Personal statement advice: statistics

The massive surge in digital data in recent years means there’s lots for statisticians to get excited about. We speak to an admissions tutor to find out the best way to approach your personal statement.

It’s all about evidence!

We spoke to Newcastle University’s admissions tutor Dr Phil Ansell, and his message was short and simple. The best way to stand out from the crowd as a statistics applicant is 'by showing and evidencing your passion for the subject.'

He mentioned three elements that he likes to see in a personal statement that will give it the breadth and depth that he’s looking for:

  • Demonstrate your interest in the subject, and provide evidence to that effect.
  • Show some evidence of knowledge you’ve gained beyond the A level (or equivalent) syllabus. For example, maybe talk about something you’ve seen or heard in the media that struck you as an example of good (or bad!) statistical analysis or reporting.
  • Show evidence of good time management by demonstrating that you can balance your academic commitments with extra-curricular activities
  • You can find out more about studying this subject at university-level by heading to our statistics degree guide.

Statistical no-nos

Don't try to impress by saying something for effect - it may come back to bite you during an interview or applicant open day. Dr Ansell highlights the following example:

Applicant in personal statement: 'I really enjoy reading Simon Singh books.'
Admissions tutor at interview/open day: 'I see that you enjoy Simon Singh books, can you tell me what it is you like about them?'
Applicant: 'Oh, I haven't really read them that often.'

Explain your motivation for wanting to do the course

Admissions tutors from the Department for Statistics at University of Oxford backed up Dr Ansell’s advice. Alongside your academic ability, what they look for the most is, quite simply, enthusiasm for the subject: 'Tell us about your achievements in mathematics, be that in school or through maths challenges. Make sure you convey why you are interested specifically in statistics, and what has made you apply for the mathematics and statistics degree.'

Do that and you should have a high probability of bagging yourself an interview or an offer of a place on the course.