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Home Application Resources Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (CAAH) Personal Statement Guide

Talking about yourself is nearly always an awkward experience, so talking about how great you are is likely to fill you with dread. Nevertheless, this is what you have to do to apply to university as it’s the only way admissions tutors can hear from you, their future student, and that’s crucial if you want to do their degree course and you want them to teach you.

The personal statement has to strike a delicate balance, so it presents you as confident but not arrogant, and informed but not boastful. It should include some parts of your life, but not others, and use sophisticated but not pretentious language. As an applicant to Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, a subject that doesn't directly align to one of your school subjects, you also have to strike a balance between the different aspects of your future degree course.

This might make the writing of a personal statement sound like a Herculean task, but don’t worry – with the right guidance, it isn't. This guide is here to help you through the systematic writing of the statement, and it will lead you through the following steps:

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

A strong interest in the subject, unquestionable motivation, good qualifications, and strong potential. These are what universities look for when they come to admitting candidates for degree courses, regardless of the subject.

The problem is, it’s really difficult for universities to know whether you have all of the above as they don’t know you. It’s quite easy to tick the qualification box on the basis of predicated grades, but the rest is up to you to prove.

That’s where the personal statement comes in: it’s there for you to put down in detail how suitable you are as a prospective student and to explain why the university should take you over anyone else. There are good ways and bad ways to do this, of course, so we’ll see how best to achieve it as we progress through this guide.


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What Should I Include in a CAAH Personal Statement? 

CAAH is unique in its scope. It’s not classics per se, nor is it archaeology or ancient history in isolation. It brings together several cognate disciplines around a core of ancient civilisations and societies, and draws on these to inform our understanding and appreciation of the classical world. It’s therefore essential to illustrate your interest in, and engagement with, the various strands of the subject generally, and with the courses you’re applying for more specifically.

Depth and Breadth of Knowledge

The first checkbox of a good CAAH personal statement is showing that you have engaged with the subject's various disciplines to some degree, possibly as part of your school work but certainly in your spare time. This shows not only your motivation but also your wider academic curiosity.

It’s possible that you have studied history, as well as classical or modern languages, at school. If so, this is a good place to start, but don’t worry if you haven’t. There are all sorts of ways you to talk about your forays ancient into languages, history and culture. Perhaps you’ve attended a talk at a museum or read an article that spurred you on to find out more. It’s up to you what you decide to include, but make sure that whatever you settle on evinces your knowledge of CAAH, and that you can show you’ve thought deeply about it and come to some considered views.

Longstanding Motivation

It’s important not to give the impression that your decision to study CAAH is a recent one, as you’ll be immersed in this subject for the next three years. Universities want to know you have sufficient motivation to see the course through to the end and that you’ll be happy and thrive.

This is why tutors like to see you’ve been interested in the subject for some time and that it’s not a fleeting fancy. You can show this by mentioning when you first became interested in it and how you developed that interest into the passion you have now. Try not to exaggerate, however, as this will come across as insincere.

What's It All About?

Unless you’re applying to just one university, no personal statement should mention anything about one university’s degree course that the other universities’ courses don’t share. That said, if you’re applying for the same, or similar, subject at all your chosen institutions, then it’s more than likely they share several components in common. Make sure you check this and, if so, think about what modules (sometimes called ‘papers’) you find most appealing and bring this into the statement. That way you can show you’ve done your research and know what you’re signing up for.

What Should I Avoid in a CAAH Personal Statement? 

Although personal statements are, by their nature, personal, this doesn’t mean admissions tutors want to hear about your general hobbies, favourite films, or pets. Relevance to the subject under discussion is key, so the statement should centre around your involvement with and your motivation for studying the various disciplines encompassed in CAAH.

Your writing shouldn’t include colloquial or informal language, clichés, affected turns of phrase, or dramatic moments; instead, it should be professional, direct, simple and impactful. Other things to avoid are lying (tutors are adept at seeing through this for one, and you’ll also be quizzed on the personal statement if you have an interview), exaggeration (be realistic), irrelevance (don’t mention hobbies unless they relate to CAAH), and premature assumptions (don’t talk as if it’s a forgone conclusion you’ll be granted a place).

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Advice on How to Start a CAAH Personal Statement  

The best place to start a CAAH personal statement is with you and CAAH. It’s a broad subject, so think about your first meaningful encounter with some aspect of it and go from there. You’re really telling a (short) story about your blossoming interest and passion, so as long as you don’t express yourself in an overly romantic style it, should come across as genuine.

If you don't want to begin at the start of your CAAH journey, you can alternatively jump straight into your academic interests with an interesting statement or analysis of a source (a book, a historian, an artefact, etc.) which has particularly inspired you.

You ought to have a plan, so ensure the introduction lays out where and how your interest developed, as well as why you’re motivated to study CAAH, and make sure it leads seamlessly to your following section. Try to maintain a positive tone throughout and strike a balance between introspection and consideration of the past and present, and a future outlook.

Advice on How to Finish a CAAH Personal Statement  

When you feel you’re nearing the end of your statement, it’s a good idea to write down what you set out to achieve and examine it to see if you’ve done so. The conclusion should bring the statement to an effective close by uniting your points around a definitive endpoint, namely that you’re sufficiently interested and motivated to apply for CAAH, and capable enough to make a success of it.

Remember not to repeat any of your points, but rather make reference to them to remind the reader of what you said, without sounding repetitious and wasting valuable words. The conclusion should leave the reader with a confident and undeniably positive impression of you as a potential student.


It may be stating the obvious, but look at the faculties’ websites. There is a wealth of information on there to direct you and the planning of your statement. You’ll see their specialisms and areas of focus, and be able to derive tips for what to include. More than that, they very publish the undergraduate reading lists, or recommend places to begin your reading if applying. It should go without saying that it would be very beneficial to make a start on the works they mention as you’ll not only broaden and deepen your knowledge but also show you’ve bothered to look into the courses themselves.

Don’t be scared to emphasise your own areas of interest within CAAH. It’s a broad subject that incorporates so many independent humanities disciplines that it’s only reasonable to expect you’re going to have an affinity with some parts more than others. This will demonstrate that you’ve thought about the subject and that you know what to expect. That said, don’t disregard the parts you find less interesting as you may still have to study them, so ensure you don’t give the impression you’ve decided on a path even before starting the course.

Your statement must be written within 4000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines of the UCAS form, whichever you reach first. This is good training for essay-writing at university as more often than not there will be a word limit attached and you therefore have to be concise and precise. For the statement, you will have to discriminate between the important and less important, so you remain within the limit.

Extracurricular activities are great, and they provide people with so many benefits in all sorts of ways. Be that as it may, you’re unlikely to talk about your hobbies or extracurricular achievements in a history essay or geography project, so you wouldn’t mention them here either. Relevance should be your guide, so if you think they are relevant (trips to museums, lectures attended, books read, ancient sites visited are all obvious examples), then these should be mentioned. If it’s a musical or sporting achievement, then it’s most likely not relevant and don’t try to force a tenuous relevance either as this will both waste words and give the wrong impression.

The Oxford and Cambridge faculty websites are a good place to start for ideas of what they specialise in, what the courses look like, and who might interview and teach you. If you’re applying to more than one university, remember not to mention anything unique to Oxbridge, but you can always angle your statement towards their specialisms to a certain extent. Also, remember that they will interview you, and base some parts of those interviews on the statement, so be prepared to elaborate on anything you’ve written and to discuss it in depth.

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

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