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Personal statement advice: sports science

Writing a sports science personal statement? We've been asking sports science tutors what they're looking for in your personal statement – here's what they told us...

One way to win over sports science admissions tutors is to dig into the detail of the course itself and focus your personal statement accordingly (and make sure you avoid Muhammad Ali quotes...).

Sports science degree courses: read the smallprint

Sport degrees come with many different titles and flavours, ranging from those that are very science-based to those approaching sport from a cultural, development or management angle. So it’s important to give lots of thought to the kind of course that most closely meets your personal needs and expectations. Choose carefully and focus your personal statement accordingly.

Don’t judge a course just by its title either, because there are often distinct differences between courses with the same name. Even courses with the word ‘science’ in the title will vary considerably in the level of scientific knowledge they expect.

Some courses within sport and exercise science are very much based on the natural sciences (e.g. physiology or biochemistry) and some lean towards the social sciences (sociology of sport, coaching and so on). So you must read the course information for each institution and course you wish to apply for and make sure your statement reflects your chosen study area. Courses within our general subject area can be very different indeed. Dr Gavin Devereux | Sport And Exercise Course Leader - University Campus Suffolk

Sports science personal statement pointers

Durham University's website has a really helpful checklist for students applying for its sport, exercise and physical activity degree and suggests focusing your statement around questions such as:
  • Why do you want to study it?
  • What specifically interests or excites you about the subject?
  • What have you read, seen or heard about recently that intrigues you about the subject?
  • What current issues do you want to learn more about?
  • Is there a specific part of the course that interests you?
  • What are your own achievements and ambitions?
  • What relevant experience, skills or qualities can you offer?
The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences says that the qualities graduates find most helpful in their subsequent careers are time management, communication, organisation, negotiation and presentation skills so, if you can demonstrate any of those, all the better. 

But don't waste space quoting famous sports stars who have inspired you. As Bournemouth University’s admissions tutor said: 'I’m really fed up of Muhammad Ali quotes'...

Show your personality in your sports science statement

Admissions tutors Tom Webb and Jo Corbett at the University of Portsmouth really want to hear your voice and personality come through in your statement. Think about some of these questions:
  • What makes you different?
  • What part does sport play in your life and why is it important to you?
  • Do you know where you want to be in five years’ time? If so, don’t be afraid to say.
  • What experience of sport do you have?
  • Is your personality running through your personal statement? Studying and working in sport is often about interacting with people and being a 'people person'.
Remember – don't overlook that this is also a science course. You'll need to demonstrate your awareness of this, particularly if you’re applying for a sport degree that involves rigorous scientific study.

All sport and no science won’t impress

We also had some great advice from the Sport and Exercise Science degree at University of Bath, which they themselves stressed is very much ‘a science course in which sport is just the context in which you study science’. Their advice once again is that your statement needs to focus around the specific courses you’re applying for, and to answer the question: ‘why do I want to study this subject further at degree level?’

So while you might be very tempted to write several paragraphs about all your sporting achievements, you’ve got to ask yourself why it’s relevant. As far as this particular course at Bath is concerned, all sport and no science won’t impress. 

Some of your sporting successes could also be covered in your reference, saving precious space in your personal statement to talk more about science. Another approach might be to write about scientific issues that relate to your own performance.

Bath also gave us a tip for applicants who might want to apply for two or more different types of sport course within your five UCAS choices. Their advice is ‘can you write a personal statement that covers them all?’ It’s perfectly possible to do this. The secret is not to write 50% on one course and 50% on the other; but to blend your content in a way that makes 100% of your statement highly relevant to both courses. 

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