Middle Class Problems: When it comes to university applications, parents must ensure their child's Personal Statement soars above all rival efforts

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The Independent Online

With only a couple of weeks to go until the final deadline for university applications, parents of next year's would-be undergraduates are worried.

For 18 years, from the very first Mother-and-Bump music groups, they have done all they can for their offspring: bought a bassoon and paid for the lessons; driven their unwilling teen to their voluntary service; booked family holidays in a different country each year to inspire the lively interest in the culture of others on which their child's Personal Statement will expound so fully.

They know said child will write enthusiastically about foreign affairs, for they have one more duty to perform: they must ensure that this Personal Statement soars above all rival efforts, a Matterhorn of individual achievement.

"Have you mentioned the Scouts? The exchange visit to Amiens? The sixth-form committee nomination? Have you put down your interest in politics (while apolitical), religion (tolerant as you are of all faiths) and art (not just the French Impressionists and those soup tins)? Above all – are you even listening? – have you stressed your ability to organise yourself, work alone, and think independently?"

It's all rather fraught, but when that offer of a place comes through, it will be all have been worth it – even if it's meant mum or dad writing it themselves. And it is, emphatically, not cheating to help in this way. "Ask advisers/family members to check it too," suggest the UCAS guidelines. Just following orders.