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When applying to university, there is understandably a requirement to say why you wish to study a particular subject and why you might be a good fit for it. There are several reasons behind this, including making sure the most motivated and interested candidates are awarded places, to ensure you’re going to be happy there for the next three or more years, and for tutors to get a sense of what kind of student you are.

There are various ways to approach this task, but remember that your personal statement is uniquely yours, and how you write it is up to you. While there are some commonalities across statements, e.g. it focuses on a degree course and your potential to study it, there is no ‘right way’ to start one. However, there are techniques to make a statement stand out in a good way and methods to write an effective one, and this guide will help you to achieve that by taking you through some of them, including:

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

Given that you are applying to spend at least the next three years studying a subject you haven’t studied formally at school, which is usually the case for archaeology, it’s vital you know what you’re getting yourself into. Moreover, universities want to know you’re sure about your choice of subject.

This shouldn’t put you off, of course, but a statement is there to show admissions tutors that you’ve looked into the degree, have considered your capabilities and skills as they relate to it, and are motivated to see it through to the end.

In most cases, the tutors won’t have met you already, so this is the first opportunity for you to make a positive and lasting impression, and for you to impart your ambition to study a subject to an advanced level. Remember that in most cases there will be more applicants than places available for the course, especially at Oxbridge, so you want to mark yourself out from others on the basis of what you alone can contribute.


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What Should I Include in an Archaeology Personal Statement? 

When thinking about what should go into a personal statement, it’s worth bearing in mind that it should do what it promises to do, namely make a statement about you. This can encompass all sorts of aspects, including your motivation to study archaeology, your interest in the subject and where it came from, what you’d most like to get out of the course, and what you see yourself doing with it after graduation.

A personal statement shouldn’t be your autobiography or family history, nor should it be a review of all your favourite books; it should remain relevant to the course and to you as a prospective student.

Why Archaeology?

There are several disciplines related to archaeology, including ancient history, classics, and anthropology. It goes without saying that you will need some interest in those too in order to write a convincing statement, as archaeology doesn’t stand in isolation.

Universities would also quite like to know what it is specifically about archaeology that really intrigues you and why you think it matters. It may be a subject you’ve engaged with in your free time, or perhaps simply read about, so it’s important to say how you came to it and why you want to take it further. Did a chance find in the soil spark your interest? Was it a visit to an archaeological site that caused you to think further? Whatever it was, make sure you communicate this clearly.

What Do You Know?

Although admissions tutors don’t wish to quiz you on how much you know, they do want to see what you know, since it proves that you have tried to discover what you can about your subject beyond the classroom. This is why personal statements will often engage with important books, documentaries, exhibitions, podcasts, or other sources related to the field of archaeology in an academic way; it proves that you have explored the subject in your spare time, and have critically engaged with what you have learned.

As archaeology isn’t taught in schools, and is separate from but related to subjects such as history, it’s important you demonstrate your awareness of its connections to subjects you are currently studying and what a degree in it will entail. The course may involve elements of science, such as biological and chemical analysis, as well as geography and sociology. Working out how we lived across past generations is a field of enquiry requiring skills drawn from all manner of subjects, so it’s important to show you’re ready to tackle this.


Don’t worry – no one is going to expect you to know how to excavate Roman sites. You may not know it yet, but you undoubtedly already possess skills that are relevant to archaeology. Being able to reason analytically, having an enquiring mind, communicating effectively, having close attention to detail, and engaging in data-collection are all vital to archaeology, and you’re almost certainly demonstrating these in your school and extra-curricular work.

Try to give examples of when you might have employed these skills and make the point that they’ll set you in good stead for your studies and potential work as an archaeologist.

What Should I Avoid in an Archaeology Personal Statement? 

A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything inappropriate or irrelevant to archaeology or your intentions to study it. Remember that you are restricted by a maximum character limit (4000), so it makes sense to talk only about why you want to study archaeology, why you’d be a good student, what your interests are in the field, and proving your wider research.

Avoid all clichés, wistful reminiscences, and anything overly dramatic – admissions tutors would rather hear about your forays into the subject than about your anecdotes. Don’t turn the statement into a book review or collection of your favourite quotations – the reader has most likely read and heard them already. Equally, don’t devote space to anything extra-curricular that you can’t relate back to an archaeology degree or advanced study in general.

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Advice on How to Start an Archaeology Personal Statement  

Since archaeology isn’t a subject most people encounter at school, a university will want to know how you came to be interested in it. It’s best to be direct, genuine, and truthful, otherwise you risk sounding glib and your motivation could be thrown into doubt.

Start simply, using straightforward language, but try to make it enticing without sounding melodramatic. Remember this is the first impression you’re giving, so it should be memorable (for the right reasons) and cause the reader to want to read on.

If you’re struggling to begin, it’s sometimes a good idea to write other parts of the statement and inspiration may come to you later. As an introduction, it should, of course, lead naturally to the next section, but not before establishing how your interest in archaeology developed and why you’ve decided to study it.

Advice on How to Finish an Archeology Personal Statement  

Finishing a statement can be just as hard as starting one, as this is the final impression you’re going to leave the reader with.

The conclusion should draw together the various threads of the statement’s content, such as motivation, academic background, subject-related interests, and relevant skills. It shouldn’t repeat verbatim anything you’ve said already, but instead reiterate your points and emphasise your suitability for the course.

One way many students finish is with one eye on the future by mentioning what they’re most looking forward to when studying archaeology or what their future plans are after graduation, provided those plans relate in some way to the taking of that degree.


Ensuring that you’ve explored the various facets of archaeology is key for a good statement and application. Tutors will want to know you’ve explored the subject ‘in the round’ by engaging with the histories, cultures, languages, and societies of earlier peoples and civilisations. This can be done easily through reading, but you should also mention the specifics of any museum trips, site visits, or travel that have enabled you to come into contact with the material history of previous eras.

It pays to know what you’re going to say before you say it. This means that you should make a plan: not necessarily a really detailed one, but a broad one that will guide your writing and provide a framework for the statement. This can change as you go along, of course, but try to brainstorm ideas for the sections before beginning and you’ll find the writing does itself.

A UCAS personal statement is limited to 4000 characters, which includes spaces, or to 47 lines of the form, whichever you reach first. This is obviously not a lot, hence the requirement to keep everything relevant and not to waste words. If you find yourself struggling to say more, you should take a break from writing as you don’t want to risk saying something for the sake of it. Don’t worry – ideas will come!

You can demonstrate your passion for archaeology in a number of ways, not all of which have to relate to archaeology per se. It’s obvious that reading around archaeology is a given, but attending free talks and lectures on the subject or its cognate disciplines, taking a free online course in history or an ancient language, or volunteering litter-picking (a lot can be learned about societies from litter!) can all teach you about what the subject covers, how it has developed, and what you’re likely to learn about when you start.

The main thing to remember is that any extracurricular activity which you cannot relate back to archaeology or the skills needed to study it should not be in included in your personal statement.

Of course you cannot be too specific to any one course, since your personal statement will be sent to all the universities to which you are applying, However, there are certain styles which will appeal more to Oxbridge than others.

Most archaeology courses are interdisciplinary, but the Oxbridge courses are more so than most. You can prove your suitability for these courses by showing an understanding of how seemingly different subjects interrelate to inform us about different topics, and for this you can draw upon your schoolwork.

You should also demonstrate an enquiring mind, a proactive attitude to academic work, and an ability to balance competing commitments as the Oxbridge courses make heavy demands on your time.

Book your Archaeology Personal Statement Package

You can contact our Oxbridge-graduate Consultants on +44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or email [email protected] to discuss our personal statement packages. 

If you’d like to know more about Archaeology, we have admissions test guidance and interview preparation readily available. 

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