From social inequality and crime, to culture and the media, sociology can be applied to most aspects of life. It's an exciting subject to study at university and to secure a place on a course you must demonstrate particular qualities and interests. Equally, there are important things you should avoid as a budding sociologist.
What to include
"Include a mixture of three things: a passion for the subject, what you want to get out of university, and what you can offer the university," says Dr Mark Monaghan, admissions tutor for sociology and social policy at Leeds University.
Sociological interests: Dr Wendy Bottero, senior lecturer in sociology at Manchester University, says: "People often don't get the opportunity to study sociology at school or college, so we're interested in how they view the subject, why they want to study it and how it fits in with their life".
Tailor your statement to the institutions you're applying to. "Look at departments' webpages to see the modules on offer. Gear your application towards your preferred department, but be careful not to alienate other universities. Mention broad areas of sociology that are taught by a number of your choices," says Dr Gareth Millington, admissions tutor for sociology at York University.
Applicants who are new to the subject should say how they became interested in it: "Everyone will have had experiences that can be linked to sociologically relevant issues. Your part-time job in McDonalds is as relevant as having done work experience with an MP – the important point is how you link what you've done to thinking about social issues and how society works," says Dr Patrick White, admissions tutor for sociology at Leicester University.
Sociological texts: Show that you've read some relevant books. Monaghan recommends Zygmunt Bauman's What Use is Sociology? and C Wright Mills' The Sociological Imagination. Monaghan also recommends the Guardian's Society section to give you "an awareness of current debate".
Career aspirations: You should have at least some knowledge of what you can do with a sociology degree, but don't worry if you don't know exactly what job you want. "We expect applicants to be aware of the kinds of jobs available, but we wouldn't expect you to have any specific career in mind," says Monaghan.
Non-academic interests: Universities are looking at more than just your academic interests: "We want someone who shows enthusiasm and passion more generally, for example through clubs and societies. But sociologists know that this is often down to how well-off someone is, so we don't discriminate on this basis," says Bottero.
"We want someone who takes a critical view of common assumptions that people lazily accept."
What to avoid
Confusion: Sociology may be offered as part of a joint honours degree at some universities and as a single subject at others, which can result in a confused statement. Monaghan says: "Be consistent about the degree you're applying for. You may be applying for different courses at different universities, so think about the social sciences in general."
"Work out where there's common ground between degree programmes, such as politics or history, and stress that your interests are in those areas of overlap," says Bottero.
A rigid structure: The statement needs to be clear, but your personality should still shine through. "There is no set recipe for personal statements because we like to see students express who they are," says Dr Anne-Marie Fortier, from the sociology department at Lancaster University.
At Bristol University, templates are "strongly discouraged" because they result in a "generic" end product.
Sloppy writing: It might sound obvious, but as White says: "This is your chance to show that you can write well. Whatever the content, an applicant with a poorly written personal statement is unlikely to be offered a place".
Last but not least: "There's no need to overdo it with superlatives. Keep it simple and honest", says Fortier.
Psychology and Sociology Personal Statement
There is no love anymore. No acknowledgement of the person next to you on the train. No smiles. No discussions. Nothing. Shockingly in fact, it’s plain to realise that humans are scared of each other, but why? Despite this, I persist in conjuring one ultimate conclusion: we are all equal.
There underlies an ongoing inequality between gender, class and ethnic minorities. This aspect is one among many that induces me with an ongoing thrill to further engage with sociology at a challenging new level. Studying this has challenged my envisagement of the world due to a range of key influential doctrines. For instance, Marx’s idea of the subordinate class being ripped of moralities in order to be ‘tailored’, has overpowered my mind into a much greater depth - inspiring me to further my knowledge in reading ‘Capitalism and The Social Theory’ by Anthony Giddens.
Learning the idea of a fragmental gendered social structure drew me closer to reading feminist books such as, ‘For the Record’ by Dale Spender. My passion to liberate minds derives from some of the most influential theorists of today, one of them being Noam Chomsky, which has been supported further in my independent study of social stratification.
I consider my cup half full not half empty, my inquisitiveness regarding all aspects of life has expanded my eagerness to constantly thrive for new psychological intellects, a field which I am hugely passionate about. For instance; feral children, which made me pick up ‘Savage Girls and Wild Boys’ by Micheal Newton. Experiencing a life of interaction with parents whom suffer from various psychopathological disorders, such as maniac depression, has not only strengthened me as an individual, but also is the bases of my inspiration to step deeper in the field of psychology and consequently benefit, reach out and give a better understanding to those who carry misconceptions about these absurd, yet sensitive and emotional behaviours: an incentive for reading ‘The Tortured Mind: The Many Faces of Maniac Depression’ written by Daniel E. Harmon.
The study of Sigmund Freud in particular, has made me independently analyse certain institutions such as the media, and how they cleverly use certain traits to reach out to the unconscious mind. Both subjects successfully intertwine with each other, producing me with a completely new perception of the world. I no longer look at subgroups as being just a divided sector anymore, but instead, I try to seek the answer as to why they chose to be within this particular subculture, and what exactly sparked the arousal of their social conformance.
The Army Cadets has enabled me with a strong headed attitude needed to succeed in the education system. Enrolling into a psychology course deepened my understanding of the subject I incredibly love! I also play a significant role in contributing to the school and wider community, which is acknowledged by several certificates such as ‘teaching their peers how to prevent domestic violence’ in a drama performance, which has increased my knowledge, confidence and team building skills.
I also contribute in school assemblies and the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, where I work in the youth council for my borough, student leadership team at school, ‘buddying’ a year 7 who has attributes to those of a selective mute, helping the year 7’s read in the library and working as a youth mark assessor, all reflecting my dedicated, punctual and hardworking personality.
I intend to break my way through this so-called ‘self imposed barrier’, consist of the minority and prove the following: working class students can excel too. Perseverance, I strongly believe is the crucial key in opening the door of success and helping the lives of many. It is these qualities that enable me to be an undergraduate that will not fail to disappoint, a fact patiently waiting for your recognition.
Comments on the statement:
A lot of unnecessary pompous language, I feel, although there's a lot of good content in this statement the language does make it feel false and padded out.
Article by TSR User on Thursday 15 February 2018