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 History applicant’s Personal Statement that helped secure a place at Oxford University. The History Course at Oxford combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time with more focused work on smaller social groups, shorter periods and particular themes.
Read on to see how this candidate demonstrates that they can understand and analyse history.
Here’s a breakdown of the Personal Statement (the applicant uses most of the 4,000 characters available):
The universities this candidate applied to were the following:
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History Personal Statement
My passion for history can best be explained by discussing the period of German Unification, which displays the most engrossing virtues of studying the subject. Firstly there is great scope for debate and exploration of the interlocking causations, examining the relative importance of Bismarck’s own role against the military strengthening of Prussia or the shifting international relations. But most interestingly it is a defining period in the shaping of modern Europe and the way in which it links the past to the present is most fascinating. Studying this period reveals how international relations progressed after the Napoleonic era leading to the way in which Germany was unified through war and thus became a country built around war. It is therefore arguable that this era created the state which would then trigger the two wars which have shaped the modern world. This period shows how history can give us a more rounded understanding of the world we live in, linking our mysterious and intriguing past to our all too familiar present surroundings. It is partly this, which motivates me to study history as in doing so I gain immense satisfaction from learning how our world has evolved.
An understanding of history also provides a fundamental backdrop for any other areas of study. I have found this through my other A-Level subjects, for example historical knowledge of politics in Britain was essential to AS politics, particularly when studying the political situation in Ireland. An understanding of past conflicts is indispensable when it comes to managing contemporary politics. Furthermore, whilst taking French the study of Un Sac De Billes by Joseph Joffo unearthed experiences of living under Vichy France. To learn a language fully it is important to immerse oneself in the culture and history of the country in order to develop a more rounded understanding of the people who live there. Thus it seems that history is inescapable; it not only provides vital background knowledge but also helps bring to life every other academic subject, which is why in my opinion, it is the most important.
During my A Level history course, the Napoleonic era particularly fascinated me and I pursued my interest through further reading, looking specifically at Napoleon’s downfall, an area I found most compelling as it offers the greatest exposition of the psychology of this exceptional man. I read Digby Smith’s ‘The Decline and Fall of Napoleon’s Empire’ as well as Zamoyski’s ‘1812’. I picked up on several themes throughout Zamoyski’s book and developed my own opinions such as sympathetic stances towards General Barclay and the Tsar, but was particularly intrigued by how Napoleon let his ego drive his pre-war diplomacy and how Napoleon’s own role in the breakdown of the Treaty of Tilsit perhaps triggered his eventual downfall. The fact that I was so gripped by so many different themes within an historical study of one war also reveals another aspect of history that is so appealing to me. It offers vast numbers of different avenues to pursue in one’s research, whether it is Napoleon’s diplomacy or the fallibility of the Russian command.
Outside of my academic studies, I am a dedicated sportsman but have particularly flourished musically as a cellist, obtaining a grade 8 standard in year 11 and am a committed member of various ensembles. Music has coloured my historical studies, for example, I played various Shostakovich symphonies coinciding with my study of Stalinist Russia at GCSE, each with a very different feel depending upon his relationship with Stalin, but perhaps most moving was playing his 10th symphony, a purely self-indulgent expression of relief after the death of the dictator. It is impossible to appreciate this great work without its historical context, which transforms the piece into something personal, attaching the listener emotionally. History is not only fascinating in itself, but it enriches our appreciation of all other interests.
For more inspiration, take a look through our other successful Personal Statement analysis articles:
Good Points Of The Personal Statement
The student speaks intelligently and successfully links their interests – both within history and outside of history – to the study of history on a wider scale. The statement is well organised and reads well. Paragraph three, in particular, has many strong points with a greater focus on what really interests the student and why. The student does well to focus on the different areas of exploration within history showing a strong awareness of the nuances within historical study.
Bad Points Of The Personal Statement
The statement focuses too much on what the student knows, rather than what interests the student – the first paragraph, in particular, reads too much like an essay, and less like an exploration of why this student actually wants to study history. The student risks falling into a trap of trying to teach and impress the admissions tutor with their knowledge instead of offering a more personal approach. The student also needs to try to avoid repetition, for example ‘most interestingly’ and ‘most fascinating’ within the same sentence in order to ensure the whole statement flows better.
UniAdmissions Overall Score:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is a very strong, well-written Personal Statement. The student has clearly proved they can both understand and analyse history. The student perhaps needs to focus more on their own motivations behind studying history, but overall, the statement suggests a student with great potential and zeal for the subject. What would make the student stand out even more is a stronger closing statement – something to bring the whole personal statement together.
This Personal Statement for History is a great example of a strong, well-written Statement. The candidate’s interest and achievements are clearly shown which is vital to Admissions Tutors.
Remember, at Oxford, 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.
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