Personal statement: What is ‘relevant experience’? 5 tips on how to get it.

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So after what feels like a million years, you’ve now finally decided which course you want to study and chosen your preferred destinations. However, your college tutor mentions the need to include ‘relevant experience’ and all you can think about is how Covid-19 disrupted any plans you had. All it takes is a little thinking outside the box and Jaydeep from Admissions has provided 5 tips on what you can include – when you write your personal statement – ensuring you can tick ‘relevant experience’ off the list.

First and foremost, you might be thinking, ‘What even is relevant experience and why is it necessary to include it in my personal statement?’ It’s anything you’ve done up until now that is related to the course you’re applying for. Whether you’re applying for History and visited the British Museum on a school trip a few years ago or you’re applying for Music and participate in a gospel choir each week – these are the types of experiences which will help shape your personal statement and demonstrate your interest in the field. 

  1. Wider Reading

It might sound simple and we promise it isn’t a trick, but reading is so beneficial in enhancing your knowledge and experience of the course you’re applying for. Jaydeep says “this may be newspaper articles published on current events, online journals which you have found interesting as part of your research on the subject or social media trends that inspired you into studying the topic further, like, Blackout Tuesday on Instagram.” Get reading, you never know what you might discover.

  1. Watching Documentaries

What are the chances you have a Netflix or Amazon Prime account? Streaming services, like those, provide you with a whole new sphere to gain relevant experience. However, even if you don’t want to pay for them, the likes of BBC iPlayer and 4OD are fantastic alternatives with cultivating documentaries. Jaydeep says “any relevant documentaries that you have been watching, for example, if you are applying for History of Art, have you watched the TV series, Art of Persia?” It’s also not limited to just documentaries, educational videos, like TED Talks are also a great way of expanding your knowledge.

  1. Short courses

Well and truly broaden your horizons and scour the internet to see if there are any free courses about which interest you and are relevant to the course you’re applying for. FutureLearn is a popular option and has free courses along with Open Education

  1. Show interest in programme from school modules

Was there a particular module in your GCSE Business Studies or A-Level Philosophy and Ethics class, which inspired you to do further research on the topic, to help you decide your University degree choice? Talking about your experiences in education can display your passion and interest in the course – which is exactly what the Admissions teams want to see.

  1. Volunteer

Although Covid-19 might restrict you from doing some of the practical elements you had in mind, there are a number of different ways you can volunteer, which can relate back to the course you’re applying for. Jaydeep says, “even something like litter picking in your local park, which can develop into campaigning and spreading awareness.” Even if you’re not able to head out as freely as you’d like, look for volunteering opportunities that can be done online or over the phone, for example, volunteer as a telephone befriender with Age UK. These experiences really help the Admissions team paint a picture of your character. 

Finally what makes a great personal statement is when a student really goes into detail about why they want to study that particular subject. Jaydeep goes on to say, “what we are really looking for as Admissions tutors is something unique to the individual, and something that shows that the student has taken a bit more time to understand the topic.” 

If Covid-19 affected your initial plans to gain practical experience, hopefully those 5 tips have reassured and shown you how much you can do in the comfort of your own home. Once you’ve got your relevant experience and are ready to start writing your personal statement, make sure you check our blog and video on 10 Top Tips: the perfect personal statement. 

Good luck with the application and hopefully we will see you at SOAS in the near future.


Thanks to Jaydeep Mukherjee, Admissions Officer, for help with this article.

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