Help them highlight their unique experiences in their personal statement, to stand out from the crowd.
Posted Mon 18 December 2017 - 11:59

The Directorate Children and Young People (DCYP), part of the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for the educational outcomes of military children in all types of schools (with the exception of those attending MOD schools) in the UK and abroad. Ed Harris, Senior Education Officer at Directorate Children and Young People, sheds some light on how the difficulties often associated with military life can actually play a positive role in developing key skills, and why students from a military family should be encouraged to talk about this in their personal statement.  

‘The personal statement is an important part of the UCAS application. It’s a chance for your students to describe their ambitions, skills, and experiences, and illustrate why they should be offered a university place.

Students from military families often bring a wealth of experiences and skills rarely available to those from conventional homes. Yet it is rare that students from the military community use the valuable life experiences gained to showcase why they believe they can uniquely meet the demands of university life, and flourish on their chosen course(s).

Take mobility as an example. The fact that military students move around a lot can often be perceived as having a negative impact on their education. However, when writing their personal statement, students can speak about the high level skills they have had to develop to thrive in any context or location. As a military student, you have to develop incredibly advanced social skills to be accepted into a broad range of friendship groups, negotiate your way through a myriad of different teaching styles and curricula, and successfully adapt to the broad range of cultures and values expressed in different schools and locations. They demonstrate incredible resilience and agility to overcome and manage these extensive transitions, to a level where they are now being considered for a university place.

The deployment of a parent away from the family home is an experience that most military families are required to contend with. While normal for the military community, it should not be forgotten that this too is something which can demonstrate how your students respond to change and to challenging circumstances. As a child of a military family who has gone through such an experience, they will have been required to manage emotions and fears about their deployed parent, while still maintaining their academic progress, and taking on additional responsibilities at home to support their mum, dad, or other siblings. This demonstrates considerable character, high levels of self-management, and significant maturity.

For those students from a military background who have accompanied serving parents on overseas assignments, there is an even broader range of experiences which can be included in a personal statement. A student in this category will inevitably have lived in a very different cultural context, and will have needed to demonstrate considerable adaptability to succeed. They may have also experienced the education of the particular nation they were resident in, and will therefore have the benefit of a broader curriculum knowledge than most other UK students applying for a university place. In short, students who have first-hand experience of an overseas assignment will see the world from a range of perspectives, and will be more likely to apply these perspectives to their university experiences and studies.

It’s important your students focus on why they’re applying for their chosen course(s) and what makes them suitable in their personal statement – including any relevant extracurricular activities, volunteering, work experience, or achievements gained to support their application. I hope you will join me in encouraging military children to speak about their experiences and skills developed as part of military family life, and how this has influenced and shaped them in to the person they are today.’

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