Oxbridge don’t care about your ‘X Factor sob story’ personal statements

You’re going to save the world yeah?

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Desperate Oxbridge hopefuls have been told to stop including “totally inauthentic” talent show inspired “sob stories” in their applications. 

Oxford received a record 17,000 applications last year, and with less than one in five gaining a place, personal statements are increasingly “designed to impress Simon Cowell” – according to their admissions staff.

Oxbridge Applications –– an independent service which advises thousands of candidates –– warned about the extortionate amount of”kiss-and-tell” exposés, the rise of which is blamed on Britain’s “X Factor culture” and talent shows.

Rebecca Williams, the education consultancy’s Head of Programmes, told The Daily Telegraph: “Unfortunately, a lot of students keen to go to Oxford or Cambridge are damaging their prospects because they think they have to go to great lengths to stand out.”

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She added: “They can be overly emotive, indulge in sob-stories, weave fantastical tales or go to the other extreme and claim they are budding world experts on Dickens, Darwin or Greek debt.

“Perhaps it’s a consequence of our X Factor culture, but it isn’t really appropriate.”

The main culprits for dramatic personal statements are wannabe medics, as they attribute their passion for medicine to “life-threatening illnesses that afflicted their neighbours, parents, brothers, sisters and, of course, themselves”.

Law students have also be known to claim they lingered around court rooms as a child to see justice in action.


There were a record 17,000 applications to Oxford last year

Rebecca said: “I’ve had students claim their passion to be a doctor was inspired by a sibling’s life-threatening illness, their fascination for the law was sparked by a John Grisham novel, and that their life-long interest in philosophy was ignited when they sat in a French bistro aged 11 listening to the locals discussing Eric Cantona.

“Would-be medics are particularly prone to dramatic sob stories. I’ve lost count of the number of applicants who were inspired to be doctors by life-threatening illnesses that afflicted their neighbours, parents, brothers, sisters and, of course, themselves.

“Then there are the budding lawyers who hang around courtrooms and script lines like: ‘It was a cold summer’s day. The verdict was in: guilty. A woman’s life had been irrevocably changed. It was then I decided I wanted to study law…'”

Helen Charlesworth, Head of Undergraduate Enquiries and Marketing at Oxford, wants to remind applicants the selection process is extensive.

She said: “Unlike a talent show, where you might just have a few seconds to make an impression, your application to Oxford will be considered with great care.

“What we are looking at has to do with substance rather than style.”

But Oxford fresher Shakeel Hashim has branded the admissions process “pretty perfect”.

The PPE student told The Tab: “No one I know did a sob story, and I’m not sure why you would really.

“For Oxford and Cambridge to stay as the top unis they have to keep the admissions process very academically focussed, and I think it’s refreshing that unlike at a lot of unis, they don’t care if you were a prefect or did DofE.

“They do consider personality though –– the style of the interview resembles a tutorial, which not everyone is suited to, so that’s a good way of working out if you’re the right type of person for it.”