Welcome to our popular Personal Statement series where we present a successful Personal Statement, and our Oxbridge Tutors provide their feedback on it.
Today, we are looking through a Classics applicant’s Personal Statement that helped secure a place at Cambridge University. The Classics Course at Cambridge combines many disciplines and perspectives in the study of Greek and Roman Antiquity.
Read on to see how this candidate managed to navigate the many disciplines and perspectives of Classics.
Here’s a breakdown of the Personal Statement:
The universities this candidate applied to were the following:
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Classics Personal Statement
I first became intrigued by the classical world whilst learning about the Romans in primary school. Since then an inspirational Latin teacher, trips to classical sites and the writings of Homer have cemented my fascination with this subject. Having studied Latin GCSE and AS level, as well as AS Classical Civilisation, I have come to appreciate the rich cultural depth of the ancient world and its profound influence upon society today as the origin of so many of the fundamental aspects of our daily lives, from democracy and English language through to the justice system. It is for these reasons that I wish to study Classics at degree level.
As part of my Latin AS course I found the structure of Latin and its legacy in terms of modern European languages fascinating. This led me to research the derivations of the English language as part of my Academic Research Course project with a specific focus on Latin and Greek influences and I found that Latin influence on English especially is huge both in terms of vocabulary and idiom. Studying The Iliad in translation for the AS Classical Civilisation course has stimulated my interest in ancient literature, quickly appreciating its striking sophistication and lucidity, prompting me to read The Odyssey. This epic, for me, particularly raised the question of the nature of morality in ancient Greece as the portrayal of Odysseus is as a pious and kind man, yet his indiscriminate slaughter of the suitors and servants at the end would seem to conflict with this. Having seen certain short passages in the original Greek I have come to further appreciate the subtle word play of Homer such as the section in which Odysseus outmanoeuvres the Cyclops by saying that his name is ‘nobody’ which is yet more impressive when seen in the Greek as the translation cannot fully convey the use of double meaning.
In addition to my AS subjects I have attended a weekly Ancient Greek class and completed the Bryanston Greek summer school course. I feel this has given me a good grounding in ancient Greek that I can build on this year in preparation for a Classics degree. I am also involved with running the college Classics society which is helping to develop my organisational and presentation skills.
Having taken trips to Pompeii and Greece I found the opportunity to see parts of the ancient world in the flesh, such as the Parthenon, awe inspiring. It was an experience which made the ancient world seem far more real to me and gave me a sense of the scale and significance of the ancient sites which cannot be gained from photographs or drawings so I hope to visit more in the future.
I also found the AS Philosophy course most absorbing and through this have gained a detailed understanding of some ancient philosophy, such as Plato, which is an area of classics I am keen to study further. This led me to read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which I found to be strikingly convincing and relevant to the modern world considering its age. I particularly found the concept of virtues and the ‘Golden mean’ a compelling argument for how we should make moral decisions as the idea of moderating our behaviour between two extremes is an intuitive one. The Maths AS course has developed my skills of logical thought, a discipline which is proving useful in other subjects when analysis is required for essays or translation.
Music is also a great interest of mine and over the course of the last year I have taught myself to play the guitar proficiently and I am also a very competent drummer, having taken lessons for several years. Both these pursuits, but in particular teaching myself the guitar, have developed skills of perseverance and self-motivation, which are of great use to any academic study.
I relish the opportunity to study Classics at the highest level and especially look forward to working with both experts in the field and other students who share my passionate interest.
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Good Points Of The Personal Statement
The personal statement is very strong, with no obvious errors. The student’s strength in particular here is their ability to make classics relevant in all of their listed academic interests. This is done notably well in the paragraph about A-Level Philosophy, which the student used as a springboard to undergo their own research. Indeed the Academic Research Project was another well-chosen inclusion, as independent research work is more closely in line with the style of working at university, and the student seems comfortable working in this way. The ending lines work well in underlining that the student is eager and excited to begin this course.
Bad Points Of The Personal Statement
The opening line is somewhat of a personal statement cliché. Talk of developing these interests fully at such a young age is, more often than not, unconvincing. Structurally, the balance of the statement seems to be weighted towards language or literature aspects, with societal dimensions coming later. Ensuring that all aspects of the course are covered from the outset, or as soon as is practical, will help to give the impression the student is a good fit for the course as a whole, rather than only being interested in smaller aspects. In terms of engagement with ancient texts, The Odyssey (as with The Iliad and The Aeneid) is fairly standard, and usually on the Classics A-Level Syllabus. Given that the majority of students applying to study Classics at university will be studying it at A-Level, going off syllabus to more niche texts might set the student apart from the crowd. The grammar is, at points, questionable, indicating the statement required closer proofreading prior to being submitted.
UniAdmissions Overall Score:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This personal statement is strong stylistically, but there is room for potential improvement. The content may come across as fairly standard, particularly in terms of the ancient literature the student has read (at least up until the section on Philosophy). The current content is all unproblematic, but to stand out from the crowd, the students should talk about more independent work they have done beyond what is required of them in school.
This Personal Statement for Classics is a good example of a well-rounded Statement whilst demonstrating academic interests, vital to Admissions Tutors.
Remember, at Cambridge, these Admissions Tutors are often the people who will be teaching you for the next few years, so you need to appeal directly to them.
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