Personal statement advice: biology
We ask a biology admissions tutor what the secret is to writing a successful biology personal statement. Apparently, there isn't one… it’s all about genuine passion, enthusiasm and curiosity.
More personal statement advice: see our articles on 10 things to include and how to get writing.
A successful biology personal statementUniversity of Southampton admissions tutor Dr Malcom East outlines two key ingredients that he would like to see evidenced in your biological sciences statement:
1. That you understand something about the course you’re applying for, with a realistic perception of what it involves;
2. That you’re enthusiastic about the subject and can show some commitment to it. You can demonstrate this by writing about your wider reading, Extended Project, work experience or any other way that you have engaged with biological science beyond the syllabus.
Your commitment and appetite for the subjectAdmissions tutors at the University of Birmingham are looking out for something you’ve done, or something you think, that conveys your commitment to the subject:
- What topics do you find particularly intriguing?
- Have you done anything interesting or unusual that has involved engaging with the subject beyond the syllabus, or through your extra-curricular interests or voluntary work?
- Have you been on an interesting field course or visited a university laboratory and learned something from it?
Cardiff University’s selectors are no different. They want you to demonstrate a commitment, motivation and determination to further your knowledge in biosciences, along with any experience or other non-academic interests that highlight your personal qualities in general. They also want to see from your statement that you can communicate this in a way that’s concise and coherent.
See our in-depth guide to studying biology at university, from typical modules to career paths, for some inspiration.
Conveying your enthusiasm
So if you're fascinated by the machinery of the cell, human health or disease, the natural environment, any other specific aspects of biology or just the science of living organisms in general then make sure you include it. By reflecting on one or two of these interests in your statement, you’re likely to make a strong impression.
It’s good to include some non-academic contentAdmissions tutors at King’s College London like to see an element in your statement that reflects on your general reading, debating, contributing to school, college or community life or any cultural or sporting interests, as they are keen for you to continue this at uni and to contribute to the 'vitality of the College community'.
However, if your home or personal circumstances mean that it has been difficult to extend your knowledge or experiences outside of school or college, don’t worry. As Cardiff point out, universities will usually be sympathetic to this.
How critical is the personal statement?If you achieve the required grades and can genuinely demonstrate that you’ve got the necessary enthusiasm and commitment, then you should be in a strong position. Your personal statement, in combination with your academic reference, will be very important for demonstrating those qualities.
If your statement clearly shows that you have also applied for a clinical programme like medicine, veterinary science or dentistry, that lack of commitment to biology is likely to be a turn-off to some universities, including University of Bristol. However, others take a different view on that or may consider a separate statement sent directly to them. Do research this in advance!
According to University of Southampton, it’s if you don’t quite get the grades you need in August that the personal statement becomes especially critical. If you find yourself in this position, then your statement could turn out to be your lifeline on results day. As Dr East put it: 'If we have a few places left, then the statement will probably determine whether you’re in or out'.