What do Admissions Tutors actually look for in a personal statement?
Generally, they are looking for applicants who are enthusiastic, motivated, passionate about their subject and keen to learn. Birmingham University has produced a very interesting and useful video with a number of Admissions Tutors for different subjects on it and they give a good insight into what they look for. (See the link on the right hand side of this page.) There are common themes. You will see from the video how much the content and style of the personal statement matters!
You offer practice interviews. How do you help me with technical questions and what are practice interviews like, generally?
Well, I obviously can’t be an expert in all subjects for university and college courses and all jobs – so I research the technical area and develop my own bank of questions. This enables me to ask you technical questions and gives you practice thinking about how you would answer them, succinctly and with examples. I can’t test the content of your answers (in other words whether you are technically right or wrong or have given a valid opinion), but I can feedback to you how you answer questions and the impression you are making. You will also know yourself, from our dry-runs, whether you are as well-prepared as you should be and it will highlight areas to brush up on. I always encourage applicants to set up a separate practice with someone who is a subject specialist. More than anything, though, practice interviews are vital for developing confidence and managing nerves. However ‘relaxed’ the interviewer tries to make it for you, you are still under the spotlight and are the centre of attention – and this can be uncomfortable. The idea is not to produce model answers but to help you become better at managing your situation, thinking on your feet and giving of your very best when you attend the real interview. The practice interviews I do are a great way to learn and also, believe it or not, good fun! Why don’t you give one a try?
I am trying to get work for my business but my proposals are being rejected even though I know we could do the job really well? Have you any advice?
It is difficult without seeing the proposals myself but a common problem that occurs is that businesses describe themselves and their products (ie. they write about their features) rather than supplying information about what they can offer to the prospective customer (ie. write about the benefits). It may be that this is what is happening to you. Please get in touch so that we can look at your proposals together and see how you could change them to get better results.
I don’t think I want to see myself on video when I come for a practice interview – it’s going to make me feel worse – why do you suggest it?
Using the video is entirely optional – some people go for it and some just won’t entertain it! It is up to you. I suggest it for some circumstances because I think it will help. Don’t forget, we are not just looking for faults and areas for development – we also look for the things you do well and this can really boost your confidence. I often like to show people clips to convince them of how well they are doing – because sometimes they don’t believe me when I tell them – they want proof!