Today I have a special feature from Rose, on writing a personal statement for Classical Archaeology & Ancient History, although the tips here will be useful for all applicants!
What was in my personal statement?
I applied to read Classical Archaeology & Ancient History (CAAH) at Oxford, but applied for Classical Studies elsewhere – CAAH was what I really wanted to do, and I’d found that Classical Studies covered all of the parts of CAAH I was really interested in: the art, archaeology and history of the ancient world, studied together.
I was (and still am!) particularly interested in two sort-of main things about Classics. Firstly, the art of the ancient world, and how this can complement and inform our understanding of the history of the Classical world, and, secondly, how the ancient and modern world compare, and so what Classics can teach us about ourselves today. Just from naturally wanting to talk about these two things more, they became the main line of discussion in my personal statement, meaning that I could actually link paragraphs together, rather than having random, jolting ones! Having these ‘themes’ meant that I could get right into writing my personal statement. I had a short introductory sentence about how I think Classics impacts the modern world, leading to how it impacts me, and then on to the rest of my personal statement – this hopefully meant that the beginning of my statement was quite engaging!
I had, however, left writing the beginning and ending until last, as I found that part the hardest. When beginning to write my personal statement, I found it easiest to write down everything I could think of – literally everything – that I had done relating to Classics, and then cut it down and refine it. However, my ‘technique’ isn’t for everyone, and was to the horror of some of my friends! My first draft came to over 10,000 characters, and I needed several drafts (we’re talking double digits, here) to get down to the write amount. I also found that it seemed too listy at first, but once I’d started to discuss the books and activities I mentioned more, it seemed to get more of a flair of its own accord.
I found the ending the hardest of all to write, and went for several drafts without having a proper one. Finally, I ended up with a conclusion which linked my academic work to my extra-curricular activities and then back again, in a way which I still think is rather neat. I’m a Scout leader and had travelled to Malta and Gozo to form international relations, and as Gozo is allegedly one of the mystical places Odysseus travels to in Homer’s Odyssey, this linked back to Classics! For my concluding note, I returned again to my theme of the ancient world teaching us about our modern world, by saying that the more we learn about the past, the less of the same mistakes we will repeat. (Initially I said that we hadn’t changed as a society, as wars still happen in the same place about the same things, but according to my Classics teacher, that was too depressing and needed to be inverted to become more positive!)