Writing the personal statement for Oxford
The personal statement is one of the five primary requirements that must be fulfilled to apply for a BCL at Oxford. It is a relatively short document of just 300 words, in which applicants are required to talk about their motivation for applying for a BCL.
Application requirements for the BCL
Oxford's guidance on the personal statement
The university website provides a bird's eye view of what is required in the personal statement.
Amongst the substantive requirements, the guidance states that the personal statement should explain:
Your motivation for applying for the course
Your academic history and relevant experience
The specific areas that interest you, or the areas in which you intend to specialise in
The bit that stands out, however, is that "the personal statement generally plays a less important role in the Law Faculty's assessment of applications than the references, written work, and academic qualifications". Srimukundan Rajaram, a 2021 BCL graduate from Oxford, talks about how a statement of purpose is the crux of the applications for Cambridge and American law schools, and in comparison the personal statement for Oxford required relatively less effort.
Structuring the personal statement
According to Jyothsna Gurumurthy, a 2020 BCL graduate, while the university places relatively less importance on the personal statement, it still plays an important role in filling in the gaps in one's application.
To give effect to this, the personal statement can be used to talk about why you want to apply for the BCL, and why Oxford is a good fit for you. The personal statement can potentially be structured as follows:
First, talk about your interest in a particular subject, or your interest in law generally.
Second, mention your reasons for choosing to opt for a master's degree - To do this, it is important to know why you want to go for the BCL. The best way to do this would be to speak to people who have been through the course, in order to understand what the BCL offers, and the opportunities that are available to graduate students.
Third, discuss what you can make out of the resources that Oxford offers - It's evidently difficult to talk about you will eventually bring to the table, but nevertheless it may be prudent to talk about your aspirations for your contribution to the discipline you are interested in.
Demonstrating that you meet the selection criteria
Academic excellence is one of the primary factors which are relevant for applying to the BCL program at Oxford. "Academic excellence" does not necessarily mean that you are required to be in the top 5 ranks of your class, but it can be interpreted as a "consistent academic performance".
To demonstrate that you do meet such selection criteria, you can consider weaving the narrative of your academic performance into the "Why BCL?" part of the personal statement.
As an extremely broad example - you can potentially talk about how you've been inclined towards academics (through your grades and internships), and how you're aware that the BCL is an academically rigorous program, and given your interest in academic rigour you feel that the BCL will be a challenge, which is the reason you want to apply for the BCL.
Dos and Dont's for the personal statement
Come up with multiple drafts. Get your personal statement reviewed by several people.
Format it well, and include the word count on the document.
Don't copy from your SoPs for other universities - Ensure that your framing is not too generic, and does not include stray references to other universities.