Medicine Personal Statement

This personal statement was part of this student’s successful application to UCL, University of Edinburgh and Queen Mary University London for Medicine. 


As a St. John Ambulance first aider, I treated a schoolmate who fractured his forearm and dislocated his elbow. I immediately assigned my fellow first aiders their roles before speaking calmly to my schoolmate. Yet, held back by the limitations of being a first aider, we could only stabilise him before transferring him to the hospital for treatment. My perceived limitations sparked my consideration of pursuing medicine as a career choice as it exposed me to the extensive possibilities of being a doctor.

Intrigued by the decision-making process in medicine, I shadowed a doctor in the emergency ward of a local hospital. He diagnosed patients not just by using a fixed algorithm, but by using a blend of his clinical acumen, the results of lab tests and imaging modalities, considering every aspect of the illness. Through this, I realised that he maintained a healthy dose of scepticism to avoid red herrings, which could have caused misdiagnoses. Wielding the wisdom to choose his diagnostic tools at the correct moments, he avoided the unnecessary usage of resources, which were then made available for patients in the Intensive Care Unit. By doing so, I recognised that doctors constantly problem-solve, highlighting the investigative nature of a doctor’s role, consequently strengthening my resolve to study medicine.

I also understood the importance of compassion in medicine after witnessing the gravity of the psychological impact of illnesses on patients, especially those with heart disease. To tackle this, the doctor reassured and motivated them to change their sedentary lifestyles, a tough but gratifying task. From this, I learnt that doctors play a pivotal, yet unspoken role in solving some modifiable risk factors in such illnesses, consequently improving public health. He also adopted a scientific approach to most cases by not only addressing the symptoms but also the pathophysiology. Through this, I realised that science and benevolence are symbiotic in this field, exposing me to the holistic aspect of medicine.

Reading about the vastly unexplored area of neuroscience exposed me to the danger of brain tumours, such as glioblastomas. The heterogenous nature of these cells renders chemotherapy ineffective, leaving neurosurgeons with only the crude option of surgery to remove these tenacious tumours. Even then, the dilemma of deciding whether to operate or not plagues doctors ‘minds. I am optimistic that further research can solve this issue by paving the path to the finding of non-invasive diagnostic techniques, such as monoclonal antibodies. This can potentially lead to the discoveries of effective chemotherapeutic agents and oncolytic viruses that can specifically target these cells, such as the Zika virus which can kill glioblastomas. Research is an integral and exciting aspect of medicine, which ultimately aims to improve patient care. I believe that it is vital to apply research in the clinical setting. Volunteering at a hospice enabled me to empathise with the elderly. One particular lady left me feeling helpless as she was bedridden and blind, binding her to a challenging life. I realised that my company brought her joy, exposing me to the importance of applying medical humanities in the clinical setting.

To further improve my interpersonal skills, I tutored underprivileged children from a rural area in English through my college’s Rotaract Club. This allowed me to understand the importance of communicating well in a multiracial society, another key aspect of a doctor’s job scope. This experience further inspired me to champion public health as the kids were living in poor conditions. Currently, I am self-learning to code and play the guitar, whilst regularly playing badminton to ensure that I am constantly learning new skills whilst leading a balanced lifestyle. Together, these experiences gave me the valuable insights needed to practice in this field that is an imperfect science but nonetheless a gratifying art.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

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Economics Personal Statement

Aaron Goh is currently on a gap year and will be reading BSc Economics at University of Cambridge. This personal statement was part of his successful application to University of Cambridge, UCL, University of Warwick and University of Durham for Economics.


Max Hartwell said that “economics is, in essence, the study of poverty”. I disagree. I think economics today is, fundamentally, the study and use of incentives to achieve policy goals. However, if what Hartwell meant was that alleviating poverty is the goal of economics, then I concur – it must be the most important aim of socioeconomic policy. Reading Duflo and Banerjee’s ‘Poor Economics’, I found myself increasingly interested in discussions of solutions to poverty. In particular, I am interested in the effects of education on poverty; I believe education is a necessary condition to escape vicious cycles of low education, low skill, and therefore low incomes. I do not believe in a single, miraculous solution to poverty. However, I think that a heterogeneous use of education-driven policies bears the most promising results.

I found an appealing theoretical basis for my hypothesis in my A-level studies – Marginal Revenue Productivity (MRP) theory suggests that workers who produce output of higher value will earn higher wages. Furthermore, education changes structural causes, and breaks intergenerational chains of, poverty. Educating children reduces inequality from the get-go, while educating or re-training adults with the right skills grants them access to higher-paying jobs in current demand. Further exploration of empirical research by the Hamilton Project shows that increasing educational attainment will increase average income. Therefore, a sound way to help the poor is to improve access to, and incentive for, education.

I was intrigued by Dulo and Banerjee’s counter-intuitive inding that conditional cash transfers were not as effective as unconditional ones at incentivising the poor to send their children to school; this highlighted that policies to increase education for the poor need to be carefully thought out. For instance, one policy that they discuss is making microcredit available to the poor. I initially agreed, since in theory, this would reduce liquidity constraints holding them back from education. However, research by Augsburg et al. on Bosnia found that higher microcredit availability actually reduced the school attendance of 16-19 year olds due to them leaving school to start businesses! The use of econometric analysis, coupled with tools such as the Randomised Control Trials used by Dulo and Banerjee, can help reveal how our policies should be crafted; I look forward to gaining a rigorous understanding of such analysis at an undergraduate level.

Inspired by data-driven approaches to uncovering solutions for poverty, I downloaded World Bank time-series for GNI per capita, and gross primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment in America to examine the correlations between these variables. A rudimentary analysis of data for America revealed the R-squared value for a regression of GNI per capita on the three different enrolment variables to be 0.61 at most (for primary enrolment). This suggested to me that while education may be a necessary condition for ameliorating poverty, it is not a sufficient condition; it is dependent on other elements too, which is why Eric Hanushek found that in many cases, simply spending more on education did not accrue significant returns. One such element may be political uncertainty. I once discussed the ongoing civil war in Libya at a Model United Nations Conference; it has shut down schools and exacerbated extreme poverty. Policy solutions here must deal with the differing political reality of the country. All this reaffirmed to me that policy discussions require rich cross-disciplinary handling, something I look forward to learning more of.

My tertiary education will be funded by a Malaysian Central Bank scholarship; this opportunity was life changing for someone of lower middle-class income status like myself. How can others access opportunities like this? I hope to gain the rigour and knowledge to answer these questions, beginning with an education in economics.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Civil Engineering Personal Statement

Jordan Aw is currently a second year undergraduate reading MEng in Civil Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, University of Leeds, University of Bath, University of Southampton and University of Sheffield for Civil Engineering.


When Elon Musk caused a media firestorm in August 2013 with the announcement of the Hyperloop concept- a new mode of high speed transportation via tubes containing just a thousandth of the air pressure at sea level- I realised that we are in the middle of a revolution in the world of transportation. Space travel is no longer exclusively state-sponsored; a market is already slowly emerging for commercial space travel. Hyperloop companies are already here, and are doing public tests, each time with something new to offer. Car manufacturers project that they’ll be ready to mass-produce self-driving cars within five years. My fascination with this “revolution” eventually grew to the point where I made the conscious decision to get involved, and I decided on civil engineering.

It soon became clear to me that such a significant shift meant that current infrastructure would be insufficient. While researching this in the context of autonomous cars, I discovered the idea-and limited reality-of machine perception, the capability of a machine to understand data in the way humans understand stimuli. However, reliance on solely the computer’s ability to interpret data correctly would lead to the same problem that human drivers have: there are just too many factors to fully recognise. Would a machine be able to recognise children playing by the road, and slow down because it knows they might run onto the street? To existing software, humans just look like columns of pixels. This possible over-reliance is why I believe that we need to consider how our roads convey information to computers as well.

Growing up outside the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, I recognise that our public transport systems are lacking. Outside KL, there are no rail systems except the outdated intercity trains. However, even with KL’s comprehensive train services and buses, traffic jams still cost Malaysia RM20 billion in 2014, according to the World Bank. Intrigued by this apparent paradox, further research led me to an article by Renne, which discussed the idea of transit-oriented development (TOD) and networked livable communities. The statistics showed a clear picture of the benefits of developing a community around a comprehensive transport system, instead of the reverse, with residents of TODs spending a significantly lower percentage of their income on housing and transport. These are ideas that I am extremely interested in seeing implemented in Malaysia, with most of its cities and towns being relatively underdeveloped.

While researching California’s high-speed rail system, I was struck by the amount of controversy surrounding it. The constantly increasing costs and the revelation that the California High-Speed Rail Authority had downplayed the initial estimates came across as particularly dishonest. As public unrest increased, the political opposition to the project gained more and more traction, as evidenced by the successful lawsuit which undermined its funding. I found it similar to Malaysia’s 1MDB, a state-sponsored development company revealed to be massively corrupt. I realised that Malaysia would face the same problems and that political engagement is important.

Outside the classroom, I am Director of Community Service for my school’s Leo Club, organising visits to a local orphanage, old folks’ home, and beach clean-ups. I also participated in a 24 hour run to raise funds for charities dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking. My team raised over RM5000, the third highest amount raised for the event. I am a member of my school’s debating team and have competed in various local and national events, winning the national championships in 2016. To widen my scope, I joined my school’s press team for which I write and edit a bimonthly newsletter.

I believe the role of the civil engineer is an exciting one in a developing country like my own, and that getting a degree from a top UK university would be a major step towards fulfilling my goals.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Biomedical Engineering/Natural Sciences Personal Statement

Ng Eu Keat is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London for Biomedical Engineering, University College London for Natural Sciences and Biomedical Engineering as well as University of Bath for Natural Sciences.


During my DoE Gold expedition, I camped in a cave with a colony of bats and noted their
skill of echolocation. Only knowing the basics of echolocation I decided to read ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ in which Dawkins highlights the use of the Doppler shift principle by bats to determine how far or near prey is. Additionally, bats are able to contract their ear bones to protect themselves from their shriek, a method which is applied to most sonar systems from boats to medical sonar. What made this so captivating was how it opened up a new perspective on nature-inspired innovations which sparked a desire for me to further understand the possible applications of biology, chemistry and physics.

As a person who appreciates the environment, I shadowed a group of scientists at the
Danau Girang Field Centre in Borneo last January where I developed experimental
techniques such as setting up camera traps and collecting and inspecting parasites in a
lab. Setting up camera traps was challenging as my team and I needed to consider how
the animals might respond to the traps. This required me to think inventively. All the time spent in the field had me wondering about the current situation of my country’s rainforest. In order to understand more I interviewed some doctoral students and scientist about their research. Consequently I learned about their plans for sustainable palm oil plantations which would not threaten forest biodiversity. The experience has heightened my understanding of the environment while helping me hone my communication and mediation skills: all necessary for work in research groups.

Those who spend time outside in Borneo understand the irritation of mosquitoes. Interestingly we do not feel the bites as mosquitoes have one pair of serrated needles which minimise contact with nerves, something I learnt at a talk by Dr. Moshrefi-Torbati on biomimicry. Auxiliary reading showed that the adaptation was the basis on which engineer Seiji Aoyagi created his pain free hypodermic needle. The talk made me wonder about the other instances of biomimicry in nature. Inspired, I undertook an EPQ researching the topic. An example would be the tasar silkworm, whose silk fibroin is the main component of certain heart scaffolds as the silk is biocompatible while being able to degrade safely. The EPQ has refined my ability to conduct independent research which I applied to expand my understanding on respiration. For instance, I made notes on the ten steps of glycolysis as I had not been satisfied with the simplified version learnt in class.

Being given the opportunity to learn about the workings of our world throughout my A-
level has been especially engaging. However the ability to realise practical solutions from the theories learnt is what excites me. Therefore, I read Mark Miodownik’s ‘Stuff Matters’ learning about the medical applications of bio-glass and titanium in surgery. Miodownik further explores concepts such as the transparency of glass which really stretched my understanding of inorganic chemistry; I only knew that glass was transparent and, not how that property emerged. To complement my growing interest in materials science I completed an online course on 3D bio-printing to get an insight on how personalised prosthetics are made.

Quite simply it is the interdisciplinary approach to the sciences which fascinates me and,
as an initiative to share my knowledge, my friend and I started an Instagram account
where I set aside time to point out topics of interest such as: ‘Coral bleaching’ and
‘Tissue regeneration’. It was evident from my research that the environment is degrading
due to human activity. Another problem I have observed is the growing threat of
superbugs facilitated by the careless prescription of antibiotics by Malaysian doctors. It is
my hope that one day I will be able to develop sustainable solutions for the environment,
as well as new advances in medicine for Malaysia.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Law Personal Statement

The writer is currently a first year undergraduate reading LLB Law at the London School of Economics. This personal statement was part of this student’s successful application to LSE, Queen Mary University and University of Nottingham for Law.


The ambition to provide the poorest man a wealthier life is a noble one, but defining it by racial preference is Malaysia’s shameful mistake. Affirmative action, favouring its 68.6% Bumi population has provided property purchase discounts and permitted reservations into state universities, the civil service and public share offerings via the New Economic Policy since the 1970s. This contravention of equal protection enshrined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution precipitates institutional socioeconomic segregation. Being a beneficiary by virtue of race prompts me to question its fairness towards my non-Bumi compatriots who virtually hold a second-class citizenship.

I witnessed the rise of Bersih, a democratic protest whereby its 150,000 members expressed concerns about balancing the need for special privileges with minority rights within the Malaysian Constitution. I was appalled that the freedom of protesters to question Article 153 was criminalised under the Sedition Act with allegations of seditious tendencies and exciting disaffection. This ambiguous and subjective definition grants the executive discretion for arbitrary enforcement, as with the onerously regulated media and removal of the Attorney-General and Parliamentary Accounts Committee chairman investigating the siphoning of 700 million USD from Malaysia’s developmental fund 1MDB sitting in private accounts of its chief officers. The power to exercise judicial reviews in Marbury v Madison has been limited by abuse, eroding the credibility of the court to independently uphold the rule of law that Bingham implies is of democratic importance. Montesquieu promotes that a despot emerges when the three institutions of the state are under executive control and in this quasi-democracy which inherited English common laws, the public now fear its manifestation. The protection against exploitation of the written constitution and human rights is what led me to law.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir justifies Article 153 in ‘The Malay Dilemma’ by referring to years of discrimination during the colonial era. Intrigued by when affirmative action should be limited, I compared the Equality Act in the UK that legally protects people against preferential treatment with Malaysia’s practice of utilitarianism. Although the greatest good is for the greatest number, a review should be insisted when it compromises the universal basic rights of equality. The World Policy Journal reports that millions of non-Bumi migrate or deviate from government sectors to avoid prejudice forced through structural disenfranchisement. Hence, I refer to Portia in Antonio’s trial, that this conflict of law and equity should be resolved through considerations of mercy and fairness in its administration. Whether it is criminal, constitutional or property, law holds a significant role in the protection of human dignity, one that should not be subverted for personal gain.The misuse of power, compounded by lack of freedom, calls for a nobler form of justice. I aspire to learn how lawyers challenge legal decisions and push the judiciary to interpret the law contrary to one amended by the powers that be.

My debating experience has exposed me to similar social, political and economic illnesses which occur between persons and governments. Learning to construct and destruct arguments while defending unorthodox stances through discourse is important but what I look forward to at university is to practically address these problems with legal interpretation. Being a Central Bank scholar gives me a platform in its legal department to practice this knowledge and advocate constitutional liberalism whilst attempting to review and mend draconian laws in the future.

Some Malaysians can withstand the lack of transparency, judicial power and equal rights while others feel defeated. Studying law will aid me prevent the loss of confidence in it and contribute to society by upholding the protection of civil liberties.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Accounting and Finance Personal Statement 3

Hoi Lee Yang is currently a first year undergraduate reading Bsc in Accounting and Finance at London School of Economics. This personal statement was part of his successful application to LSE, University of Warwick, University of Bristol and Durham University for Accounting and Finance.


As a child, I was enamoured with the same questions that would have plagued any
questioning child’s mind. Like any aspiring engineer or doctor or lawyer, I yearned to know more about how the world, in all its intricacy and sophistication, functioned. I savoured my opportunities to learn about the breakthroughs of physics in creating our modern comforts, and relished the study of history: of how every nascent today is inextricably linked to past events. I have been thrilled by the knowledge of anatomy, learning so intently about what I was, and how I functioned. Despite all this, the world appeared insistent in showing me that the true key to understanding its machinations lay not in any of these fields. The surest way to make sense of the world, it seemed, was in a certain field without which all human activity would not function. It manages us, as much as we try to manage it: money.

I am interested in accounting and finance due to its sheer ubiquity. I realise that every economic entity, from the big corporations and governments down to local sundry shops or even households, relies on the management of finances and planning for the best future outcome. Accounting has always been a deep-rooted industry, charting a colourful history from the clay envelopes used for bookkeeping in 5000 BC Mesopotamian temples, to the double-entry ledgers of Medieval Venice. Regardless of what general perception might contend, though, I am convinced the field of accounting is also one of growth and vibrancy. Looking to the recent proliferation of financial technology, or Fintech, I am particularly keen to follow the advances in the field as I make my journey into accounting at university.

March 2017 saw HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, partner up with an online commerce
platform, Tradeshift, to offer an online alternative for financing and paperwork. This is part of a broader phenomenon of big finance companies collaborating with Fintech startups not just in the UK, but around the world. On the ground, we see the business world evolve, just as it did when manufacturing first took root in the Industrial Revolution. A KFC outlet in Beijing now accepts payment through facial recognition, and the Singapore government is working on a standardised QR code system for all monetary transactions. Bitcoin, despite price volatility and initial hostility from banks had, by the end of August 2017, octupled its market value in a year, pointing to its increasing use as a medium of transaction. Other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Litecoin also follow suit. At university, I am eager to refine my knowledge of the current framework of finance, and alongside a group of equally-curious peers, enrich myself with a better understanding of how the status quo will adapt to these technological advances.

I am drawn to accounting and finance due to the promise of challenge, not only arithmetically but also in tackling complex problems. A-Levels also marked my first exposure to the world of Economics, allowing me to enrich my understanding of accounting with a background context in how the business world worked. The course compelled me to pick up books such as Daron Acemoglu’s ‘Why Nations Fail’, which intrigued me with the idea that governments must strive to maintain inclusive economic activity that incentivises every party to work hard. The copious examples of failed civilisations which could not ensure a reward for parties to take risks and adopt new technologies had also sparked my interest in management, realising how similar the running of businesses are to that of entire civilisations.

I feel I am a dynamic, curious and highly-motivated student who is very excited about the prospect of studying Accounting & Finance at a first class university in the UK. I eagerly look forward to the challenges I will face on an academically rigorous and complex course. And hopefully by the end of my degree, the machinations of the world will be a little less elusive.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Chemical Engineering Personal Statement 3

Roshan Sivabalan is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester for Chemical Engineering.


Diamonds puzzled me – a substance so small and seemingly delicate, measured a 10 on the Mohs scale, and could survive being immersed in concentrated sulphuric acid unscathed. It is unfathomable that this glass-like structure remains as the only known natural substance that can cut anything and that really intrigued me. After doing some research, I learned that it was the tetrahedral arrangement of the compressed carbon atoms that make the carbon-carbon covalent bonds so strong, giving diamonds the aforementioned properties: making it breakable only under extreme pressures.

However, what I found more fascinating was the application of this knowledge about the chemical properties of diamond; engineers have fashioned synthetic diamonds by replicating diamond’s geometrical atomic structure to make it accessible to the masses. Yet others have created nanodiamonds with good reflective properties, which are used to monitor the cellular-level changes in cancer patients after medication is administered. Innovations like these piqued my interest in chemical engineering; I find myself intellectually engaged by the art of manipulating the structural components of atoms to yield creations capable of improving life for the average man.

To explore my interest in this field, I interned at an engineering firm, and was assigned to the Oil and Gas division. There, I shadowed a chemical engineer involved in the building of megastructures. I obtained valuable insight into the role that chemical processes play in the creation of concrete structures used in offshore drilling. I also learned about the assembly of subsea pipelines which are used to pump liquid natural gas from the oil rigs in Lekas, Malacca. Furthermore, I was trained to identify and distinguish good tenders from those that were not, by taking factors such as cost, materials used and construction period into account.

I enjoy the study of Chemistry – it allows me to understand how compounds exist, react and work with one another; this might allow for the identification of the quickest way to yield a product via application of Le Chatelier’s principle. Moreover, the interplay between Physics and Chemistry is fascinating; I find that I understand concepts better when I employ a multidisciplinary approach to my learning. For instance, I better grasped Hess’ Law – which gives that the total enthalpy change of a chemical reaction is independent of the path it takes – when I realised that it was merely a twist on the principle of conservation of energy, which I learned in Physics. Mathematics and Further Mathematics opened my mind to how numbers, although imaginary, have real world applications. For example, studying probability and statistics allows us to calculate insurance risks and estimate ocean current behaviors while knowledge about projectile motions, gravitational force and multiple other mathematical laws made it possible for us to put a man on the moon. My love for these subjects pushed me to participate in the National Chemistry Quiz and the Mathematics Olympiad. I was pleased to receive merit awards in both competitions as a validation of my decision to read a degree built around that subject matter.

In high school, I had to juggle my academics with my duties as the Head Boy, President of the English Language Society and the Vice President of the Taekwondo Club. These experiences helped develop my time-management abilities, while teaching me to work well in teams, a soft skill vital for engineers. Serving as a member of the Malaysian national debating team for 5 consecutive years in multiple local and international tournaments, trained me to think critically under pressure and I feel this will serve me well in university.

I am confident that my experiences, positive and negative, have prepared me for the challenges I will face in university. I am eager and ready to read a rigorous degree in chemical engineering and cannot wait to begin this exciting new chapter in my life.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

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This write-up will explain largely the key questions surrounding applications to read Economics at LSE – Composition and direction of the Personal Statement and subject choices. I am currently studying BSc in Economics (L101) at LSE, having studied A level (History, Economics, Maths and Further Maths) at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar previously.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

The Personal Statement is undisputedly the most important component of your application. Tons of other applicants will possess stellar grades, which is where your statement will differentiate you from the others and land yourself an offer. If your grades aren’t stellar, likewise, this is the hinging factor that might place you over the others. Evidently rejections from LSE often fall back to faults in Personal Statements being not up to the standard LSE wants or that they do not reflect what LSE looks for in an applicant.

Let’s establish three simple principles to follow in writing your personal statement, which will apply to arguably all other university applications through UCAS. Firstly, your personal statement must reflect that your academic potential or interest. Secondly, your personal statement should be about academics. Thirdly, your personal statement should reflect you. Being able to follow these three divine commandments will, hopefully, bring out the essence of your application to British universities, with LSE included. Keep in mind that Economics at LSE is extremely competitive, you have no reason to slack off on your personal statement.

How shall I display my academic potential or interest?

The most intuitive way to do this is to display curiosity, sophistication and clear understanding of economic issues that deeply interest you. Given that, it might be helpful to start planning and think about burning questions or issues that you love way beforehand rather than to glide through economic books or textbooks to find the “most interesting topic”.  You will be able to talk about topics that interest you deeply more intelligently, passionately and interestingly.

In my case, my initial draft largely consisted of brief mentions and analysis of books of different topics, ranging from financial crises, development, income disparity to policies. A clear problem was that it lacked depth and sophistication. Surely it displayed evidence of reading but certainly not competency. Realising that, my further drafts focused on largely a central topic – development. In doing so, the number of books mentioned was reduced significantly. Each book mentioned revealed a different aspect of developmental economics, while complementing and extending one another. At this point, it is easy to slip into a trap of summarising books you read. Avoid this and relate the content to what you have understood, or how it revealed a new aspect that sparks curiosity. A good way to do this is to either express an opinion in extension to your analysis of the book or an intelligent question.

A crucial aspect that might easily be overlooked is mathematics. Maths is the Holy Grail for LSE, especially for economics, which is maths-intensive. This means that you should display mathematical competency in your Personal Statement, not forgetting to relate maths with economics. Developing this portion in depth, supported by your understanding and perhaps, achievements in maths would be great. Remember however that listing your achievements in maths competitions is good but isn’t impressive in comparison to a candidate who shows awareness of relation between maths and economics in context.

How should I make my Personal Statement academic?

An appropriate answer to that would be to strike out/cut down on ECAs and personal interests that have no direct relation with Economics. However, that does not mean that your personal statement should be strictly without ECAs etc. Having internships and ECAs that directly relate to Economics would be very helpful if you are able to show that they facilitate your understanding of the subject. Intuitive examples could be debates and internships at the government/think tanks/financial institutes/research institutes. To be clear, it is imperative to discuss them in an academic context and not the typical “leadership/teamwork skills”. Surely the latter is interesting but less importance than the academic portions.

If you do feel the burning need to include unrelated ECAs or personal interests, to the point that you will not gain sufficient closure, do it by all means. However, do minimise it to perhaps, a short paragraph at most. It will contribute at most marginally, if not nothing at all, to the strength of your application, which also applies to generally highly selective universities. It is your personal statement regardless, do whatever that makes you most comfortable.

How do I reflect myself in my Personal Statement?

Given that UCAS Personal Statements are academic in content, having an essence of individuality would, supposedly, make your application more differentiable and perhaps, impressive. Notice how US college essays explicitly, and sometimes strictly, emphasise on revealing yourself as an individual. Your goal is to achieve that effect within the academic construct of a UCAS Personal Statement.

Understandably, it is relatively easy to achieve this effect in the introductory paragraph of your Personal Statement. A situation, observation or experience that relates to an Economic problem would be appropriate. Of course, do expound on it and if it relates to you to the point that it deserves to be in the first paragraph of your statement, you should be able to raise intelligent, sophisticated and nuanced questions/understanding.

Extending that, an issue that closely relates to you would also be an appropriate theme of your personal statement. This general theme allows you to explore a topic in depth easier and in context, particularly when you know first-hand about the economic problem/topic in discussion. Take the freedom in exploring in breadth but writing along a familiar theme comes with good depth, understanding and relative ease. Moreover, your Personal Statement avoids the pitfall of being a barrage of loosely linked academic topics, with a touch of dryness.

SUBJECT CHOICES

What subjects should I take?

LSE is part of the Russell Group universities, which are all selective research-intensive universities. A common thing that all of them share explicitly is their preference for traditional subjects over vocational/soft subjects. LSE, in particular, discourages explicitly its applicants from taking soft subjects such as Accounting (yes, even if you’re applying for Accounting and Finance), Law (even for Law applicants), media studies etc. Economics applicants should, therefore, take the precaution of taking traditional subjects given that your offer will exclude Further Maths from being part of the A*AA offer. Your grades for Further Maths, however well you do, will only count towards the “Pass in A2 Further Mathematics” segment. According to LSE’s international officer James Brown (2015), taking a soft subject will put your application at a disadvantageous position, which could, however, be amended by getting impressive grades (metric is uncertain but the mid-high 90s UMS range would make sense).

There is also an ever-going discussion over the necessity of Further Maths as a fourth subject. There are practical benefits of taking Further Maths if you are applying for Economics at LSE as well as at other universities. University Economics generally requires good mastery of mathematics. More than half of your first year modules in LSE will be about maths, which means that taking Further Maths will help you in going about university easier than those without.

There is a saying that goes “taking Further Maths will not give you any advantage but not taking it will disadvantage your application.” Although there are people who have obtained offers without taking Further Maths, there is no reason to deliberately put one aspect of your application in a weaker position.

Given that, an optimal subject combination should comprise of Maths, Further Maths and 2 hard subjects. Hard subjects include but are probably not limited to the following: History, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English Literature, Geography, Classical Studies and Languages. A list of “non-preferred” subjects is available on the LSE website itself under the page titled “LSE’s entry requirements”.

On a less related note, given that people applying for similar subjects might be viewing this, specifically Econometrics and Mathematical Economics that normally doesn’t accept first year entries, it is stated on the subject page on the LSE website that taking at least one physical science would be attractive, from which you will also find out that they don’t normally accept direct entries into first year.

What if my AS exams were to go wrong?

I suppose this segment is only relevant to those who would take their AS exams in summer (May/June) before UCAS application opens. A quick answer would be that you’re probably doomed. Fear not, however, as mentioned previously, your spectacular, groundbreaking, marvelous, impressive, stellar Personal Statement might be able to save you. Nonetheless, if your AS grades are only a grade away from the grade requirements and that your predictions meet them, you’re probably still in for the game. I cannot stress how important it is to perform well in your AS exams. Re-sits are possible but you might have to compensate on your A2. Worst of all is that the not-so-good AS grades will have to be declared on UCAS.

In instances where extenuating circumstances such as medical conditions, staffing issues etc. have affected your grades, declare them. In my case, I had a history teacher crisis in which there was a lack of a teacher for disturbingly long period of time. Unsurprisingly, I managed to obtain only a ‘b (76)’ for my AS History.. The point is that if your extenuating circumstances have affected your grades such that they do not reflect your academic performance, declare them with the utmost and shameless honesty. It is still possible that you stand as strong as or stronger than others with better grades.


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Suah Jing Lian is currently a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar who is pursuing Economics in the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He has a penchant for Baroque music, particularly Bach’s partitas, and debating, which he claims provides sparks to his life. People claim that he looks and speaks in an intimidating way but not really, he’s one of the most eccentric people you will ever meet.

UK Architecture Application

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Hi there! I am Louisa from Kuching, Sarawak. I did my A-levels at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) and am currently pursuing the Foundation Course in the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA School). This will lead to my First Year in Architecture.

When you hear the word ‘architecture’, you will probably think of buildings, sketches or the people responsible for creating space, function and form while the engineers grumble over that these architects draw dreams that they have to create. Architecture is, however, a long journey of 5 academic years for the master’s degree and another two years of working to earn your RIBA part 3, which ultimately proves that you are a fully-fledged architect and are able to sign off your drawings. It is encouraged to take a break to work for a year after the third year of your degree. So this journey would be about 8 years long – “as bad as medicine”, people would say.

You have to be certain of your choice and you must have a passion for this course. Otherwise, it will be absolute torture for you. The hashtag ‘#architorture’ is a thing on Instagram, go check it out. This is not the course for you if your plan is to get rich quick. The famous architects you hear about don’t represent more than a bare minority and they had to work long and hard to reach where they are now. Hard work, perseverance and passion are necessary to survive this craziness.

Portfolio

The big major question everyone has in their mind. The major headache of every art student. Honestly, presentation is what is important for the portfolio the most. You need to give good quality images of your work and then be able to explain it well. Have a side note to each image and tell them what inspired you to do this – the thought process. To each student their own because the portfolio is almost like an extension of your character. Especially now with my course mates, when I see their portfolios, I see their characters in the images and the way they present their images.

There is no right or wrong with portfolios. It may vary according to the school you apply for, they may be looking for students with certain qualities or styles. That is why it is important to research on the schools you are applying for, to understand their approach to teaching the architectural course.

When I applied to the AA School, my portfolio was very much comprised of fine art with a bit of graphic design thrown in. My friends have portfolios showing just sketches or just photographs or every style of art under the sun; showing their experiments and approaches. The AA School likes students from all styles as long as you can communicate and explain your work. They are more interested in the way you think, the way you approach things, rather than actually seeing what you can do, though that is necessary too.

Personal Statement

Another headache. At this time, the UCAS students are shaking their heads and panicking because the deadlines are here or for the Oxbridge candidates, pass and the agony of waiting is upon them. The important thing about personal statements is to speak about your passion in architecture and what influenced you to choose architecture. Let them understand without question or doubt as to why they should choose you for a place in their university for architecture. Explain how your skills and ECA activities tie into architecture or how they are useful.

Spend a small amount of time, small being the crucial word here, to explain why you choose the university. Of course for UCAS applicants, you have to be very general about it but explain why the university would be necessary for your future and how you are important to the school too, how you could contribute to them. Talk about how your experience and leadership skills acquired in high school can be used in the clubs and societies offered in the university.

For applicants applying to private universities or applying to a university individually, this is the time to really research on the university’s teaching style. Is it technical or more creative? Explain why you want to pursue those aspects that the university can offer. These are mere examples. Remember, do not oversell yourself or ‘butter up’ the school too much. You will come off as desperate or a sycophant, both of which will decrease your favourability to the universities and you do not want that to happen. Unless you state it, the universities will have no idea which other universities to applied to, this is especially so for UCAS candidates, until you have chosen your firm and insurance choice.

In my personal experience, I would say, be prepared to work hard but remember to work smart. Every day, do something and little by little, it will build up into something amazing. Do not get discouraged if your first topic was bad. Keep working on it, Rome was not built in a day after all. You can only get better with practice. Do proper research, read a lot and observe. Take photographs, sketches, make annotations of buildings and anything at all that captured your attention. You never know when these things might actually help spark that creative streak in you down the road when you are stuck in the studio in the middle of the night trying to come up with an idea. You start to notice what works and what does not in architecture, architecture will take over your life.

Important point is, that even with an architectural degree, you do not necessarily have to practice architecture. There are people with architectural degrees doing product design, interior design or even event planning. The sky is the limit, it does not stop with architecture. In fact, it gives you a better understanding of things. In architecture, you learn model-making, observational study, photography, and an excellent understanding of the Adobe Creative Suite which includes Photoshop to name a few.

I personally enjoy my course even though it can get extremely tedious. Honestly, there are moments when I love it and moments when I question my life choices. But if you are certain about this, and you have a passion for it, I say ignore whatever other people say and go for it. This is your future, you should do something you enjoy and if need be, go against the current. I am all for being unique. After all, that is how amazing things happen – with confidence, tenacity and hard work.


Louisa Wong is currently reading Architecture in the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA School) in the United Kingdom.

Actuarial Science/ Maths & Stats/ MORSE Personal Statement

Lim Yeak Seng is currently reading Actuarial Science at the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE). This personal statement is part of his successful application to the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE), City University London, Heriot-Watt University and University of Warwick for MORSE.


I am intrigued by how stochastic processes are applied in probability theory, in order to capture uncertainty in real world dynamic phenomena. The book ‘Time Series Modelling of Water Resources and Environmental Systems’ by K.W. Hipel impresses me with its employment of statistical methodologies for scientific data analysis of environmental time series. The research undertaken by Silva et al in optimising the generation of power from hydroelectric plants, by utilising linear multivariate time series models to model flows into the reservoirs, has saved Brazil about $87 million in five years. From my research, I believe the time series model can provide a rigorous mathematical formulation of underlying structures and their relation to observable random variables, via its latent variables. I realise the importance of holistic and pragmatic time series models in simulating real world situations and for predicting possible future outcomes.

I was introduced to cladistics by the entomologist, W. Hennig in ‘Phylogenetic Systematics’. The cladograms are assembled by computer analysis of similarities and differences between species, such as characters and DNA sequences. Linnaeus’s classification scheme and Haeckel’s Tree Of Life provide a solid foundation for mathematicians to catalogue nature’s diversity and to reveal the secret of evolution.  In 2010, D. Theobald effectively applied cladistics methods to test this hypothesis, known as ‘universal common ancestry’; the results came down firmly in favour of a common ancestry for all present-day life. I am impressed by how the construction of cladograms can make the classification of organisms more systematic, avoiding the subjective decisions of traditional taxonomy. In the future, I aspire to contribute to society by utilising my numerical ability to analyse statistical data in order to construct models with greater predictive power.

As an intern at Yong Sing Insurance, I was introduced to a variety of policies. I am fascinated by how an actuary formulates a policy, taking different variables into consideration with the aim of maximising profits. My second internship at Hong Leong Bank exposed me to the resilience of Malaysia’s existing financial systems. An integrated regional crisis management framework, alongside surveillance mechanisms, puts policymakers in a constant state of preparedness for any eventuality. I am intrigued by how better risk assessments by an actuary allow the best decisions to be made by policymakers for implementing pre-emptive measures. The causes and impacts of the current world financial crisis fascinate me. My reading suggests that the limitations and defects of D. X. Li’s Gaussian Copula model caused the U.S. Subprime Mortgage crisis to aggravate. The unstable correlation between financial quantities and the unpredictability of the parameters of the economic models have made it difficult to assess hugely complex risks accurately. In my view, sufficient historical data about actual defaults needs to be assembled and the indication of rising default risk, such as the soaring price of credit default swap, should be considered when constructing statistical models.

I enjoy solving complicated maths questions and I am currently enrolled in a Data Analysis and Statistical Inference module on Coursera. I am very curious about how statistical theories work; currently, I am studying frequentist and Bayesian inference.  Both are useful in parameter estimation, depending on the data size and the availability of the prior distribution.

I have developed my leadership skills and discipline as a Scout Leader. Working as the Treasurer of the Maths Club has given me invaluable experience in managing funds. I enjoy sports and athletics; I represented my District in the International Ekiden Run.

I am a motivated, passionate and determined student who is looking forward to acquiring the skills I need by studying as an undergraduate at a prestigious UK university.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.