Gaining experience during a lockdown
When it comes to writing personal statements, you need to bring your A-Game. You need to prove that you deserve a place on the degree course you’re applying for. But wait a minute, you’re in the middle of a lockdown. Life has never been like this before. Instead of going out, you’re saving lives by staying in. But how does that help you write your personal statement?
It’s true that a key part of your Personal Statement is proving a genuine interest in your chosen subject and we recommend that applicants do this by analysing an experience they’ve had and relating it to the skills they’ll need on their chosen course. Work experience has been a fantastic way for applicants to do this but there are many home-based activities, that if analysed (and not just described or summarised) can reflect your dedication and passion to the subject. To appreciate this fully, please make sure you’re familiar with the ABC rule of analysing that’s explained in the Personal Statement online presentation.
We’ve put together activity ideas for different areas of study. We hope that these inspire and empower you, but above all we want you to do what feels right for you. Your wellbeing and safety is the most important thing. Universities understand that the content of personal statements will be a little different this year, because of the restrictions we all find ourselves living in. So have a look through the ideas on these pages and see which ones spark your interest and suit your current circumstances. Have fun with this, you’ll be surprised at where your passion and a little creative thinking can take you.
You can contact us directly for any questions left unanswered. Plus, watch taster lectures and industry talks in our Tasterhub for extra inspiration.
- Explore leadership ideas by reading a book written by a CEO. Are you inspired? If so how?
- Read an article documenting a business failure or success – what have you learnt?
- Conduct a telephone or video interview with someone who’s set up their own business. Prepare questions in advance and analyse the process and what you gain from the experience.
- Tell us about any companies that interest you and why. Are there any start-ups which have a fresh approach, for example? What learning points can you take from your research?
- Have you helped arrange an event while at school? Or can you arrange a virtual event now? If so tell us about how you organised it, what was the objective, what were the challenges and how were they overcome?
- Attend a virtual event and analyse the delivery style and impact.
- Are there any marketing approaches that inspire you? How do companies vary in the language and tone they use when connecting with customers? Have you seen marketing strategies change during the pandemic? If so how, and in your opinion, what has the result been?
- Research the growing trend in Virtual Tourism. What are your thoughts about what’s on offer and how might this impact the tourism industry in the future?
- Follow influencers on social media, what are they offering, what’s their approach and what are you learning by being a part of their community?
- Write a Business Blog highlighting current issues and trends. Share your opinion of what you think could be interesting solutions or areas for further research.
- Is there a current news story which interests you because of the impact it could have on businesses and/or the economy? Tell us what you’ve learnt.
- Are you inspired by another artist’s or designer’s work? This could be work you’ve seen online, in a book or journal. Can you explain why and how this could inspire your own work?
- Visit a museum… yes really! Google Arts Culture have teamed up with 2,500 museums to offer virtual tours and online exhibits including those at The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C! Or visit museum websites direct to see what they’re offering, for example, the Louvre museum in France is showcasing a virtual tour allowing visitors to see artwork in exceptional detail. You could even check out the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and watch ‘Baltic Bites’ where artists talk about their exhibitions. Has anything in an online exhibit fascinated you? What are your thoughts about viewing art online as oppose to in person? Tell us what you learn and how it’s benefitted you.
- Paint, sketch and animate! This is your time to get creative, to be you, and try different things. With wherever your passion takes you, with whatever tools you have to hand, work on your own projects. Tell us what you did and what you learnt from the process.
- Can you create a blog to share your thoughts, inspiration and even your own work? Can you talk about the design decisions you made when creating this virtual space?
- The London Institute of Photography run monthly challenges for photography enthusiasts, April’s theme is ‘out of the window’ – why not enter? If nothing else it’s a fantastic excuse to try new techniques and learn even more about what you and your camera are capable of. They also have a range of free online tutorials on colour grading, Photoshop and finding your style. After listening to these tutorials, is there a photograph you’d like another attempt at? Have you identified a knowledge gap? Can you explain how an online photography tutorial benefitted your work?
- Can you make something and sell it online? Can you explain the process involved, the decisions you took and what you learnt?
- Have you watched a documentary, listened to a podcast or read an article about sustainable fashion (for example)? If so, how did it challenge or inspire you?
- Have you filmed any vlogs or produced any short films (perhaps using your mobile phone)? Can you experiment with producing films on Tik Tok? Can you talk about the process, your directorial decisions, what you hoped to achieve or the impact your work has had? You don’t need to leave your home to make a film – you could document the lives of your household during this unprecedented time.
- Can you share your creative skillset by delivering virtual lessons to help people who are feeling isolated? If so, can you tell us about the approach you took and the impact it had?
- Interested in Audio Production and Engineering? ‘Are we still rolling?’ by Phill Brown is a part memoir, part technical manual as he looks back over his amazing music career. Starting as a tape operator for The Rolling Stones, he went onto work as an engineer/producer for David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Bombay Bicycle Club and Dido. During his 30 year career at the time of writing (it’s over 50 years now!) he has produced some iconic music, so have a read and tell us what you learn about the music industry. How has it changed? What has surprised you? In what ways has this book informed your decision to become a sound engineer? Our students were inspired by his guest lecture, so we're confident this will be inspirational reading for you too!
- Interested in journalism? Why not take 30 minutes out of your day to hear unique insights from a media expert? Guest lectures are a regular feature of the University of Hertfordshire’s Media Matters programme and we have three available to watch online. What do you learn from listening to these first-hand accounts? What can you tell us about the difference in perspectives from a Freelance Journalist and the Head of Visuals and Social Media at The Guardian? Does anything surprise you? How do these talks inform your understanding of the media industry?
- Are there any news stories about designers using their skills and expertise which inspire you? If so why? How does this inform your current thinking about creative arts and its place in society?
Education and teacher training
- Have you seen any virtual lessons? Can you talk about the techniques used and their impact?
- Research and analyse online sources of help for children e.g. Childline’s Calm Zone. What do children need in these changing times and how are those needs being met? Do you have any ideas, and can you share them with us? Why do you think they would work?
- Have you helped to home school a sibling or have you taken on childcare responsibilities? What activities have you done and what’s been learnt (by you and them!)?
- Plan and deliver a lesson to your household on a subject that interests you. Film it so you can watch it back and assess your teaching style. Can you explain the process or analyse your teaching methods? What worked? What didn’t work?
- Talk about how your own learning style has changed – what are the benefits and difficulties of studying at home? How could these inform your future teaching methods?
- Have you seen how challenging behaviours can be effectively managed to engage with learning? Can you talk about the techniques used? How do these observations and insights benefit you?
- Interview a teacher or a child minder, via phone or video call, to find out what their job is really like! Identify your knowledge gaps and prepare questions in advance. What do you learn? Does anything surprise you?
- Are there any current educational news stories that interest you? How is the education system adapting to the pandemic? What have you learnt about the role education plays in society? How does this research inform your decision to study education?
- Interested in teaching English? Shakespeare? Then take a look at the Teach - Shakespeare Collection by the BBC. What interests you about these resources? Do these resources excite you to teach?
- Listen to podcasts. If interested in aerospace engineering, for example, NASA has a whole range of podcasts that might inspire you!
- Play Wired to learn how electricity behaves. In this game you must successfully wire up electrical circuits to get through to the next level! What do you learn about your thinking process by doing this?
- Take a look under the car bonnet! Can a member of your household help you to understand your family car? Can they teach you how to replace the wiper blades, check and change the oil, change a tyre or could you even inspect the engine’s air filter? Can you familiarise yourself with the different parts of an engine? What do you learn by doing this?
- What role do engineering companies have in this pandemic? How are they adapting their expertise and resources? Does this inspire you? If so why?
- Learn basic programming skills, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube! Talk about what programming languages interest you and why.
- Build your own app or website and talk about the process involved and the challenges you overcame.
- Compete in an online coding competition. Take a look at Kick Start run by Google and designed for participants at any skill level. The 3-hour online competition rounds take place throughout the year and registration is currently open. Plus, you can even have a go at previous algorithmic and mathematical problems. If you do, tell us about what you gained from this experience.
- Take part in a hackathon! There are lots of projects that need young innovators to build technological solutions, some of them are advertised on Eventbrite.
- Are there any current issues affecting the computer industry? If so, what are they and how does this research challenge and/or excite you?
- Are you able to volunteer in your local community e.g. calling a neighbour who is self-isolating? Can you run any errands for them? If so, what challenges have you overcome and how would you evaluate the impact you’ve had?
- Are you able to help your local nursing home? Could you set up virtual coffee mornings? Or can you write residents a weekly letter? If so, can you tell us a little about the process – how did you begin this initiative? What have you learnt about yourself and others?
- Get work experience… yes really! The Royal College of General Practitioners are launching Observe GP an interactive video platform where aspiring medics can watch a series of videos and keep a reflective diary on what they see and learn. Registration opens on 30th April 2020.
- Have you read a journal article that’s interested you? Google Scholar have a vast range of texts available to view for free! Tell us where your independent study has taken you and what you learnt in the process.
- The Practising Midwife could be a valuable research tool for midwifery students; online student membership costs £6 a month. In what ways does this publication inform your understanding of the profession?
- Is there a health and social care news story which interests you? What are you learning about the profession by following the current stories in the news? Are you inspired or challenged in some way by what you learn? If so, how?
This includes subjects such as English, History, Philosophy, Religion, Media, Journalism and Languages
- Visit a museum, virtually of course! History graduates can progress to have careers within museums. Follow #MuseumFromHome on social media for inspiration. As well as virtual tours there are videos from experts offering insights into artefacts. Tell us what’s interested you. How do you think virtual access to museum exhibitions changes the experience?
- Research the areas that fascinate you using Google Scholar tell us what you’ve gained from this experience.
- Listen to historical interviews! From The British Library’s Oral History Archive the BBC’s Witness History Podcast to the History Today Podcast. Tell us what you’ve discovered and why you think it resonated with you.
- Compare famous speeches written by Shakespeare in the Renaissance period and read by celebrities in the 21st century, by listening to Radio 4’s My Own Shakespeare Podcast . What interests you about this literature? Analyse the impact of these modern-day adaptations. What skills have you developed and how could they benefit your chosen degree course?
- Join a book club. Reading books and sharing insights is a great way to increase your understanding about literature and creative writing. Tell us what you gain from the experience.
- Write a Coronavirus journal. How is this time impacting your household? How would you explain what’s happening to future generations? What comparisons can you make? How does this observation, reflection and analysis give you the skills needed for a degree in humanities?
- Write a poem or short story and enter it in a competition or publish it on your blog! There are loads of competitions out there including: Foyle Young Poets of the Year and Author of Tomorrow. Research what’s around – a competition deadline could be just the extra motivation you need! You don’t need to win or even be shortlisted to be able to talk about this experience in your personal statement; it’s the process and what you learn that’s most important.
- Learn a language on the BBC! You can learn: French, Spanish, Greek, Chinese, German, Italian and Portuguese. Tell us how you find the process of learning a language online. Are there similarities between your new language and others you already know? What does this tell you about your ability to study a language?
- What are your views on how the media are reporting the Coronavirus crisis? How have news outlets and television programmes adapted to social distancing regulations? What can you tell us about your own observations and analysis and why does your independent research benefit your chosen degree?
- Have you noticed any differences in how different religions have responded to the Coronavirus crisis? Have messages been effectively communicated to all sections of our community? How do critical observations about the world around you, benefit your chosen degree?
Law, criminology, government and politics
- Watch a Supreme Court Hearing. Here you can see how current and decided cases evolved and read judgement summaries. Tell us about what cases interest you and what you learn from your observations.
- Research the work of the Law Commission. Is there a particular area of law that fascinates you, if so why?
- Read articles and law reports from the Law Gazette. Is there anything that’s surprised/challenged/inspired you?
- Watch committee meetings, debates and even attend virtual lessons about the work of Parliament. How do these inform your understanding of British politics?
- Listen to the BBC’s Law in Action Podcasts. Are there any issues that intrigue you? Is there anything that you’re surprised by? How do these podcasts challenge your current way of thinking? Do they confirm your interest in law? If so how?
- Choose one famous crime case and analyse the way the offence has been depicted in films, documentaries, biographies and news reporting. What do you learn about the law, justice and the role of the media by doing this? What skills do you need to carry out this research and why are these skills valuable for a law degree?
- Research the different types and lengths of punishments given for the same offence in different parts of the globe. What affect do you think this has on societies? How does this influence your own beliefs about justice?
- Are there any global issues which are impacting the laws we make and how justice is served? What do you think these are? Why does it matter to you?
Sport, nutrition and dietetics
- Research different coaching techniques at UK Coaching. Read blogs and follow #greatcoaching to find out about the impact sport coaching can have on individuals and communities. Using what you’ve learnt, can you locate a need in society and come up with an idea for how sports coaching can address this need? Or can you devise an exercise activity for your household during lockdown? Tell us what you’ve done, the observations you’ve made, skills you’ve learnt and how this benefits you.
- Reflect upon how access to sport and exercise has changed during the lockdown. Can you tell us about any virtual exercise classes that have inspired you? What techniques are being used? In what ways have you been challenged or inspired by how the delivery of exercise has changed during this pandemic?
- Have you been inspired by a particular athlete and their approach to training, or how they overcame injury? What have you learnt? In what ways does this motivate you?
- Get cooking! Research which foods benefit our mental and physical health and use that knowledge to devise meal plans for you and your household. Be inventive! If ingredients are scarce, what can you use instead to create a balanced meal? Share key observations and creations you’ve made. How do people’s eating habits change when they’re feeling stressed? What impact can a healthy diet have? Have you noticed any anecdotal changes in how the body responds to the meal plan you’ve created?
- Research the impact different foods can have in the body by reading Food Factsheets from The British Dietetic Association. What skills are you developing by doing this and how does this benefit a career in dietetics?
- Ever wondered how much caffeine it would take to kill you? Use the caffeine calculator to find out how much of your favourite drink you should limit yourself to and how much is lethal. Did the results surprise you? Is caffeine consumption a problem in society? How can this affect people?
Medical and biological sciences
Become a Citizen Scientist and get involved in projects like the ones below. Analyse the skills you learn, how they relate to your chosen degree and what impact this activity has on you – does it challenge/surprise/inspire you? If so why?
- Help train artificial intelligence to diagnose diabetic retinopathy by examining images of retinas to identify lesions.
- Identify antibiotics that are effective against tuberculosis.
- Study Huntington’s disease by annotating the shape and structure of cells affected by the disease.
- Identify Mitochondria in cells.
Geography and the Environment
- Visit National Parks … yes really! With Google Arts & Culture you can go on ranger led tours through national parks! From the Kenai Fjords in Alaska to an active volcano in Hawaii. Field trips are an important part of Geography; can you tell us about the impact these virtual field trips have on your understanding of geography? How have they inspired you?
- Discover the world’s greatest wildlife in their natural environment by visiting explore.org. Watch live cams, live chats and documentaries about everything from mountain gorillas to storms in the Grand Canyon. Tell us what inspires you. Has it made you think differently about the world? If so, how?
- Examine plant specimens from the Mississippi and keep a field book of your findings. Why is this research important and what do you learn by gathering this data?
- Become an Earthquake detective by listening to seismic waves and classifying them. This data will help seismologists develop artificial intelligence that can detect seismic events and help us to improve our understanding of earthquakes.
- The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers like you — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Their goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise.
Physics, astrophysics and mathematics
- Visit Mars! Identify the key features on the planet’s surface. Tell us about the process involved, how it challenged you and what skills you learnt.
- Explore the Institute for Physics. Subscribe to their student newsletter for information about the latest developments in physics, careers and competitions. Download the Pocket Physics Study Guide and expand your knowledge even further. Don’t forget to analyse what you learn.
- Research unsolved mysteries in the world of physics. Is there a topic that inspires further reading? Where does your fascination lie?
- Download the Atoms in Motion app for £2.99 and use an iPad to conduct your own experiments by changing the volume, the number of atoms in the simulation, or the temperature. Analyse your thought process and learning style. What impact does this experience have?
- Solve maths and physics problems. Play the prototype games and analyse their impact. iWantToStudyEngineering is asking for your feedback, so think about what you think could be improved. What do you learn by giving constructive criticism?
- Visit the United Kingdom’s Mathematic Trust’s website. They run mathematical challenges, and whilst the entry deadlines have now passed, you can have a go at past papers and check your work against the solutions too! How do these challenges advance your mathematical understanding?
- Listen to podcasts. If interested in aerospace engineering, for example, NASA has a whole range of podcasts that might inspire you!
- The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers like you — more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Their goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. In particular, check out these projects:
- Radio Galaxy Zoo: LOFAR - by the University of Hertfordshire
- Dark Energy Explorers
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