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 Philosophy applicant’s Personal Statement that helped secure a place at Cambridge University. The Philosophy Course at Cambridge explores human thought, the basis of knowledge, the nature of reason, consciousness and cognition, as well as the foundations of value and political theory.
Read on to see how this candidate managed to navigate philosophical thinking to successfully receive a Cambridge offer.
Here’s a breakdown of the Personal Statement:
The universities this candidate applied to were the following:
Enrolling on our Cambridge Philosophy comprehensive Programme will give you access to Personal Statement redrafts.
With our Cambridge Philosophy Premium Programme, your tutor will give you regular actionable feedback with insider tips on how to improve and make your Personal Statement Oxbridge quality for the best chances of success.
Click the button below to learn how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.
Philosophy Personal Statement
“And if you find her poor, Ithaka has not fooled you. / Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, / You will have understood by then, what these Ithakas mean.”
Cavafy was right, indeed. Like any other reflective person, I am essentially a philosophical entity. While most people, perhaps those outside academic philosophy, would consider it a prime example, maybe along with Mathematics, of an established body of a priori truths, of some kind of Ithaka (thus excluding themselves from the possibility of realizing their philosophical essence), I beg to differ. For years, though, unwise as I was according to Cavafy, I was looking for Ithakas like most men, misled by this major misconception. For years, I have been reading Plato and Aristotle, Descartes and Nietzsche always, hastily and impatiently, heading towards truth; towards my rich Ithaka, and always falling on reefs and mythical objections raised by one philosopher against the truths of the other. Always, en route.
When, “wise as I had become” on the road, like old Ulysses, I realized that philosophy is much more than just a truth per se. Instead, philosophy is the pursuit of truth, irrespective of whether that truth is ever achieved; in fact, if and when something ever counts as truth, it does not belong to the realm of philosophy any more. Not until I read Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, had I realized that the aim of philosophy is to designate what can be said and what not, what is non-sense or what might be senseless. This very sub specie aeternitatis realization of philosophy as an activity, a method of approaching truth and reflecting on reality rather than as an established body of justified true belief, was crucial in my selection of philosophy as the subject of my academic study. Since this realization, my chief preoccupation has been to learn as much as possible from the journey to Ithaka, to hone this ability to philosophize effectively, to exercise and engage philosophy as much as possible, whenever and wherever possible.
A culmination of this constant struggle to sharpen my philosophical essence happened this summer in the Epic Questions Summer Institute of U of Va, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. In this intensive, three-week seminar for high-school teachers, I was the official note-taker and the only high-school student to be accepted among the scholars as an intern of Dr. Mitchell S. Green. Courses in Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Formal Logic, Philosophy of Language, Ethics, Political Philosophy and Bioethics unprecedentedly furthered this philosophical activity and I made the acquaintance of contemporary philosophical thought, reading, such as T. Nagel, R. Chisholm, D. Papineau, B. Williams, along with classical readings.
Hence, to my readings of Plato’s Five Dialogues, Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy and Nietzsche’s Übermensch, were added those of the British Empiricists, esp. some of Hume’s Enquiries, Kant, B. Rusell’s The Problems of Philosophy and Mill’s Utilitarianism.
I must admit that I have been uncritically assuming a certain account of human nature (as inherently philosophical), which many may find controversial. And this, itself, thus, turns into a philosophical question. And so on and so forth.
This is exactly the philosophical beauty I live for.
For more inspiration, take a look through our other successful Personal Statement analysis articles:
Download our Free Personal Statement Starter Guide
Good Points Of The Personal Statement
The statement is well written, and the student clearly demonstrates their passion for philosophy, as well as their motivation for pursuing further study of it, and something of a personal journey through which their philosophical thinking has developed. The discussion of the nature of philosophical thought ties nicely into their own motivation to study philosophy. The statement shows their broad philosophical education, as well as indicating a strong self-motivating passion for learning (in a much more subtle manner than simply stating that they are self-motivated), as much of this education is in the form of private study. Acceptance to the prestigious seminar is an impressive achievement, and the student is right to stress this, and the ‘unprecedented’ effect it had on their philosophical activity.
Bad Points Of The Personal Statement
The statement is vague in what it terms ‘philosophy’; though the student clearly has an interest in some vague notion of ‘human nature’, they don’t narrow down exactly what they wish to study at university (philosophy being such a broad subject that quite a bit of specialisation is necessary). The time spent listing impressive works that they had read would have been better invested in mentioning just one (or even just one subject that they had read around) that had particularly affected them and expanding on it. Similarly, they could have expanded further on the experience of the seminar (how it affected their philosophical thinking, new ideas encountered while there, etc.), rather than listing the respected philosophers they had met.
The grammar is, at points, questionable, indicating the statement required closer proofreading prior to being submitted.
UniAdmissions Overall Score:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This statement is very strong; it conveys a rare passion for the subject and, more importantly, a passion that has been actively pursued in the student’s own time. It could, however, benefit from a little more specificity regarding their thoughts on specific readings, and from reading less like a list of books and philosophers. Overall, the statement reads like an intriguing personal philosophical work.
This Personal Statement for Philosophy is a great example of demonstrating passion which is 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.
There are plenty more successful personal statements and expert guides on our Free Personal Statement Resources page.
Our expert tutors are on hand to help you craft the perfect Personal Statement for your Cambridge Philosophy application.
With our Cambridge Philosophy Premium Programme, we help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, score highly on the PAA and teach you how to Interview effectively.
Discover our Cambridge Philosophy Premium Programme by clicking the button below to enrol and triple your chances of success.