This week, I have been reading lots of 'personal statements' from students applying for places at Cambridge. The Sutton Trust has just published a report which raises concerns about the ways in which students from different backgrounds approach writing these statements and the different opportunities they might have for their statements to be checked and edited. Also, there is obviously the fact that different students will have had different opportunities to engage in various activities that they can include in their statements.
This is not news. (Though I imagine it is not a coincidence that The Sutton Trust should be reminding us all of the obvious this week as we listen to the radio before heading off to do some more admissions interviews.) Nor is it something we don't bear in mind when we are reading these personal statements.
Here is a Grauniad article from 2009 (the URL unhelpfully suggests that we 'ignore' personal statements) that makes clear the general position. I had something to say about it at the time: here.
For what it is worth, here are some other relevant and perhaps interesting links.
The Sutton Trust report
The (brief) advice on personal statements provided by the University of Cambridge
and, something I found a bit surprising, a website to which students can upload their draft statements and then invite feedback from other people browsing away. Perhaps worth a few moments -- the 'advice' offered is sometimes quite an eye-opener. Here is the collection of 'Cambridge personal statements'. (Compare this site...)