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Personal statements- Sutton Trust study indicates teachers may be letting applicants dosn

(52 Posts)
homebythesea Thu 28-Jan-16 13:28:31

Sutton Trust study here
www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Making-a-Statement-FINAL.pdf

They found that teachers in some state schools are not properly aware of what is required in a personal statement to ensure applicants are in the best position to be considered by top universities. Makes interesting reading.

bojorojo Thu 28-Jan-16 17:18:21

I am not remotely surprised! Lots of potential students do not get the best advice about applying to university from personal statement to which university or even which subject. This definitely impinges on social mobility when parents do not know either. Too many young people stay local or do not strive for the best place they can possibly go and no-one advises them. I always read what the Sutton Trust says. They have just released another interesting study on personality and social mobility. Something else schools need to consider!

BoboChic Thu 28-Jan-16 18:34:18

I thought that was a very useful document. i shall be giving a copy to the applicants I assist! Thanks.

DG2016 Thu 28-Jan-16 20:35:28

Why are there 3x more errors on state school ones? Cannot the children use spell check? Don't they have fingers and brains? Or are their teachers less bright than those in private schools?

DG2016 Thu 28-Jan-16 20:35:53

Why are there 3x more errors on state school ones? Cannot the children use spell check? Don't they have fingers and brains? Or are their teachers less bright than those in private schools?

boys3 Thu 28-Jan-16 20:41:26

superficial, and to be fair to ST they do call it a research brief, but very interesting. Thanks to the OP for posting the link. Hopefully ST will follow through with a proper study.

As DCs can apply to up to 5 Uni's, and with the same PS needing to cover all 5 - with the odd exception, it would have been useful if their initial research in terms of teacher and admission tutor view of the same PS could have featured the response from admission tutors from five highly selective universities to compare how consistent or not these were too.

I'd certainly go with their opening recommendation. Universities should be more transparent about how specific subject departments use and evaluate personal statements. This information should be shared widely, and effectively, with applicants, schools and teachers When DS1 was applying a few years back the steer from the subject admissions tutor at one highly selective uni's open day was substantially different to the PS guidance on the uni's own website.

All that said, and obviously not covered by this specific report, an even bigger issue is that there is a whole chunk of schools where no DCs are even applying for a course at our elite universities. Those schools, and there are an awful lot of them, are easy to identify from the data that both Oxford and Cambridge publish. and I fear the list would not be that different for the likes of Imperial, LSE, Durham, Warwick, UCL, or pretty much any medical course.

boys3 Thu 28-Jan-16 20:57:19

DG from the footnotes the.......rationale ( had to struggle to find the right word) can be found within this earlier report also written for the ST, and by the same author

www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/uk-ac-man-scw:196273

goingmadinthecountry Thu 28-Jan-16 21:04:15

My 2 oldest went to an outstanding grammar, didn't listen to any advice from teachers who said both of their statements were a bit "out there". Luckily both got 5 offers each and went to their first choice. Teachers aren't always the best judge. I say that as a teacher.

homebythesea Thu 28-Jan-16 21:48:26

goingmad isn't the problem though that most kids will only have the teacher to ask for guidance esp if they are first in the family to go to Uni, or where parentscwentbdo long ago their experience is irrelevant? (I went in the days when the UCCA firm had 9 lines to write down your extra curricular activities!)

I have dealings with A level students at a local FE College (not in a teaching way) and the advice and guidance they have had in the application process has been pitiful. My privately educated DS has had days off timetable for drafting, visitors from RG universities to give guidance, PS reviewed by at least 3 staff members etc etc. A different world and we wonder why there is a social mobility issue in higher education......

Marniasmum Fri 29-Jan-16 09:07:46

1) The PS is supposed to be all the students own work
2)It is based on a sample size of 44, so not worth the paper it is written on.

3)Admissions tutors are very well aware that many PSs are often not even written by students and consequently of limited value.My own DS has received an offer from cambridge this time despite his PS including some things that an adult clearly wouldn't have advised saying eg he thought the short terms would suit him!!!

Marniasmum Fri 29-Jan-16 09:09:04

That was his SAQ not his PS

4 th criticism the study says the students went on to obtain the same grades.But were they predicted the same? Were their AS's the same?

Marniasmum Fri 29-Jan-16 09:10:26

his PS including some things that an adult clearly wouldn't have advised saying eg he thought the short terms would suit him!!!

actually that was his SAQ but same point!

2rebecca Fri 29-Jan-16 23:35:42

I would be suspicious of the statements they liked. They seem too detailed and eloquent for 18 year olds and I'd suspect they were written by tutors or parents.
These are supposed to be teenagers wanting to study a course, they seem to want the sort of knowledge you'd gain from studying it.
I'm surprised a teenager would write about preferring Oxbridge's short terms on his PS when 4/5 of the unis applied for won't have short terms.

BrianButterfield Fri 29-Jan-16 23:41:39

Do they really, really want that sort of stuff on personal statements? It's forced and unnatural sounding to me (and I am a sixth-form teacher). They're supposed to be A-level students and I would imagine the vast majority are more like the second column than the first. That the examples given are better I don't disagree, but whether or not that's what they need to write I just can't be sure. Never mind the fact that at least 50 and probably more like 80% of the students I teach couldn't really write like that at 17 anyway.

DG2016 Sat 30-Jan-16 00:50:16

Actually I did write like that at 17 (the age I went to university). I rooted out which universities had entrance scholarships too and put myself in for a set of 3 hour exams - papers which were so interesting to sit - just academic or moral topics about which to write essays with no preparation. I loved it and I got one of those scholarships. That was nothing to do with the school and nothing to do with my parents. I had just read some novels where people got university entrance scholarships and I wrote randomly to some. If I could that before the internet existed bright students from all backgrounds can surely do a bit of internet research on what might be needed.

DG2016 Sat 30-Jan-16 00:52:36

On the second link above it is interesting that I remember my daughters when applying trying to ensure they didn't sound too posh (they did things like showjumping as a main hobby etc) because academics tend to be low paid and rather left wing!

homebythesea Sat 30-Jan-16 09:20:47

brian I absolutely believe this is what the top Uni's require. My DS son had a visit from Birmingham Uni admissions team that stressed the need for detailed knowledge outside of the curriculum. Medicine, Vet and Oxbridge is in a different stratosphere above that!

I think it's naive if anyone really believes that PS has not been reviewed and changes advised by several others. DS was seen by subject teacher, personal tutor and Housemaster after it had been reviewed by us parents.

Yes it's all wrong, and that is the gist of the ST project - to help those who don't have that back up. I think what they want is for teachers to get a bit more clued up about what it is that's required to make sure theur students have the best chance against those with help like my DS has had.

I will never forget the MNetter who posted that her child's teachers refused to help with PS on the grounds that if he ended up getting no offers they would be in the firing line for criticism.

BoboChic Sat 30-Jan-16 22:37:21

There is an absolutely massive range of writing skills among 17 year olds. You cannot generalise about typical style. Some 17 year olds are fantastic writers!

Marniasmum Sun 31-Jan-16 00:29:54

I'm surprised a teenager would write about preferring Oxbridge's short terms on his PS when 4/5 of the unis applied for won't have short terms

I said at Fri 29-Jan-16 09:09:04 that it was his SAQ not PS smile

2rebecca Sun 31-Jan-16 10:00:18

Is that an extra thing? Don't recall my son using that acronym.

boys3 Sun 31-Jan-16 12:09:58

zrebecca SAQ is a Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire - asks for specific UMS details etc, and gives an opportunity, should an applicant feel it would be of benefit, to add more as to why applying to Cambridge. There may well be a few other Uni's / courses who have something similar.

2rebecca Sun 31-Jan-16 12:52:37

Thanks, none of his had that, just basic PS.

YeOldeTrout Sun 31-Jan-16 13:36:28

Has anyone had a 6th-former observe them giving birth? I'm surprised if so!!

& Sutton Trust is there to help disadvantaged kids, not offspring of Yummy Mummies like us....

PeterTavy Sun 31-Jan-16 19:55:54

I was very surprised at what my DC doing medical work experience were able to observe and even actively participate in! They took it extremely seriously though as did the medics they were shadowing.

The research brief is interesting, not least because it doesn't reflect the experience of my 2 DC who have gone through the UCAS process so far.

PeterTavy Sun 31-Jan-16 20:06:34

Posted too soon..

Both wrote far far less eloquent statements than the examples in the ST paper, with minimal input from school (in fact DC1's contained a noticeable error not picked up by his school -I spotted it after it went in). DC1 got 4/4 medicine offers and is now at Cambridge and DC2 is going through the process at the moment and so far has a medicine offer for UCL.

Their school is a state grammar, not sure if that makes a difference.
They showed their understanding of medicine, their qualities and a bit of extra stuff e.g. Extra reading, EP etc.

They couldn't have written a PS like the "apprentice" medicine example by ST by themselves. The brief seems too simplistic with limited evidence.

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