Top Tips for an Oxford Classics Personal Statement

5 min read

Oxford Classics Personal Statement – Top 10 Tips: Dos and Don’ts

Oxford Classics Personal Statement is a crucial component of your university application. It presents a unique opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from other applicants. You would be able to articulate your story and explain your interests beyond that of numbers on an admissions test. Furthermore, it gives the interviewer a chance to understand who you are. It also provides a platform to bounce off questions during your interview. 

They can tailor questions to your personality, interests, and commitment to who you are as a person and your amalgamation of experiences before you. To guide you through the arduous university application process, our Oxbridge application experts have compiled a list of top 10 Oxbridge Classics Personal Statement tips. This includes dos and don’ts for your Oxbridge Classics Personal Statement for the 2024/25 application cycle. 

General Advice for your Classics Personal Statement at Oxford

Classics at the University of Oxford is an extremely dynamic course. It encompasses an extremely wide range of topics. This includes the history, archaeology, philosophy, culture, linguistics and art of classical antiquity of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It has a large focus on interdisciplinary teaching, with the unique opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times.

Furthermore, what is unique about the Classics course at the University of Oxford is that it allows students to take extensive options in modern philosophy. This flexibility in your choice of courses makes the Oxford Classics course different from most other courses offered at other universities.

Your Oxford Classics personal statement must clearly demonstrate your interest in academic rigour and thought, as well as the fields outlined above. Furthermore, when planning out your Classics personal statement, make sure you research Oxford’s achievements in Classics and include it in your writing to illustrate your interest in Classics.

Top 5 Tips for your Oxford Classics Personal Statement

Be well-read in classics or related fields.

Classics is a subject that involves the study of archaelogy history, philosophy, art, and linguistics. Hence, an ideal classics student would be well-read. This is because they have a natural thirst for knowledge. It is also because being well-informed or deeply versed would equip you with unique perspectives when pursuing your degree. Furthermore, being well-read would provide an advantage in giving you an impression of such an integrated study.

Oxford is definitely looking out for students who are well-read, and this is evident even on their page outlining the course. You definitely don’t need to be an expert (after all, you are going to university to study classics). But you should definitely do some preliminary reading. You can access their recommended reading list put together by one of the University of Oxford colleges, Balliol college. The link is available here: Balliol College

Beyond that of reading, podcasts, documentaries, or even short news articles are a great way to kickstart your journey in being more deeply versed in literature and a wide range of perspectives. You can incorporate these various forms of mediums in your everyday lifestyle. This could be watching a documentary instead of your usual TV series, or listening to a podcast instead of your usual playlist on your way home from school.

Write concisely and simply.

It can be tempting, predominantly for a course such as Classics, to fill and embellish your Oxford personal statement with difficult vocabulary or unconventional words. However, if you are not used to such language, do not feel pressured to decorate your Oxford personal statement with a fancy vocabulary. This is because it could make it difficult for Oxford tutors to get through your Oxford Classics personal statement or understand what you are trying to say. Imagine this– tutors would get through hundreds of applicants per day. Similarly to getting through articles or academic journals full of jargon you are unfamiliar with, it would be tough on tutors to focus on what you are trying to communicate if you use too difficult vocabulary.

The first and foremost aim of your Oxford Classics personal statement is for the reader to understand what you are trying to convey. Sometimes fancy vocabulary would get in the way of that. Prioritise conciseness and readability, and sometimes simple language. When you are trying to describe complex topics, it is best for that!

Demonstrate why you are a good match for classics

The traits that would make up a good classics student would be vastly different from the desirable traits of students from other courses. For example, some unique traits that they would be looking out for are students who are capable of critical thinking. It could also include those who enjoy rigorous analysis. Being open-minded is also crucial, as Oxford is looking out for students who are able to consider new perspectives.

Try and demonstrate how you display these traits in your Oxford personal statement. You can do so by explaining a specific experience that you had in the past. You need to reflect on how they have caused you to possess these desirable qualities.

Structure your Oxford Classics personal statement well to enhance readability

It can be difficult to communicate it in the way you intended. Especially when you are trying to convey a huge range of ideas in your Oxford Classics personal statement, or to explain your story and why you are a good fit for classics at Oxford. Hence, sticking to a good structure would help you convey your thoughts better.

For example, you can start off by explaining your interest in classics. Do you have a topic that deeply intrigues you and is the beginning of your exposure to this field? You can then spend later paragraphs explaining how you explored this interest. Next, you can write about concrete experiences and actions, such as that of reading or participating in conferences and competitions. You can then conclude by summarising your points and ending them with an impactful statement. 

Starting early and getting people around you or seniors to proofread your Oxford Classics personal statement

Especially when we are explaining our personal story or beliefs, we might not be the best judge of our own work as we might not be objective about it. Hence, it would be good to get seniors you know who are currently pursuing classics at Oxford to proofread your work and provide feedback. However, getting friends or family to proofread your work can also provide valuable feedback on readability! That being said, don’t share your Oxford Classics personal statement in case it gets plagiarised by someone else.

Furthermore, starting early would be extremely helpful and you would be thankful when completing your applications. If you are finding yourself to be in a slump or having a writer’s block, start by listing out all your experiences and interests. Then create a separate list on good qualities of classics students, and finally a list on what the classics course at Oxford is about. You can match your experiences and interests to the qualities and details of the course, and slowly flesh out paragraphs to start. Once you are done with your draft, it would also be good to leave and come back to it a week later with a fresh mind. 

Top 5 things to AVOID for your Oxford Classics Personal Statement

Explain in your Oxford personal statement why you are interested in classics, instead of just saying that you are

The main aim of your Oxford Classics personal statement should definitely be to convince your admissions tutor that you are interested in studying classics. However, straight up saying “I am passionate about classics” is not enough to display your interest. Neither is listing classics-related experiences such as telling them that you watched a specific play or read a common book. Anyone, even those not interested in classics, can simply say that they are interested in classics.

Instead, elaborate on the interesting thoughts that you have regarding classics or your classics-related experiences. This is because an applicant who not only involves themselves in the classical experience (e.g. books, extra-curricular, plays), but has genuine and interesting thoughts about them, shows that they are involved and fascinated by classics to a much larger extent than just a student who has a superficial “I’m passionate about classics”.

Mentioning books for the sole purpose to show that you are well-read

Don’t name drop books or list a range of books that you have read and follow it with what you think about each book. This is because admission tutors would get the impression that you are just name-dropping books, that you might not have even read them. Or that you only read them for the sole purpose of writing about them in your Oxford Classics personal statement. It would be a lot more valuable if you use ideas in the books and link it to your personal experience or life. This shows that you truly understand what the books are trying to convey. It also shows you are able to draw the link to it to seemingly unrelated experiences. This would signal critical thinking to your admissions tutors.

Using too much complicated vocabulary

A lot of students have the impression that they would be rewarded for bad writing. Specifically that of embellishing their essays with an unnecessary and excessive amount of complicated vocabulary. This could result in the essay sounding pretentious and hard to read. Although this might be counterintuitive for some, a straightforward, concise, and simple style is favoured for your Oxford Classics personal statements. This is because it results in the essay being readable. Less is more when it comes to rhetorical flourishes!

Furthermore, writing simply does not mean that your essay would sound boring and common. You can still adopt a lively and excited tone, even with simple and common everyday words. 

Writing an essay on a school of thought instead of an Oxford Classics personal statement

When explaining a particular school of thought, you could end up writing an Oxford Classics personal statement that looks like an argumentative essay instead. Remember to keep the focus of the personal statement. Explain why YOU are a good fit for the classics course at Oxford. Oxford tutors would be familiar with any classics theory you are trying to explain. They are not reading a textbook or to learn a new perspective on it– they are looking to learn about you.

Only expect to have one draft of your Oxford personal statement

Your first draft will never be your best draft. Always factor in time to allow multiple drafts to be completed. It is also important to not leave it to the last minute. This is because it would show in the quality of your work. Your tutors would also be able to tell if it is rushed. Furthermore, you might miss out on relevant experiences because you were not able to remember them in time.

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