Humanities and the Social Sciences – Boost Your Personal Statement

Studying a humanities subject like History and English Literature or social science subjects such as Politics, Sociology and Criminology, (along with any other subject that explores human culture or behaviour) gives you the opportunity to evidence skills such as wider reading, written ability, independent research and analytical skills in your personal statement. You can probably do this very well when referring to your current subjects, as most of your personal statement will no doubt convey your academic interest.  If you’re feeling a bit stuck about what else to include, here are some other activities that you may also consider and expand upon – these will keep your mind occupied for the remainder of the summer too!               

Virtual Work Experience/Work-related skills        

Work experience has been difficult to obtain this year due to Covid-19.  It’s not a requirement for Humanities or most Social Sciences but it does allow further scope to tell the admissions tutor a bit more about you and your skills.  There are plenty of virtual work experience opportunities available through the online platform Inside Sherpa or through the organisation Speakers for Schools – (view both platforms via Google Chrome). However, if you are seeking a more general type of insight, Barclays Lifeskills are also offering virtual work experience at Freeformers, a digital transformation agency. 

You could also try and gain some experience at your own school in the autumn term.  

Ask an English, History or Sociology teacher if you can assist their lessons in order to help younger year groups.

You can also try volunteering your time with English tutoring and other opportunities through Vinspired.  Although opportunities are currently available on the website, check to see if they can be done virtually as your safety is paramount.

For developing your research skills, check out Zooniverse, a platform where volunteers help researchers online with various projects which is particularly beneficial for social science subjects and there are opportunities for English and History too.  You can also enter competitions – for example, as part of the Eastern Cloisters Project, Hereford Cathedral is creating an escape room for visitors.  As a result, they are looking for ideas for an escape room puzzle, which must be inspired by the history of the Cloisters.  The deadline for submitting an idea is 6th September 2020 and the winner will get a £100 gift voucher of choice.  Click here for further information.    

Learning Online and Wider Research  

Although many universities delivered virtual tasters this year, if you were unable to access any, try learning online instead.  Independent research skills will be looked upon favourably by admissions tutors, particularly when exploring subject matter that goes beyond your text books.  Check out a range of free online lectures through Gresham College, which covers Politics, History and Literature.  For a range of free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in Sociology, Politics, International Relations, Urban Studies, Anthropology, Philosophy, Literature, History and much more, go to Open Learn.  As well as these platforms, you can also try FutureLearn for similar subjects including Crime and Criminal Justice, as well as free courses offered through the Open University.  With the latter, have a browse under the headings History and the Arts or Society, Politics and Law for a range of courses and time-commitment.                          

Virtual Tours

As well as online courses, you can also access other learning material such as museum tours from all over the world. Click here to visit places such as the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the British Museum or the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City – all from the comfort of your home! For a history of Black culture, research the Black Cultural Archives, including a virtual tour of the Windrush Square site. You can also take a virtual tour of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Click here for further information. 

Further Reading and Research                                                                                                   

Fancy expanding your reading, but cannot access any books? You can obtain free e-books from Project Gutenberg (including Shakespeare).  Are you halfway through your A Levels but still feel you need a crash course in Sociology? Click here for a collection of lectures on YouTube, and for further reading on the subject, including the use of statistics and quantitative data (something you’ll use a lot of within a social science degree) check out Discover SociologyAdditionally, for crime and deviance, read The British Journal of Criminology for interesting cases.  You can also keep yourself updated in UK politics, by reading The New Statesman.

There are also many interesting podcasts available such as A History of the World in 100 Objects,  Political Thinking with Nick Robinson and for a more general overview of the social sciences, listen to In Our Timeall these plus many others are available on the BBC.

These are only some of the opportunities that are out there, but keep an eye out for others too. For further reading of similar subjects within the “Boost Your Personal Statement” series of blogs, check out Law, Psychology and Business/Economics too.

For further advice on your personal statement, email:

*Always be cautious and check any online forum or employer with your teacher or people at home first, as your safety is paramount!


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