course. It sounds like that would be the best thing for her.

jacks11 Sun 24-May-15 17:43:27

She has got GCSEs (although taken nearly 18 years ago). Having checked with SIL it is an access course, not a degree course. I thought the applications should be in by now, but apparently this is not the case for her course.

I will just correct grammar/spelling and leave it at that.

ImperialBlether Sun 24-May-15 18:05:12

The deadline for applications would be set by the college, dependant on their numbers. At my previous college we would be accepting people until the first week of term, if not later.

However, if someone had GCSEs from so long ago, they would have to redo them and take a pre-Access course - this would include four GCSEs and some study skills etc. There wouldn't be a fee for that course because it's a level 2 course focusing on Maths and English. If she's going on a biomed course she'll have to study Science, too.

However, once you do a level 3 (normal Access) course then if you're over 24 you have to pay student fees (less than degree level fees.) If you complete your degree, those Access fees are wiped. If you don't, once you start earning a certain amount, you have to repay them, just as you'd repay the degree fees.

Personally I'd just help her with her spelling and grammar - they will do diagnostic tests as soon as she gets to college anyway.

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