"Know what you want to do by Wednesday."
The words of our pastoral head at the beginning of the week, and easier said than done. I'm not talking about myself, I plan on taking a plain old English Literature degree, post-graduation, publishing internship, publisher turned author, fame, world domination.
For others around me, it's not so easy. A lot of my friends were able to decide their futures from a forty minute session with our careers councillor. One of my friends was told by her mother to do Russian, she wanted to do Film Studies. She's now doing joint honours in Russian and Film Studies in Scotland. A massive relief, and relatively simple. Another of my friends had to decide between Mechanical Engineering and Make-up and Prosthetics, she finally decided to go with the latter, a specialism of her Art Foundation course. Others I know have no idea, but whether or not we knew what specific career we wanted, we had to get cracking at our personal statement.
A personal statement was described to us like a sales pitch, where we're the merchandise. You essentially market yourself to a university to convince them to spend money and time on you. You also have to show that you're a hard-working person whose done something with their life after sixteen years. I spent a lot of my time thinking that I'd done nothing meritable, until I realised that 1) running a weekly creative writing club 2) writing two novels whilst juggling full-time education 3) doing 50 hours of volunteering with children with special needs, and being a peer mentor are good achievements. I'm also in the process of completing my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award and am making a short film for my Extended Project Qualification over the summer (worth half an A-level - booyaa!)
Alongside this, we have to show our love for the subject and why we should be set apart from the norm. All in 4000 characters, WITH spaces.
I repeat, LIVING HELL.
I don't write to maximums, I never have. I wrote ten pages about gothic novellas when everybody else wrote four, my two novels average at being 80-100,000 words over the expected limit. It's a big problem for me, and if writing a personal statement wasn't bad enough, there are certain rules when writing one.
We were given examples of personal statements, the good and the bad, and one of them read as thus:
"I enjoy badminton and take a keen interest in the beautiful crafts of my native West Africa. Religious paintings of the Renaissance, works by Caravaggio and Gentileschi, also give me great pleasure."
This person was applying for a law degree. I saw the word 'law' once.
That's clearly a glaring example of what not to write, but a lot of the do's and don't's are subtler and surprised even me. Obviously I'm not an expert, but I consider what I've been taught to be good advice, and perhaps they might even be valuable to others.
So let's begin.