Dr Fatimah Zainudin from the University of Southampton’s management school is looking for 'the "chemistry" that makes an applicant shine out,’ so try and demonstrate your enthusiasm about the course and the buzz you'll get from studying it.
'What we love to see is a passion for the subject itself. If you fall in love with the subject, that’s what will lead to success on the course; it will give you the right chemistry,' she says.
If you can demonstrate what's sparked your interest in finance and accounting, that's a good start – but it’s no good just saying you’ve got a passion for it, you have to show it.
If you’re not the kind of person who gets very passionate about things, don’t worry. But do still try to explain what it is that attracts you to studying it. Then back it up with evidence of your relevant skills, knowledge or experiences and show that you understand something about what’s involved. That should solve it.
- Get the basics right: good communication skills are essential to anyone working in the finance sector, so make sure your statement is well-written. Nobody is asking for a literary masterpiece here, just a well-structured and waffle- and error-free statement.
- Interest in the subject: Sheffield Hallam University is looking for you to demonstrate 'an interest in and awareness of accounting and finance, or some level of practical experience.' Similarly, Bristol is looking for 'interest and commitment to the subject.' This means conveying enthusiasm for studying it and showing that you understand something about it, whether that comes from reading, work experience, or studying relevant topics in your A level, BTEC, or Higher course.
- Business awareness: University of Bath selectors are expecting students to have an interest and aptitude for 'quantitative analysis of business issues.' Demonstrate this with evidence that shows your abilities for applying mathematical skills to the analysis of business problems.
- Beyond the classroom: The University of Bristol is looking for 'intellectual curiosity – reading or research beyond the A level (or equivalent) syllabus.’ This is always good practice in personal statements, provided you then reflect on what you learned from your wider reading or research – they don’t just want a list.
- Relevant outside interests: if you choose to include extra-curricular activities, make sure they are relevant or showcase appropriate personal characteristics, skills, or achievements. Apply the 'so what?' test: if you play the flute or basketball, can you make that relevant to your future success at university, or should other factors take priority in your 47 lines?
If you’ve had some work experience, that’s great. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a couple of weeks spent shadowing an accountant, a couple of hours just talking to one, a part-time job in a financial, retail, or business environment, or a scheme like Young Enterprise. What does matter is that you write about something relevant that you have learned from it. But, as Sheffield Hallam and LSE say on their websites, experience is not essential, so don’t panic if you don’t have any.
Your commitment to studying accounting or finance as an academic subject is usually the key requirement. However, if you can also show that extra ingredient of passion and a glimpse of the ‘chemistry’ that exists between you and the subject, then your application really will stand out.