Universities are very interested to hear that you are excited to be studying your chosen course. The idea of some sort of passion for your course is a significant indicator to them that they should invest in you.
More importantly, however, they are interested in what exactly that passion of yours looks like and where it comes from.
It helps them to decide if your passion is genuine; if your passion can be channeled into academic achievement; if your passion is superficial or deep-rooted; if your passion is temporary infatuation or long-standing love; and, finally, if your passion has already been acted upon.
Passion equals commitment – trainspotting”
Take the word “train-spotter”.
It implies both a passion for “trains” and commitment when “spotting” them.
An avid trainspotter will probably be able to tell you exactly which train they’ve spotted when and where!
Can you do the same for your chosen course? You better, because you got passion for it.
When you discuss your passion for studying your chosen subject, the Admissions Tutor will be expecting your to be “talking trainspotting” – they will be wanting to hear about all the things you’ve done, all the events you’ve attended, all the books you’ve read; in short, all the “trains you’ve spotted.”
Make sure you select a couple of specific examples that demonstrate that you have acted on your passion.
You wish to study poetry? Maybe you attend poetry slams (some better than others); or are a regular contributor to poetry discussion fora; or have attended Seamus Heaney’s (last?) lecture a couple of years ago.
Really, if you need to think long and hard about these examples, maybe you have a lot less passion for your subject that you thought. In that case, you might want to reconsider applying for it…
“Trainspotters” LOVE trains and they love SPOTTING them!
Passion for scholarship vs passion for a career
You might want to remember that a university application is not a job application.
You might want to be a lawyer, and getting your law degree is a step into that direction, BUT: the university is not interested in why you want to become a lawyer, but rather why you want to study law.
The two are very different. Universities are institutions of learning and teaching and are always interested in reproducing themselves. In other words, a university would be happier to turn you into an excellent law scholar, than a lawyer.
Consequently, your passion should be focussed on the study of a subject not the subject itself (and least on the career that will pay your bills in the future).
Have a look at these two examples for some clarity:
“I have always been interested in how the law functions.”
“I have always been interested in understanding how the law functions.”
Universities are looking for teachable candidates, so explaining your passion for your course in terms of scholarship is the right way forward.
Writing about your passion
Sometimes all you need is a little bit of motor oil to get started.
Here are some sentence starters that you might wish to use to get you writing:
“Dear [chosen course],
I have been in love with you since….”
“Pilots fly planes, astronauts travel the universe, I …”
“When I am not sleeping, eating, or repeating, I spend my time …”
“I won’t lie: when I think about studying [chosen course], I actually get a little giddy…”
You shouldn’t really start your actual personal statement like this, but these sentences convey the tone that you might want to hit when thinking about your chosen course: a little playful, a little romantic, a little in love.
When you talk about your chosen course, you are allowed to show some emotion and feel some butterflies. After all: passion’s real.
What to do about it?
Not much, just write.
You will need to trust that universities can hear honesty in your words when they see it, so lending your personal statement some “soul” is pretty crucial. You shouldn’t write them a novel or a poem, but you shouldn’t get the robot writing moves on either.
Be precise, be specific, be knowledgable, use some jargon, but be honest.
Let them might up their mind if they want to admit a trainspotter – just make sure you showed them that you are a trainspotter for real in case that they are looking for one.