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Personal Statement Tips

My lovely intern, Rose, is giving you some tips on your personal statement!


Counting it up now, in my personal statement itself, I included 7 books, but I’d read more that I had to cut out in the end! The most obvious supra-curricular thing you can do is reading, and I’d done quite a bit just out of interest. When choosing what to read, I literally just chose what sounded interesting to me, not what I thought sounded impressive or fancy. As I was applying for Classics, I’d read both ancient and modern texts.

I love Classical sculpture, and so one of the first books I read was RRR Smith’s Hellenistic Sculpture (it had pictures, which was a massive bonus for me!), from a series called World of Art. I also read some other books about Greek art from the series, but I only mentioned the first one in my personal statement, linking it to a discussion about ideals of beauty and societal standards in the Hellenistic world. I made sure to discuss everything that I read – I didn’t just name drop! Another book I read, Tom Holland’s Persian Fire, I found interesting, but I didn’t agree with everything he said – he had some pretty incendiary opinions – so I talked about how I disagreed with him, making sure to back up my own opinion.

Linking to my subjects

Another way I discussed my reading was to link it to my current subjects. I had read Petronius’s Satyricon, which is referenced in The Great Gatsby, which I read as part of my English course. During AS English, my teacher had told us that the Satyricon was referenced to show how hedonism could lead to the fall of empires, but I used my personal statement to say that I disagreed, as the Satyricon is satire. I also took AS art, and, although I had dropped it by this point, I still talked about it, referencing particular artists whose Classics-inspired work I liked, and how Classics had influenced my own work.

Supra-curriculars other than reading!

I devoted a relatively huge chunk of my personal statement to discussing Aeschylus’ play Agamemnon, as I had written a modern adaptation of it – and it needed a lot of explaining in order to make any sense! This allowed me to discuss how the ancient and modern world compare, which is a key interest of mine, so I really enjoyed writing this part!

I also talked about other Classics-related things I had done in school, such as writing a Classics Column for the school magazine and starting a Classics society (affectionately named Club Jason, after my ALevel Classics class’ most hated character from Greek mythology).

Although it took a few months and lots and lots of re-drafting, in the end I produced a personal statement which I was really happy with, and really proud of.

Here are my Top Tips for writing a personal statement:

  • Talk more about your supra-curriculars than your extra-curriculars

  • Discuss and expand, don’t just list everything – particularly books

  • Link everything you do, including the subjects you currently study and extra-curriculars, to the subject you are applying for

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