The Simple Truth: How Ace Your Next Academic Interview

My personal statement got me an Oxford interview – Yeay! But the actual interview was a terrifying, embarrassing and wish-I-could-forget-that experience. So, what did I learn?

Cambridge Graduate and Author of 10 Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take joined me to discuss my original personal statement (included below) followed by this very honest 7 min conversation on how to actually handle academic interviews…

This 7 minute video is from a 40 minute original where Lucy breaks down my actual personal statement (included below) and is a detailed guide  for university application statements.

EXTRA: What It Really Takes to Get Into Oxbridge – Lucy’s brilliant Huffington Post Article

And here is my unedited Personal Statement which secured offers to top UK universities, including ‘unconditional’ offers and offers without interviews…

I’ve just arrived home after an amazing six weeks in the Peruvian Andes which changed my life. I enjoyed everything about the expedition; the people, the long days trekking, the spectacular landscape but the best aspect was the geological study. We were encouraged to come up with our own questions about the landscape, decide on hypotheses and develop a method of collecting data to use as evidence. Everything I know about glacial landscapes I learned there (having never studied the subject in school). I am now looking forward to researching it further for my personal investigative study in geography.

As part of another group’s research we measured our blood oxygen saturation. As we climbed to 5,000 meters our oxyhaemoglobin levels dropped, we had measured the Bohr shift. This is something I had studied in Biology that year and thought it was fantastic to see the theory work on myself.

I have always had a thirst for knowledge which has lead me to aspire to university; deciding upon the degree was the hard part. The summer before my expedition I attended a ‘Geoscience’ course through the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. It was a fascinating course which covered many aspects of geological science and was when I first considered taking Geology to degree level. As well as doing group work, ‘Geoscience teasers’, and day trips, we all had an individual project. I studied the ‘Trilobites’ and, after some initial research, chose to look at how fossils provide evidence of environmental change. I found that studying one aspect in geology naturally leads onto another. The more detail I found the more it occurred to me the vastness of what I didn’t know, and so I was hooked.

Since then I have tried to expand my knowledge by subscribing to the National Geographic and reading relevant books. A book I am reading at the moment, ‘The Floating Egg’ is an infallibly entertaining account of the birth of Geology and its Yorkshire roots.

After training quite seriously as a gymnast for five years I decided to pursue a wider range of interests; Duke of Edinburgh, trampolining, dance and Archaeology to name a few. The discipline of mind required for gymnastics enables me to manage my time to do the sport I enjoy, get involved in the community and have time for my friends, whilst working to my full potential at school.

To finance my activities and help fund my way through university I have been babysitting since I was old enough and hold down a part time job at my local newsagents. Also, after being a member of the Youth Parliament I was targeted last winter for a job with Changemakers to develop the Y Speak funding project. The timing was good as it helped to bring me closer to my mammoth target of £3000 which I had to raise to go to Peru.

Fresh from my most recent conquest I am ready to take on pastures new. I would like to continue my sporting interests at university and hope that, after being a humble Air Cadet, joining the OTC will widen my experiences. After taking to windsurfing like a duck to water on a cadet camp, I want to practice… in Australia. Also, to prepare myself for new, more extreme expeditions I will find the opportunity to enrol in a mountain leadership course.

When choosing my A Levels I had not decided that I wanted to study geology and, unfortunately (especially after receiving the prize for ‘Mathematics at key stage 4’), chose not to continue maths. The subjects I did choose I absolutely enjoy, but I found that I missed doing maths! My school has allowed me to pick up the AS Level in Year 13. Being perfectly aware that only taking maths to AS Level will put me at a disadvantage to other students applying for geology I would like to show my willingness to put in extra work over the summer to bring myself up to your standard.

I am thoroughly looking forward to the next stage in my academic career. Geology is a complex but fascinating area of study and I would be honoured to be part of its future.

To hear Lucy’s deep-dive analysis of the good, bad, could-be-betters of this personal statement just head over to this YouTube link.



Lucy Parsons is a graduate of Cambridge University and qualified teacher. She now empowers students to achieve their academic dreams. Connect via


Yep, even as a student I was obsessed (through fear) about making good applications! Now I’m applying this knowledge (plus experience in recruitment) to support others…

Are you working on an important application?

Visit me at