I applied to study Psychology and Criminology at Southampton, Royal Holloway and Swansea, as well as Psychology at Liverpool and Oxford Brookes. I received offers from all five of my universities.
I became interested in the relationship between human behaviour and the brain when my Gran was diagnosed with Dementia. As I watched her condition deteriorate I noticed her behaviour became increasingly abnormal. This led me to question what parts of the brain led to her deteriorating so quickly, particularly her memory. My growing interest in the link between the biology of a person and their behaviour was what originally drove me to study Psychology A Level. I was intrigued by why human behaviours are so dissimilar and what causes the differences. Is the brain solely responsible for our behaviour? Or is our behaviour a result of a combination of both the brain and the environment?
It’s a good idea to start with why you are so passionate about your subject as this will be the part of the PS which is unique to you (and therefore it will be the part which makes you stand out to admissions tutors.)
This first part of my PS covers my passion for Psychology and then Criminology. Then I move onto my other A Levels, 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.
One of the topics I found most interesting during my A-level course was Psychopathology. This topic drew me to research further the inner workings of the atypical mind, particularly the mind of a criminal. I read the ‘Psychopath Whisperer’ by Kent Kiehl. The most engaging aspect of the book was a case study into a repeat offending paedophile. Despite all rehabilitation efforts failing, further investigation found a large tumour in his frontal lobe which, when removed he no longer displayed deviant behaviours. Why this biological event had such a behavioural impact was fascinating. Perhaps the reason I find the mind of a criminal so engaging is my desire to understand both the thought processes behind the crime, why criminals commit a crime, and whether they have free will. For instance; how can some people be without empathy? What part of the mind reduces their consciousness? These are questions which drive me to pursue my interest in Psychology further.
Some of my courses were in Psychology and Criminology so I had to make my Personal Statement relevant to both subjects. In addition, talking about a specific field you are interested in (rather than just the general subject) will make your PS stand out as unique and personal to you.
Rather than just claiming ‘I am passionate about X’, back up your statements by mentioning ways in which you’ve explored your subject independently. This will prove a genuine curiosity and interest.
Here I mention the topics which I am particularly keen to research further. This demonstrates an excitement and curiosity which admissions tutors look for in applicants.
With a keen interest in science, Chemistry and Biology accompany my Psychology A Level. Studying both Biology and Chemistry has helped me to develop my experimental skills, particularly my hypothesis writing and my ability to analyse experimental data - transferrable skills which are of enormous benefit to my Psychology studies. Biology A Level has helped me to further my understanding of the inner workings of the human body, particularly our neurochemistry. I have been able to apply this scientific knowledge when studying the relationship between our physical and mental condition. My knowledge of genetics and gene mutations has deepened my understanding of the nature vs nurture debate, a key part of the study of criminal minds.
Here I explain why my A Level 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 for each subject I explain how the skills I have developed will improve my Psychology studies. It’s important you keep every detail relevant to your application; your whole PS should be focussed on the question ‘Why am I a good candidate for this course?’
Many of the Psychology department websites listed scientific and analytical skills as qualities that would be desirable in candidates so here I mention my Chemistry and Biology A Levels to demonstrate these skills.
Recently, I attended a lecture by Dr Guy Sutton, a Professor in Neuroscience at Nottingham University. He discussed dissection, brain function and most interestingly the neuropathology of Schizophrenia. This led me to research the relationship between this mental illness and criminal behaviour. I was fascinated to find that, where previously it was thought that Schizophrenia drove people to violence, evidence has been uncovered to suggest that criminality is not a symptom of this condition, and the correlation between Schizophrenia and crime is due to the homelessness, poverty or drug abuse that so often accompanies this illness. My research impressed upon me the importance of studying the mind; this new evidence changed both the way Schizophrenics are treated in society, and how mentally ill criminals are sentenced.
This paragraph covers my study of Psychology beyond the classroom. This acts as evidence of my passion and commitment which I mentioned in previous paragraphs.
Note how I link together my experiences and the articles I’ve read. Explaining how one piece of research led to another makes your PS seem more fluent and natural, as well as demonstrating a sincere curiosity and urge to find out more.
Here I don’t just mention the lecture and then move on, but instead reflect on what I found interesting and how it has improved my understanding of the subject. This demonstrates to admissions tutors that you are capable of processing and evaluating information independently.
Linking your subject to real world events demonstrates to admissions tutors that you understand and appreciate its relevance in the world around you. It gives the impression that you are constantly thinking about your subject and how it has impacted upon every aspect of life.
Strong-willed, courageous and dedicated – I have played cricket as the only girl in boys’ teams from an early age. Opening the bowling to a barrage of comments has further developed my resilience and ‘can-do’ attitude driving me on to achieve the best bowler award three seasons in a row. I am now playing in a men’s league. My highest achievements have been playing for both the District and County teams from the age of 11. I am a level one coach, working towards my level two coaching certificate. I have recently been given the responsibility of running my own team where I hope to inspire the next generation of cricketers. Beyond sport, I enjoy art where I love to explore the inner workings of the mind from a creative perspective. My sculpture which represented motor neurone disease, exploring the conflict between the minds of both humans and animals, was exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery.
This section covers my personal qualities and my experiences outside of the classroom. Note that, rather than simply listing my extracurricular activities, I have used each one to demonstrate how it has made me suitable to study my subject.
Don’t be afraid to highlight your achievements in your PS; this is your one chance to demonstrate to admissions officers that you are uniquely suited to their course.
I strongly believe my work ethic and passion for Psychology will make me the ideal candidate at university. I am excited by the prospect of deepening my understanding of the complexities of human behaviour and starting on my path to becoming a forensic psychologist.
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.