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Enhancing Personal Statements, interview performance and reference writing

For eighteen years, first at LSE and then at Imperial College London, and with Optimising Futures now starting its seventh year, I have enthusiastically devoted my time to working with hundreds of schools in the UK and in various parts of Europe. I have spoken to students, teachers and parents about different aspects of the Higher Education application process, helping sixth form students with their applications and interviews and teachers with UCAS references. Feedback is consistently excellent with many schools directly attributing the increased success of their students' applications to the work I do.

During this time, I have given practice interviews to thousands of students including Oxbridge and Russell Group applicants across the full range of subject areas. This, combined with eight years' experience as an interviewer on medicine interview panels at Imperial has made me a welcome addition to practice interview days held in many schools. Feedback from students shows that they feel much more confident and relaxed about the real thing once they have experienced one of my rigorous practice interviews!

For several years, I have also been working with the team at UCAS on many live broadcasts for the UCAS Hub, providing my knowledge and expertise in my own inimitable style as their 'Personal Statement Expert'!

So, if you would like application and interview advice for an entire year group or just a few of your high flyers, I offer lively and entertaining talks on the benefits of a degree, writing excellent Personal Statements and developing interview skills as well as practice interview sessions and Personal Statement clinics. I also offer reassuring guidance on writing effective UCAS references for teachers in the new style, as well as Personal Statement and Reference proofreading and editing, for over-burdened staff. 

Please browse through everything I offer and choose the best options to suit you, your students and teachers.

Everything I offer is also available online.

Please click on the relevant link at the foot of the page for pricing and contact details.

Videos to rent

The series of six short videos (3-5 mins each) which provide a step-by-step bite-sized guide to writing an excellent Personal Statement, with accompanying written resources. These are really useful for tutor time and for reminding students how to structure and complete their Personal Statements. They cover:

  • The importance of evidence

  • Finding a punchy starter

  • Language tips

  • How to make the most of your evidence

  • The 'other 20%'

  • Effective endings

These are available for rent by schools for one month of unlimited access by you and your students - please contact me if you are interested in finding out more.

You can also rent videos of the extremely popular 'Why bother?' and 'Writing an excellent Personal Statement' talks (please see details below). These are available for rent by schools for one month of unlimited access by you and your students - prices can be found by clicking on the relevant link at the foot of the page or please contact me if you are interested in finding out more.

Live talks and workshops

In terms of talks and workshops in school or via video link, I can offer you any combination of the following, all delivered with enormous enthusiasm and humour:

Why bother?.......and how to survive!

  • 40 minute presentation

  • the benefits of a degree (but this is not the only route to success)

  • the importance of careful choices

  • how to choose where to go and what to study

  • an insight into university life (a cautionary tale!)

  • followed by a 20 minute Q&A session for any questions or concerns about going to university and university applications

Writing an excellent Personal Statement

  • 40 minute presentation

  • what are admissions tutors looking for?

  • what to include, and what to leave out

  • hilarious examples from previous statements

  • followed by a 20 minute Q&A session for any questions or concerns about Personal Statements

  • written resources covering the main points of the talk and a guide to help students build up their evidence

Personal Statement workshop

  • one hour Personal Statement workshop with students in small, usually subject-specific groups – this can be run as a stand-alone activity or as a follow up to the Personal Statement talk

  • the workshop is based around a stimulus (article, poem, picture etc) which should be related to the course the student wishes to apply for. Each student will supply their own stimulus for discussion

  • this session will encourage students to think about their interests while demonstrating their transferable skills

  • by the end of the workshop, students will have a clear idea of how to structure their Personal Statement, and understand the process of gathering and including evidence effectively.

Medical ethics workshop

  • one hour interactive workshop on typical ethical questions students could face either in traditional or MMI university interviews

  • after tackling the tricky question ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’, we will look at ethical questions, scenarios and dilemmas and students will discuss the most appropriate responses using what they know about the basic principles of being a good doctor as well as their own common sense and empathy for others

  • this session can also be adapted for students applying for dentistry and veterinary medicine

  • written resources covering the main points of the session, as well as additional questions and useful links.

Preparing for effective interviews

  • 40 minute interactive presentation on developing interview skills, including logistics, behaviour, attire and, of course, how to tackle those all-important interview questions, even the tricky ones!

  • interactive in-depth coverage of subject-specific Oxbridge and Russell Group style questions

  • followed by a 20 minute Q&A session to answer any questions or concerns about interviews

  • written resource covering the main points of the talk

Practice interviews

  • individual 30 minute appointments – including feedback and 5 minutes to write up the notes

  • subject-specific interview covering typical university interview questions and how to tackle them, including Oxbridge and Russell Group, as required

  • constructive feedback and suggestions for enhancement throughout the interview

  • subject-specific questions and resources provided afterwards, as well as written feedback including any points to note, either of concern or brilliance!

Personal Statement clinic

  • individual 20 minute appointments, or subject-specific group sessions

  • critical analysis of the draft Personal Statement/s

  • constructive feedback and suggestions for enhancement

  • this clinic includes practice interview questions for students to work through

Writing effective UCAS references - for teachers

Even if teachers have been writing excellent references for years, with the recent UCAS changes it can be helpful to have reassurance that you are doing what you need to, and you may even pick up a few tips to further enhance what you write! For those staff who are new to the reference writing process, it can seem daunting particularly if all you have written before is a normal subject reference on a school report. This session has often been included as part of a staff INSET day and will be of relevance to all staff whatever experience you have in UCAS reference writing:

  • 40 minute presentation on writing effective UCAS references - what to include, what to leave out and what information it is vital to pass on to the universities

  • examples of good and bad references for discussion

  • followed by 20 minutes of Q&A to deal with any additional queries

  • written resource covering the main points of the presentation

Personal Statement and/ or Reference proofreading and editing service

If you are pushed for time and need an extra pair of hands to help out with the proofreading and editing, this is a service I have offered to private clients for many years and I now offer it to my colleagues out in schools. I help with the high-flyers applying for Oxbridge and Russell Group, students applying for jobs and apprenticeships with CVs and covering letters, as well as students applying to specialist courses. I also collate, proofread and edit references, maintaining complete confidentiality at all times.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss a bespoke option which would better suit your requirements.

Please click on the relevant link below for pricing and contact details:

Information for International Schools

Information for UK Independent Schools

Information for UK State Schools

Activities in schools for students and teachers: Service
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