"Geography is a living, breathing subject, constantly adapting itself to change. It is dynamic and relevant, a great adventure with a purpose," wrote Michael Palin.
From global warming, to the impact of economic change on communities, geography can be a fascinating subject to study. But first, would-be geographers have to impress admissions tutors in an application.
In a personal statement for geography, tutors look for enthusiasm for the subject, experience and things that demonstrate you are a well-rounded person. There are some important things to include, and some equally important things to avoid.
What to include
Interests: Explain why you are interested in studying the course. "We want to know why on earth you want to do geography," says Peter Mackie, professor of human geography at Cardiff University.
"We're happy for students to express a specialist interest at this stage. You could say 'I'm interested in the Arab spring movement', or 'I'm interested in sustainability and climate change'. A better student can draw on interests outside of the classroom."
Experience: Next, admissions tutors want to hear about your experience. "You've told us about your interest, now we want you to prove it," says Mackie. "Show us the evidence."
"It could be a field trip, a holiday, or something you've seen in the local paper. If you've arranged geography seminars in school, or volunteered with Oxfam, let us know."
Personal qualities: Some tutors are particularly keen to see that you have compassion and empathy. "Students must show empathy with different people, places and environments," says Phil Barker, from Lancaster University's environment centre. "Things like volunteering can be good to talk about."
Other interests: In addition to your course-related experience, admissions tutors want to hear about your other interests. "We want people to be well rounded because all of our graduates go on to do diverse things," says Lucie Bilsbrough, admissions officer at the University of Leeds.
"So if you do ballet or you work at Mcdonalds, let us know. Because that can show that you're good at time management and that you have a life outside of geography."
Personality: It's also good to have an idea of what you want to gain from the course. "Say what you want to do once you leave university, even if you don't know in any detail," says Bilsbrough. "Because it looks good if you have an idea."
This can help to show tutors your personality. "I always advise applicants to try and find their own voice," says Bilsbrough. "Because you see a lot of applications that are very generic."
Communication: Basic grammar and spelling are expected. "The ability to communicate, both written and verbally, is important," says Mackie. "So students could talk about debating societies or a presentation they've given. You have to show you're willing to read and to work hard."
What to avoid doing
Lack of research: What should you avoid in a personal statement? First of all, make sure you apply for the right course. "We sometimes get people who have clearly applied for the wrong thing," says Barker.
"There are students who apply saying 'I'm really interested in a career in geo-physics'. And they've applied for a geography degree. Sometimes things with superficially similar names confuse people, so it's very important to do your research."
Forcing things together: Don't try and connect unrelated experiences to geography. "Some students try to tie unrelated experiences, such as working in Topshop or football coaching, to geography in very strange, weird and wonderful ways," says Mackie.
Lack of depth: It's best not to simply describe what you've done, but to evaluate and explain things. "People tend to be quite descriptive," says Barker. "You should try to be more evaluative to get depth into the statement."
Complicated: Don't try and tackle too many complicated ideas in not enough detail. "Sometimes we get people who try and write a lot about academic literature," says Barker. "But it's hard to do that well with a short amount of words, so it might not be right for the personal statement."
Too brief: But at the same time, make sure you use the space you've got. "Some applicants keep it very short," says Bilsbrough. "That makes you think, do you really want to do this and are you really committed?"
• If you have any questions about the course or application process, then get in touch with someone in the admissions team at the university you're applying for. "Sometimes people are shy about asking for help but it is our job to help them," says Bilsbrough, "so get in touch at any time."
Geography Personal Statement 8
The primary reason why I want to study geography at university is that it addresses the main issues in the world today such as overpopulation, the depletion of the ozone layer and pollution. Geography is the subject that has interested me the most all through GCSE and A-Level and the only subject that I have ever considered studying at a higher level. Geography interests me particularly in how it links people to the earth that surrounds them. To give two examples of this: people have an impact on the earth through means such as pollution; and the earth impacts on people's lives through natural disasters like volcanoes.
Studying geography at A-Level has strengthened my desire to study the subject at university by introducing me to new topics which I have enjoyed such as cold environments and health. My knowledge of previous topics I have studied, such as rivers and population, has also been strengthened. My geographical skills have also improved throughout the course especially through fieldwork investigation. Fieldwork has also taught me how geography works in a real life setting. I undertook two fieldwork investigations in my AS year: one physical and one human. The human fieldwork investigation took place in Wolverhampton and compared the population structures of two wards through the use of surveys and secondary data such as census statistics. The physical fieldwork investigation tested the changes downstream of the Ashes Hollow river in Shropshire. This fieldwork investigation taught me skills such as data collection; for example when testing the velocity of the river I was taught correctly how to use a flow metre and how to get the most accurate result. By also studying Psychology and English Literature and Language combined at A-Level, I have been able to develop other skills such as essay writing and statistic techniques.
I enjoyed all the topics explored in the AS level geography course. However it was the population topic from human geography that interested me the most. By studying population predictions from different countries in the form of population pyramids and the demographic transition model, I was able to understand how population was going to change in different parts of the world and how this would affect the area they live in.
In my free time, I work in a charity shop at least once a week. This has been a rewarding experience and has taught me essential skills such as taking the initiative in a situation. An example is when inspecting the shop floor if I saw a half empty shelf I would know to fill it up. I have also attended geographical lectures with the Shropshire branch of the Geographical Association. This has reinforced my enthusiasm to study geography at higher level. One of my main hobbies is swimming, a skill I only learnt 4 years ago by teaching myself after many years of struggling. I now try to swim at least 3 times a week. Swimming has given me confidence to try other new sports including badminton. While at school I was a student leader, a role that enabled me to work in a group to help organise students break and lunch times to stop overcrowding in corridors. This involved scheduling where different year groups would be and the amount of people who were allowed in different areas. In 2008, I acquired a Mandarin Chinese breakthrough certificate after a year long course. I enjoyed learning a new language as well as other elements of the course such as learning what China was really like from the Chinese teacher.
I am looking forward to building on my existing knowledge of geography and getting the opportunity to study it for 3 more years. I hope then to achieve my goal to teach geography to share my own enthusiasm of the subject.
Universities Applied to:
- University of Birmingham (L700) - Offer (AAB)
- University of Nottingham (L700) - Offer (ABB)
- Bangor University (L700) - Offer (300 points)
- Aberystwyth University (F800) - Offer (300 points) Insurance
- Lancaster University (L700) - Offer (ABB) Firm
- Psychology (A2) - A
- Geography (A2) - A
- English Combined (A2) - A
Article by TSR User on Thursday 15 February 2018