If you’re looking to craft the perfect personal statement, reading over some Oxford personal statement examples will be the best way to start. It’s one thing to read college essay tips or instructions on how to write the perfect personal statement, but another entirely to see an example of how it’s done.
How to start a college essay can be tricky, but we have you covered! In this article, we have Oxford personal statement examples for your edification so that you can write your own best work.
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Oxford Personal Statement Examples
We are made of stories. History itself is the story we tell ourselves about who we are, and our oldest stories are still with us. Gilgamesh would never have found his immortality but through his story being told over and over again. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts every year for some people, and no matter how many times we hear about his conversion from miser to “…as good a man as the good old city knew…” we have our hearts warmed, reminding ourselves of the importance of human comfort and generosity. I have come to my interest in the classics through my interest in the stories we tell that make us who we are.
My personal reading list always exceeds my school’s reading list. When I was a boy, I was gripped by the stories of heroes like Perseus and Hercules. As I grew, I sought further stories and came across the epic poems. Over the years, I have found many people who share my enjoyment of these tales, but often they do not truly know them. One of my perpetual fascinations with classics is how these stories change, or are perceived, in the public consciousness.
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For example, many people know of the Labours of Hercules – or Herakles, as the Greeks said – but they rarely know why he was tasked with these Labours: he killed his children. We often make dark aspects of old stories into children’s stories. We see this with modern cartoon versions of far grimmer fairy tales. I believe that this has done our world a disservice. Instead of confronting unpleasant truths, we hide them. History is often whitewashed along with the stories to make it palatable.
My studies of the classics have led me to begin a work on Hercules – investigating how his story has been told and retold. I am also examining how the story has changed over the years, why it has changed and how retelling this story in gentler ways has paralleled pop culture dumbing down stories and ignoring unpleasant truths.
I hope to publish this work, and I believe that Oxford will best serve my process. Your classics programmes are rigorous and being able to engage in direct dialectic with instructors – the Oxford style – will benefit me more than any other school could. Furthermore, because Oxford is community-conscious, I believe my manuscript will be shaped with the larger context constantly in mind – which is a very important goal of mine. What I hope to accomplish is to point out to people how stories shape us and lead us to question our ideals. I believe this to be important work because of how we are, more and more, bringing our past to task and investigating changes. Ultimately, I hope my work on Hercules will inspire heroism in readers without ignoring the hardships and problems of life. Studying these myths and working on my book has already been a monumental task. For instance, it has necessitated my studying of ancient languages – Latin and ancient Greek.
Our lives are legends not yet written, and I want to make sure that they are good stories. I believe that a deep understanding of the oldest stories will better inform my path forward, including working on my manuscript and affecting change where I can.
“It’s just a frog,” I thought, but no matter how I tried to convince myself of that fact, I didn’t find it any easier to dissect. I was disappointed in myself because I thought that a scientist should be dispassionate, logical, and capable of dealing with any sentimental subject in an objective fashion. Yet there was the frog, my scalpel poised dramatically above its little, amphibian torso. I was almost paralysed with sympathy, and I began to fear that I would never be a scientist.
When I was young, I would wander the woods, sketching plants and animals before looking them up at home. I am happiest when I am learning something new – even if it means unlearning a truth I “knew” the day before. I had loved labs and experiments, but I had hit the wall of dissection. Could I take these creatures apart? I love learning about them, but how could I slice them open?
I told my friend Jeremiah that I wasn’t going to dissect the bullfrog. I would drop the course and do something else with my life. “I’ll help,” he said, “Come on.” With his support and encouragement, I made the first cut and couldn’t believe what I saw; I was entranced by the intricacy of the frog. Being able to see and understand nature from an insider’s perspective, so to speak, was no longer “gross,” and my curiosity finally kicked in.
As I continued in biology, through lab experiments, dissections and investigations, I found myself reversing my position on the mentality of the scientist. It is not that we must be dispassionate, but that we must intimately feel a connection with the natural world. We are a part of this world – as perfectly slotted into our evolutionary position as any other creature. More excited than ever, I joined a biology club in our city where I was surrounded by biologists of all ages – amateur and professional – and I grew immensely. I was even awarded 1st place in a biology Olympiad.
I believe that a truly successful scientist is one who finds harmony in the natural world, not one who exploits it, and I have had several conversations with my laboratory instructor on these points. He agreed with me, and we have been working on a rubric to create a more nature-friendly approach to the science curriculum at our school. He was already quite nature-conscious, but we both agree that we could be doing more to minimise our ecological footprints.
My dream job is one that helps to balance human interaction with nature on a global scale, to fight climate change and ensure the survival of all natural species. I hope to study the natural sciences at Oxford to bring this about. I believe that my journey is one of lifelong learning, a concept stressed at your school. I am also interested in your research in sustainable urban development. I think that co-existing with nature is one of the all-important issues for humanity and for an aspiring biologist. I want to contribute to a world where, even if we dissect frogs, we do so with a sense of responsibility, not callous indifference.
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I was ten minutes into a well-structured argument as to why I was not argumentative before I realised the irony of my words. I shut my mouth, red-faced and laughing with the rest of my family. I come from a family of debaters. Not that being a debater is the only thing that makes me want to study history and politics at your institution. Politicians are more than just arguers, but my temperament is well-suited to challenging ideas and wrestling with those ideas in the public sphere.
I want to make a difference on a national level in the political arena, serving the public as a politician. I joined the debate club to learn how to perform well in front of an audience, how to test my ideas and most importantly, how to lose. I am proud of my track record, wins and losses. Losses can be a strength. My first debate was, “Be it therefore resolved that there is an obesity problem in this country.” I was assigned the “pro” angle, and I was so sure that I could win by appealing to statistical realities. However, I lost. My opponent had sharper arguments and convinced the audience that “problem” implied an inherent morality issue with obesity. I had no counterargument.
From that loss, I learned how to use language better, to anticipate counterarguments and to know my opponent’s position better than my own. Every loss is an opportunity to grow, and I love that I have been pitted against fierce opponents who make me earn every point. I would rather achieve fewer victories against a skilled debater than gain many victories against those who are ill-prepared. I also rarely lose on the same subject twice.
This is relevant to my political philosophy, which is that I believe politicians should be willing to change their opinions, even on important issues. If nobody changed their minds, we would all be pig-headed fools. I want the best information, and if that changes my mind, so be it. We need more changed minds and evidence-based policies coming from politicians who value truth and accuracy, as well as the ethics to provide morally defensible positions.
Thanks to my debate club experience, I was able to campaign successfully for student body president, a position I held for two years. I took this responsibility seriously, even if not every peer or authority figure felt the same way. During my time in student government, my proudest accomplishment was helping create a new scholarship programme to fund the university studies and housing of one student. I believe that politicians should fight for changes that will benefit people, not just institutions, so this scholarship was a particularly exciting project for me to work on.
Outside of political ambitions, my favourite thing to do is to go to museums and art galleries. I take tremendous pleasure in discovering who we were and are and being able to compare the two. I hope to bring my historical knowledge and understanding to my career in politics.
Whether I am debating at family dinner or quietly, reverently studying in a museum, my greatest joy would be to help people build the society that they want to see.
When the first atomic bombs were detonated, Oppenheimer famously stated, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” characterising the transcendent regret he felt. Of course, Oppenheimer was himself quoting from the Bhagavad Gita. When I think of Oppenheimer’s sorrow, I think of the importance philosophy has for a person navigating hard sciences, like mathematics.
For many people, philosophy and mathematics – what I hope to study at Oxford – are divorced from one another, if not opposites. One, resulting from the musings of a curious mind, is seen as almost useless in practical terms. The other is seen as cold, scientific truth in written form. But I believe they are linked. I loved reading Oxford’s published paper, “Influencing HIV/AIDS Policy in India Through Mathematical Modelling.” Our math knowledge, and the application thereof, can directly affect the world around us, improving it for all.
In my final year of high school, I wanted to write about the impact that mathematics has on the world. I wrote a paper on black holes. I interviewed a mathematician named Peter Richards who was working at a physics lab studying the phenomenon. Mr. Richards told me how the gravity of black holes creates event horizons, shaping space around them, but that scientists are investigating whether gravity is influenced by light. This cosmological-level chicken-or-egg question became the basis of my paper, which was about how we think about the universe and our place in it. Mathematics might one day answer who we are and why we are here. This paper won 1st place in an essay competition and secured me a small scholarship.
Math is the language of the universe. I see it everywhere: in nature’s patterns and in the music I play. I have been learning to play flutes – everything from woodwinds to concert flutes to world music instruments like ocarinas. As my study of math deepens, I become more immersed in exploring the range of the instrument, which, in turn, transforms my music. Math reshapes the world around us.
This study of the interplay between mathematics and philosophy led me to study the mathematics of global populations, which I believe will soon become imperative research on how we can maintain a sustainable eco-system. I attended a recent event for mathematicians studying global trends, where I interviewed several prominent mathematicians in the field for the school paper. I got to ask these important persons about their thoughts on the responsibility mathematicians have regarding humanity and the care needed to help our species. A surprising number – two out of the five I spoke with – had given little or no thought to the idea of blending philosophy and mathematics. I was shocked at this mathematical proof that even people in the field did not give much thought to this.
I hope to combat this in my own life and studies, encouraging mathematicians to increase their conscientious use of their skills to better humanity in a direct way, as well as to be more conscious of their responsibilities in the world today.
What is Oxford Looking for in a Personal Statement?
Oxford recommends that you follow the UCAS advice on personal statements when writing your own. It is well worth taking your time drafting your personal statement because the admissions committee at Oxford reads each one several times. They are really interested in learning about anything academic because they are curious about your potential in your field of study. This implies that they are interested in both what you have done and are doing in school as well as anything you have done outside of the classroom that is related to the subject you have chosen to study. More than being the best extracurriculars for college, Oxford refers to these activities as super-curriculars. Super-curriculars can be anything “you’ve read, listened to, watched or visited” that relates to your academic interests, unlike extracurriculars.
About 80% of your personal statement should discuss your academic interests and super-curriculars. The recommended structure is as follows:
- Opening paragraph explaining why you want to pursue the programme
- 3 or 4 paragraphs analysing your academic and super-curricular activities
- Brief closing paragraph about your extracurricular interests, with a focus on transferable skills and career plans/future aspirations
To ensure that your personal statement applies specifically to the University of Oxford, first look at the school’s mission, vision statement and core values. Aligning your essay with these values will help prove that Oxford is the perfect fit for you, which is your main goal. This is the first step in how to write a college essay for this school.
You may also want to reference other important aspects of Oxford. Do they have research in the area you want to work in? Do they have a professor you cannot wait to study with? Do they have the curriculum set up in a way that best suits you as a student and your future goals? You need to show not only how you fit with Oxford, but also how the school will propel you forward in a way that no other school could.
Oxford’s Mission Statement
“We inspire people locally, nationally and globally by extending access to Oxford’s world-class teaching and resources through flexible and inclusive opportunities for study and research.”
Oxford’s Vision Statement
“To be a global centre of excellence for lifelong learning. Courses will be underpinned by the best teaching, research and support for learning to meet the needs of diverse, ambitious and intellectually curious students. Staff and students will work together within and beyond Oxford to foster a vibrant learning community attentive to the importance of promoting sustainability and social justice.”
Finally, note that all Oxford personal statements have a character cap of 4,000, including spaces, and must be no longer than 47 lines.
Essay Writing Tips
Here are some general pieces of advice to keep in mind while working through your college essay review process. These tips will apply to your Oxford essays, but they will also be beneficial for any essays. Essays follow a basic structure and have a fundamental goal that is shared among them, even when specifics differ. So, you could be writing supplemental college essays, college diversity essays, or Harvard medical school secondary essays, but regardless of the type of essay or school, these tips will still apply.
The Main Objective
All essays are, directly or indirectly, “why this college” essays. The admissions committee is looking for students who fit their institution and are excited about attending. Whatever your college essay topics are, you’re always answering that fundamental question.
College essay introductions are hard in and of themselves. Conquering the introduction means beating the blank page. Start with the best “"hook” sentence you can find. That means you need an attention-grabbing opener that compels the reader to continue.
Once you’re through the introduction, you must follow through with two or three paragraphs about your accomplishments or criteria the school expect to hear about – in Oxford’s case, those are your academics and super-curriculars.
Each story should answer the fundamental question: “Why is this person perfect for this school?"
Wrap it up with a conclusion that summarises your main points and, if possible, connects to the introduction like a loop.
1. How long can my personal statement be?
Up to 4,000 characters, which includes spaces.
2. How short can my personal statement be?
You don’t want to go so short you can’t say anything of substance. Brevity is the soul of wit, however, so don’t worry about having a personal statement that is “only” 300–400 words long. Don’t pad out your statement; say what you need to and no more.
3. What should I focus on in my statement?
Your personal statement shows your unique abilities and personality and why you are ideally suited for the institution and programme to which you are applying. Showcase qualities like perseverance, leadership, teamwork, curiosity, creativity, logic and personal growth.
Your main focus will be on academics and super-curricular activities.
4. What should I avoid in my statement?
Negative people don’t come off well, so dwelling on problems, whining, or badmouthing people is never a good idea.
5. Do you have any tips on writing style?
Formal, standard essay format is perfect: hook sentence, introduction, main body – which expresses one or two main ideas – and a conclusion that comes full-circle, ideally connecting to the introduction. You can use the first person, since this is a personal essay.
Always follow the rule of “show, don’t tell” to demonstrate your qualities and abilities.
6. How do I beat writer’s block?
Free-associate for a while. Give yourself one or two minutes to write on the programme you want to take at Oxford and just free-associate. By the end, your passion for the subject will have won out and given you a good list of ideas to explore.
7. What happens if I exceed the character limit?
Your essay gets cut off. Never exceed the limit. So, in practical terms, if you exceed the character limit, or 47 lines, part of your personal statement will be missing.
8. Will my personal statement be graded?
Not formally, no, but it is being evaluated, so make sure you edit properly and go over spelling and grammar with a fine-tooth comb.
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