Advice on Personal Statements for Future Economists
Writing a personal statement can be difficult – you know why you want to study economics but you’re not sure how to convey that message in writing. This article will help you organise your thoughts and give you advice on how to do exactly that.
Before we even get started with thinking about the personal statement, you want to make sure that economics is really what you want to study. If you’re unsure, have a good think about what interests you as well as where your skills lie. You need to be confident that you want to study economics because that will shine through when writing your personal statement, and any doubts will also be picked up on.
You have to understand that a personal statement is important because it’s your first chance at selling yourself as a suitable candidate. You want to show your interest in the subject – which is why being confident that it is really what you want to study is crucial – as well as show your ability and understanding of the subject.
Now let’s get started. What does an economics personal statement involve? The short answer is that you want to achieve three things: explain interest in economics; explain an economic idea and your thoughts on it; and relevant individual skills that make you a suitable candidate.
Firstly, you want to explain your interest in economics. The best way you can do this is to really have a good think about why economics is right for you, and why you are right for economics. A key component to doing this well is showing that economics is the logical next step in your life given your background. If you were interviewing a candidate and their profile showed a lot of experience in economics, but they were interviewing for an art degree, you’d be confused and want to know more. Similarly, you have to explain why your background has led you to economics. For example, you may have an interest in the stock market and you’ve always been curious about the economic factors that affect it, so you studied the subject at A-Level, enjoyed it, and now you’re here. To an admissions tutor, that follows a logical path. Be assured, there is no reason why studying economics can’t be a new development in your life – you certainly don’t need to have wanted to study it since you were 3 years old to be accepted – but you do have to explain what changed your mind and why it makes sense.
Secondly, you want to include an economic idea and your thoughts on it. Now this may sound “unconventional”, but it achieves one thing that many candidates fail to do. Many candidates will cite a book or three that they have read, but they’ll only do that – cite it. To an admissions tutor, you could have simply read the cover. By including an economic idea and then, more importantly, explaining your thoughts on it, it allows the admissions tutor to really understand how you think. Now which book you get this economic idea from is entirely up to you, but a general guideline would be to use a contemporary idea and one from a known and respected economist. You don’t want to cite a very old example, an idea that is commonly accepted now, as analysis may be very limited. As an example, behavioural economics is a newer field in economics and if that is of interest to you, it may be worth taking an idea from there. Once you have your idea, you don’t want to quote it, but you want to briefly state it and then give your thoughts on it. For example, if you do enjoy behavioural economics you may mention the idea of “social proofing” in a book you read. To analyse this, you could apply this to a real case or contrast it to other prevailing ideas (and provide your opinion) or perhaps point out some limitations. In a recent study involving marketing, social proofing was shown to be rather ineffective at selling products compared to other means. Thus, you would discuss why that may have been the case or why the idea is limited.
Thirdly, you want to discuss some of the skills you possess that would make you a good economist and then provide examples to back them up. One of the best ways to do this is to ask your friends and family how they would describe you. Are you a leader? Very analytical? A problem solver? Once you have these skills in mind, you want to go into detail about how you have shown them. It is not enough to say “I am very hard working and very analytical as well as a good leader”. Anyone can say that, and admission tutors know that. You want to provide a story behind those skills. For example, if you are a leader you can explain a time you led a team, what you did and why you were successful as a leader.
Remember, this is your chance to impress the admissions tutor. Whilst that can be a daunting thought, don’t let it scare you. See it as a positive opportunity to explain your passion for economics. Good luck!