‘Words of advice for young people’ is the refrain William Burroughs stamped on the album ‘Spare-ass Annie’ by the Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy. I cannot aspire to Uncle Bill’s lofty heights, but was very pleased to be asked to ‘spare just a few minutes’ by a year 9 secondary school student to comment on what I look for in applications to study with us at Goldsmiths. Great topic for the school magazine he is writing for. While the applications we get are for PhD, since we do not have undergraduates in CCS, I think the wider (wilder?) things I look for are relevant at all levels (our applications go through several drafts of a research proposal and that is more important than the actual application form at this level, I think perhaps the personal statement in UG applications is the relevant place to show some of the below…). Anyway, for what its worth, here are a couple of answers to a couple of the questions I’ve just sent (as our interviewer pointed out, these will be presented as my views alone and not necessarily those of Goldsmiths) – [I hope its of use Natty]:
Q4: What makes for a good application- what would you advise year 13 students to think about when filling in a form?
I look for the ways the applicant has told us something about themselves in a way that has some verve, some sort of hard to name spark/mix of honesty, enthusiasm, creativity. It is of course hard to choose between the many capable applicants, so I look for someone with either, or especially both, a streak of creativity and a streak that I’d call a critical attitude to the world. Someone who is able to think critically about everything – without just having a winge – might make a very capable student.
Oh, and someone who reads. I mean, loves to read. To read and write. And to talk about books. To talk about writing – to care about writing as a craft, as a critical craft. And perhaps someone who might even help start up and write for a journal or magazine in their school. Three cheers for that part then.
I wonder if good bowling averages might also help with a Goldsmiths application, since we have a college cricket team in need of a spinner.
Hope some of this is useful for you. I have to crack on with some other friday night work – actually, I am going to watch the US presidential debate which should be on in about an hour – video streaming permitting…
PS. And if I was going to suggest any reading – Marx on education might not be a bad place to start. See the piece ‘Text message: what does Marx have to say about Jamie Oliver style school lunches?’