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Applying to university is a long, involved, and daunting process. If you do it and yourself justice, it will take many hours to put together a compelling dossier for a place at university.

Every application is broadly similar to the next in terms of its constituent parts, but not every application is equal. This is because some applicants wrongly underestimate the value of the personal statement, which is perhaps the most important component after your grades. In fact, this short piece of writing is sometimes even more important than grades as it can be the deal-breaker for some candidates, especially those teetering on grade boundaries. Especially for a subject like Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies, where a lot of the content will be new to first-year students, the personal statement is crucial to prove to tutors that you're up to the job!

It’s therefore worth the effort to craft a persuasive and meaningful statement that includes all the necessary features and shows you and your abilities in the best light. This guide will take you through the writing of a well-constructed statement and will cover the following points:

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

It will come as no surprise that personal statements are qualitative, and grades are quantitative. Beyond a numerical value, grades tell you very little. They don’t tell you how you came to that grade, or what lies behind your subject choice.

Personal statements, on the other hand, are there to fill in those blanks and tell admissions tutors all about the skills you’ve gained, the interests you hold, and what you’re capable of. The statement helps you to stand out from a crowd of others, all with the same academic achievements on paper.

Admissions tutors aren’t only interested in what grades you’ve obtained so far; they’re also interested in what potential you have, so the personal statement is there to show that you’re ready to embark on a course of study as exacting and fascinating as ASNC.


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What Should I Include in an ASNC Personal Statement? 

ASNC, as the name would suggest, is a broad degree course with three principal components at its core: Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to be interested in all three components to an equal extent, but it does mean you have to be interested in all three to some extent. The statement should therefore try to cover all three to some degree. It bears mentioning that there is no expectation that you’ve studied any of these languages or cultures before; rather, the expectation is that you’re ready and willing to do so.

Subject Knowledge and Awareness

As with any university subject that you’ve not had any grounding in at school, the desire to study ASNC must have been born of your own intellectual curiosity, in this case about the languages and cultures of medieval Britain and Scandinavia. The universities you apply to will want to see proof of this, as well as an explanation as to how your interest in the subject started and gradually blossomed.

You should talk about your interaction with these cultures and languages through reading, museum and site visits, and even podcasts or TV programmes. Try to be as specific as possible and mention detailed examples of what interests you specifically and why, be it linguistic, literary, or material in nature. Never mention a book, film, podcast, or exhibition in isolation; always explain what specifically about its content interested you the most. This shows academic curiosity and an ability to engage with sources at a deeper level.

Know What You're Getting Into

You should show your awareness of the interdisciplinary nature of the course, and how it ranges from history and literature to languages and archaeology. It’s not enough just to state that you know this, but instead you should mention what appeals to you most and how skills gained from your subjects at school could assist you in these new pursuits.

The cross-cultural and source-based nature of the degree is a unique selling point, and one which universities will want you to have noticed; you can demonstrate this by talking about analogous facets of your school subjects and your appreciation of their relevance to the degree.

Be Ready and Willing

The best applications for degrees are those that exhibit an understanding of what the course will entail, a good level of interest and subject knowledge, and a skillset that is transferable to some or all parts of the course. The importance of describing your motivation and suitability for the course cannot be overstated, so draw up a list of reasons for applying, what you’ve gained from work inside and outside the classroom, and what you’re most looking forward to about the degree. This will help you to remember what to include when you come to putting pen to paper.

What Should I Avoid in an ASNC Personal Statement? 

While it’s important to stand out from other applicants by highlighting your uniqueness, what you talk about should be restricted to what is relevant to ASNC. This means you should avoid mentioning anything curricular or extracurricular that you can’t easily show as being relevant either to the subject or to higher education in general.

When drafting the statement, avoid indulging in clichés and trite reminiscences as these give the wrong impression; always value substance over superficiality. You should also avoid both overly-familiar language and affected language as they will detract from your statement’s impact.

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Advice on How to Start an ASNC Personal Statement  

Your experience of essay-writing should help you to start the statement since, like with a piece of academic writing, the statement should establish the ground on which the rest is built. For the statement, this means saying in simple and direct terms where your interest in ASNC comes from and why you’d like to study it at university.

Admissions tutors have to get through a lot of these, so make it easier for them and provide the important information up front, but try to do it in an interesting and compelling way. That doesn’t mean you should be over the top or say anything outrageous, but being original and unexpected in a good way will help the reader to remember you and your statement later on.

Advice on How to Finish an ASNC Personal Statement  

The end of the statement is as important as the start, but for different reasons. The end should act as a conclusion, again in a similar way to an essay, and it should set out to achieve the same purpose, namely a reiteration (not repetition) of what you’ve said, and a reinforcement of your argument. Your argument in this case is your interest in the subject, your motivation to study it, and your readiness and suitability to embark on the course.

Whatever you do, don’t regurgitate anything you’ve already said as this wastes precious words. Instead, allude to the points you’ve made and reiterate how they prove your motivation or preparedness for the course. The last impression is as important as the first, so make it persuasive and interesting, but not overblown.


There are some elements of the ASNC degree that you may not have come across before, e.g. codicology (the study of manuscripts and books) and palaeography (the study of writing systems and texts). It would be impressive if you could make astute reference to such areas of study without making it seem forced. The ASNC degree also demands a wide range of skills, so if you can mention, for example, your linguistic and historiographical competencies, where appropriate, then this will be good evidence of your preparedness.

Admissions tutors will be impressed if you can show that you keep abreast of the new research and developments in the subject. You can do this by reading academic journal articles, attending lectures, enrolling on short courses, or simply attending talks and listening to podcasts. Conveying a sense of how the discipline has progressed and how new schools of thought have emerged would be particularly admirable.

There is a character limit (including spaces) of 4000, or a limit of 47 lines maximum on the UCAS form. Which applies depends on which you reach first, but either way you haven’t many words at your disposal. This means that planning is key, since you want to ensure everything you write is worthwhile. If it would help, you could apportion a set number of words to the different sections of your statement and try to remain within those confines.

The university is interested in you as a potential student, not what you do in your free time (unless it relates to ASNC!) With this in mind, keep the extracurricular activities to a minimum, but those you do mention should be relatable to ASNC in some way. This connection doesn’t have to be obvious at first glance, as long as you make it clear when describing them; don’t forget to talk about the ASNC-related benefits you derive from them and how these could prepare you for your proposed course of study.

Oxford and Cambridge value research skills, independence of mind, self-reliance, and intellectual endurance. By talking about your academic and non-academic pursuits, you will hopefully be able to demonstrate some or all of these attributes, but you shouldn’t leave it up to the reader to make the connections; join the dots for them and say explicitly how a certain activity has helped you to develop a certain skill, which you envisage as proving useful during your degree.

Book your ASNC 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 ASNC, we have admissions test guidance and interview preparation readily available. 

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