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News > Life After Hymers > Isabella Penna (OH 2011-21) quoted in The Times

Isabella Penna (OH 2011-21) quoted in The Times

Isabella shares her views on whether personal statements should be dropped from university applications
OH Isabella Penna 2011-21
OH Isabella Penna 2011-21

Isabella was at Hymers College from 2011 to 2021 and is now studying Classics at Oxford University.  She is loving her time at Oxford, although it is incredibly busy for each concentrated 8-week term, but she wouldn't have it any other way!  She has become a member of the Union, plays hockey for the mixed college team, and  has just been appointed as Features Editor of the Oxford Tab, so alongside the heavy workload there is a lot going on, however she still makes time to see friends and socialise on nights out.

Isabella recently featured in The Times, discussing the merits of the personal statements in the university application forms.  Social mobility experts in article feel that personal statements for the UCAS form should be dropped, as they highlight the gap between independent and state school applicants.  State school applicants are more likely to have grammatical errors and they often struggle to demonstrate suitable work and life experiences.

The article features case studies and Isabella is featured in support of the personal statements remaining on the forms as it allowed her to demonstrate her individuality and passion for her chosen subject.

Isabella Penna, 19, believes the work she put into her personal statement — to make it as individual as possible — helped her secure a place studying classics at Oxford. She is in her first year.

She said: “I wrote dozens of drafts and at first I  fell into the trap of trying to be impressive but then felt I needed to be more authentic. I tried to communicate my passion for the subject more than anything else, rather than any extra-curricular activities.

"I gave examples of how the course related to my A-levels — which were not Classics — what I experienced when I visited Rome, what I had read, how it interested me and how it had felt to experience the emotions of Antigone during lockdown.

“If I did include extracurricular activities I made sure they were relevant, for example my time spent playing hockey improving my communication skills.”

Penna said that during her Oxford interviews her statement was scrutinised. “They picked up on the detail of works I had read to check I understood them and hadn’t just put them on to sound impressive.”

She felt her statement was quite unusual and that several peers from school had more help in writing theirs and had used a more standard approach.

Isabella explained that she is especially grateful for Mrs Dickinson (and Dr Main - although he arrived later during her time at Hymers) because without her she would have not even been aware that this university life existed.

"The Times article focused on personal statements, and she certainly helped me with that too - she helped me find my own passions for it and ways to voice my individuality. "

We spoke to Isabella to congratulate her on her article and she update us on her university life.

"I am enjoying my course; the workload is insanely intense, but I think that is what is so formative about Oxford, because you learn so many life skills in this high-pressure environment outside of the course. I am currently planning a trip to Rome in the Summer to supplement my Roman Architecture module, which is very exciting. "

For further information on this news article, please click here.

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