7th January 2019
This guide is taken from the Know How Library, a tool on the Unifrog platform. Not sure whether to take the ACT or the SAT? Or how to give the perfect Oxbridge practice interview? The Know How Library is an easily searchable library of 100s of expert guides for both students and teachers, covering every aspect of the progression process. It is included as standard for Unifrog partner schools.
Having lived in Singapore for nine years, I understand the importance of the law and its central position society. Singapore’s punitive legal system is both notorious and admired, and forms the foundation of its order, safety and its low crime rate. Singapore also has one of the world's most culturally integrated populations, which has been facilitated by the implementation of legally defined racial quotas to avoid ghettoization in Singaporean housing estates. The uniquely overt manifestation of the law in Singapore is what sparked my initial interest in the subject.
In order to make the opening lines eye-catching, start with something unique about you. It could be an interesting personal reason why you chose your subject, or perhaps an unusual experience which has offered you a different perspective (eg growing up in Singapore.)
This first part of my PS covers my passion for Law. Then I move onto my skills and IB subjects, the ways I’ve explored my subject outside the classroom and finally my extracurricular activities.
It’s very important to keep your PS clearly structured - it demonstrates your ability to form a fluent argument as well as making the admissions officer’s job as easy as possible.
Through my IB subjects, I have been able to develop skills which have aided my pursuit of a legal career. English Literature has improved my powers of analysis and argument. Drawing out literary precedents and scrutinising texts in forensic detail to prove a thesis are key skills for a lawyer. In Economics, I found that just as economics shapes itself around socio-economic trends, the law evolves to befit the society that it belongs to. Even learning French has taught me to multitask intellectually. It has made me more aware of the mechanics of language and in this way it has taught me the importance of using these linguistic intricacies to build more logical arguments.
Here I explain why my IB subject combination has made me uniquely suitable for this course. This is a great way of mentioning the skills you have developed at school. Note that each one is linked to my degree choice; everything needs to be tailored to prove that you are an excellent candidate for your subject.
Many of the Law department websites list analytical and debate skills as qualities they look for in applicants so I use the example of my English Literature IB to demonstrate how I possess these competencies.
I knew that I could be called to interview by some of my universities so I left this section as a ‘hook’ for an interviewer. (I was then asked about the importance of language in Law at my interview.)
My Extended Essay presented an excellent opportunity to extend my studies beyond my subjects. I chose to discuss Dickens' satirisation of the judiciary in “Bleak House", after becoming interested in the correlation between negative perception of the judicial system and increasing crime rates - a trend epitomised by the Victorian era. As well as allowing for close scrutiny of the text, the Extended Essay allowed me to hone my research and analytical skills. I was also able to think critically about the role of the law in society. I researched the Court of Chancery in order to find historical information to support and inform my extensive literary analysis. During this research, I read “Learning the Law” by Glanville Williams which strengthened my historical understanding of the judicial system's dilapidation at the time."Learning the Law" taught me the basic principles of the current judicial system in the UK: an understanding which I furthered during a two week law course at Oxford this summer. There I learnt the importance of constructing legal arguments based on precedents and definitions, and was dissuaded from building my arguments too intuitively.
Here I mention the ways I’ve explored my subject outside of the classroom. Note that I don’t just list the books I’ve read, but instead reflect on each one, mentioning what I found interesting.
An EPQ is excellent to include in your Personal Statement. It allows you to demonstrate curiosity and passion for your subject, as well as evidencing that you are capable of conducting independent research.
Here I talk through the path which led me to each part of my research. Linking the books/articles/essays in this way will make your PS seem more fluent and natural. It also indicates a genuine curiosity for the subject.
Note that I don’t just list my wider reading and summer schools, but instead reflect on each one, mentioning what I found interesting and how it improved my understanding of the subject. This demonstrates to admissions tutors that you are able to think independently and form your own opinions.
Make sure you are able to confidently discuss anything that you mention in your Personal Statement. My EPQ was something I was asked to expand on at interview.
I have always been highly active member of my school community and last year my efforts were rewarded when my peers elected me Student President. Campaigning for this position gave me the opportunity to develop my skills in forming persuasive and engaging arguments, and allowed me to recognise the importance of basing justifications in concrete fact.
This section briefly covers my extracurricular activities. For Oxbridge applications, you should try to keep this section to a minimum; the admissions tutors are more interested in your academic credentials.
Note that, rather than just mentioning I was Student President then moving on, I have linked the experience to my subject.This shows an admissions tutor that you are constantly thinking about your subject and how it relates to the world around you.
Where my life in Singapore sparked my interest in the law, especially Criminal Law, studies and extracurricular activities have extended and deepened its appeal.
The more human aspects of the law are what I currently find the most interesting, whether it be the tensions between security and personal liberties in Singapore or the consideration of Intention under Criminal Law. I am looking forward to dedicating myself to a degree which will allow me to explore these aspects and many others, leading me ultimately to my goal of becoming a Criminal Barrister.
Finally, the concluding section should sum up the PS and your reason for applying (so that you avoid finishing on the extracurriculars section.)
Here I talk about the profession that this degree would lead to. Mentioning long term goals which relate to your subject demonstrates commitment and passion.