OSCAR goes beyond "personal statement builders" to support outstanding subject-focused applications for all major courses.
OSCAR provides interactive activities which allow students to show their full academic potential in their personal statements. Step by step, students are able to:
- Provide evidence about their motivations for wanting to study a subject;
- Show their ability and enhance their chances of receiving an offer by undertaking a short supported research project;
- Analyse academic activities and work experience effectively and avoid listing;
- Report extra-curricular activities succinctly
- Structure & edit their personal statement.
See the difference
Without OSCAR (natural sciences)
Since I was a child, I have found myself to be utterly fascinated by how science works. I do not have to look far to find the source of my love for science. Just glancing around the living room my eyes fall upon a whole host of fascinating organisms, seen and unseen they create a brilliant miniature ecosystem with billions of tiny processes and reactions for me to sit and unpick.
With OSCAR (natural sciences)
My main reason for wanting to study Natural Sciences is the enjoyment I take from grappling with new and complex ideas. In Physics, I am particularly drawn to the atomic scale and have developed an interest in quantum models which move beyond my current syllabus. In Biology, I enjoy analysis on a larger scale; my curiosity is fired by experimental questions such as how to model the distributions of species on islands.
- In the extract on the left, the student has fallen into two traps. The frequent "since I was a child" opening is combined with what one admissions tutor terms the "faulty lightbulb" moment. Research shows that enthusiasm for a subject needs to be supported by detail and precise evidence not vast generalisations about "billions of tiny processes and reactions".
The OSCAR solution
- OSCAR provides subject-specific activities which enable students to reflect properly on the skills they enjoy and, as a result, to find evidence to back up their reasons for wanting to study a particular course. Michele Donalato, head of Sixth Form at Stepney Green, has commented on how the process helps to "bring out a side to students which I had never seen."
Without OSCAR (Law)
I am especially fascinated by all aspects of human rights law and am passionate about bringing justice to people who are not able to represent themselves. Human rights are a key part in making society fair and this part of the law shows how it can be a glue that holds society together.
With OSCAR (Law)
I have developed an interest in human rights law and read up on the recent case of two women who were challenging the new law that immigrants wished to join their spouses had to pass a "pre-entry" English language test. One of the main legal issues centred on whether the new policy breached the appellants' right to a family life. I was struck by the level of uncertainty in the wording of the final judgement. Although the appeal failed, the judges stated that a "significant number" of future cases, for example, those in which immigrants had learning difficulties, would be likely to breach human rights. My research led me to reflect on the fact that the application of specific laws depends on very subtle differences in the circumstances of different cases.
The student who wrote the paragraph on the left is trying to impress the admissions tutor through their passion for the subject. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to show that the student's passion involves actually reading and researching a specific topic of interest. The result is a bland and generalised section about "all aspects of human rights law" and vague reflections on the role of law in society. Research indicates that these types of assertion do nothing to improve a candidate's chances of being offered a place.
The OSCAR solution
Using OSCAR every student undertakes a short research project. The projects are structured and differentiated so that students are supported in analysing a topic or work experience placement in depth. This type of paragraph which is show on the right has been proven to significantly increase a student's chances of being offered a place at the institution of their choice. In this example, the student used OSCAR to identify and read about a specific case. Crucially, the student is encouraged make a number of mature and independent reflections which showcase their suitability to study Law: rather than professing an interest in "all aspects of human rights law", the student demonstrates an appreciation of the need to make precise distinctions between cases.
Without OSCAR (Graphic Design)
I recently set up and completed a week-long work experience placement at a local graphic design company. The experience gave me a real insight into the graphic design industry and reinforced my desire to study the subject at university.
With OSCAR (Graphic Design)
During a work experience placement with a graphic design company, I was particularly interested in the challenges of creating clear infographics. To emphasize the most important information, I experimented with combining different hooks with a range of typographic fonts. I found that the most effective solution depended on creating a clear "narrative" within the image itself.
Research shows that students find it difficult to analyse work experience placements and other academic activities effectively. In the extract on the left, the student makes the common mistake of saying that their experience gave them an "insight" but not saying what the insight was. The pattern is often repeated when students reflect on additional academic activities such as university outreach programmes or take part in other enrichment activities. Students simply state they have completed a project or attended and lecture and draw no dividend for their personal statement.
The OSCAR solution
OSCAR supports students providing crucial scaffolding as they seek to analyse work experience placements and other academic activities in detail. Students are encouraged to reflect on specific aspects of their experiences in a structured way. As a result, their experiences and academic activities actually make a difference to their chance of securing a university place.
Outside of the classroom, I have completed the Duke of Edinburgh Silver award. This helped me to develop a number of skills. I am passionate about swimming and have been a member of the school team since Year 11. During my GCSEs I was also a member of the netball team. Swimming at a high level has provided a perfect training in managing pressurised situations. As a school prefect, I help to organize events such as our recent talent show, I also take parents around the school for tours. For two years, I have worked in a busy local shop and this has developed my abilities to work with people. I feel confident interacting with people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
In completing my Duke of Edinburgh Silver award, I have developed skills in planning tasks and leading a team. I speak two different languages - English and Portuguese - and this has given me a valuable perspective in understanding different cultures. During my A-Levels, I worked in a busy shop and swam for the school team – by balancing these commitments with my studies, my ability in organising and managing my time has improved significantly.
Understandably, students want to talk about their extra-curricular activities in detail. There is a danger that students can over-emphasise these activities including several paragraphs which attempt to make the statement more "personal". In the extract on the left, the student goes into unnecessary detail about swimming and does not specify the actual skills that they have developed while completing the Duke of Edinburgh award.
The OSCAR solution
OSCAR helps students to draw out key skills from their extra-curricular activities and to reflect on them succinctly. The space which is freed up can be used to demonstrate a students' suitability for a specific course. OSCAR also highlights important additional skills such as contributing to the community and speaking multiple languages which students do not always perceive as important attributes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will using the tool produce similar personal statements?
No. At present, research shows that students write personal statements with a high degree of uniformity, often using similar language and tropes from samples found on the internet. Analysis of usage shows that students produce much more diverse personal statements using OSCAR which allow them to demonstrate their personal interests.
2. I'm worried that the example statements do not sound "personal" enough. Does OSCAR address this problem?
The "personal" element of the personal statement needs to be interpreted carefully. Admissions tutors are primarily interested in an applicant’s personality in as far as it relates to the course they want to study and their reasons for wishing to do so. There is no research evidence that students’ attempts to link multiple parts of the statement to autobiographical reasons increase applicants’ chances of being offered a place at the university of their choice. OSCAR enables students to write individual statements which showcase their best attributes and abilities.
3. Some of my students rely on "filling up" the statement with extra-curricular activities. Are the academic enrichment activities in OSCAR suitable for all students?
Yes. OSCAR activities are structured and differentiated. When students are writing their paragraph of independent research, there are three levels of difficulty with applicants able to choose the level they are comfortable with. The third and fourth stages of OSCAR enable students to present and analyse the academic and extra-curricular activities which they are proud of.