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Writing a personal statement presents you with an opportunity to showcase your abilities and achievements, while also demonstrating you have the skills, motivation and drive to study classics at university. A personal statement serves the important purpose of telling an admissions team who would be the most suitable students for admission onto a course, and often form the basis of questions in admissions interviews.

Not many people look forward to writing a personal statement because they recognise how important it is, and there can be a lot of pressure to get it right. That’s where this guide comes in. It is designed to offer advice on the most common issues students encounter when approaching the statement, and it will take you through some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ for writing a great classics personal statement, including

Why are Personal Statements Important? 

Personal statements are the first, and sometimes only, chance for admissions tutors to get a sense of the person applying for their course. If universities don’t hold an interview, the statement becomes all the more important as it’s the only way you can tell the university about yourself why you want to study classics. If you are to be interviewed, writing a personal statement is good preparation for the questions you’re likely to be asked as tutors during an interview very often want you to elaborate on what you wrote in your statement.

The statement is designed to show you off in the best light by telling academics why you would be suitable for their course, including your motivation for applying, your talents, your academic background, and future plans. In short, you should use this as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and present a convincing case for why you should be admitted onto the classics course.


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What Should I Include in a Classics Personal Statement? 

Perhaps the most important aspect of your personal statement is detailing why you have chosen to study classics in the first place. You may or may not have had the opportunity to study it at school in some form, but if you have then that’s a good place to start and you can draw on that experience. If you haven’t, then you should consider what it is about the subject that enthuses you and where that enthusiasm sprang from.

Alongside your motivation for studying the subject, you should talk about appropriate skills you have developed that could be applicable to the course, how you have fed your interest in the subject, and what you’d most like to get out of the degree.

Foundation of Interest in Classics

For the personal statement, it’s not enough just to claim an interest in a subject – you have to articulate why you’re interested in it and how your interest came about. For classics, this interest could have been sparked by anything from viewing artefacts in a museum or visiting ancient ruins to reading classical literature in Latin and Greek or watching a play.

Whatever it is that inspired you, your passion for the history, culture, and languages of the ancient world should shine through. You should also mention why you’re applying for this degree and not any other; this could include the skills it teaches you or your long-term ambitions.

Wider Reading

No matter how much exposure you’ve had to the subject at school, universities (especially Oxford and Cambridge) wish to see that you’ve gone beyond the syllabus and explored your subject in depth.

This is not to say you need to make a start on the university reading list, but there is an expectation that you’ve read around the subject and thought about what you’ve read. However, don’t start writing reviews of books in your statement – you should come to some informed thoughts about them and incorporate them into the wider points you make.

Plans for Your Degree Focus

Without pre-empting an offer, it’s nevertheless advisable that you look into the degree courses at each of the universities you’re applying to and consider the classes and modules you might like to take.

Since you’re likely applying to five different universities, it’s best to remain quite general and talk about areas of interest, e.g. Greek tragic plays, that you know all five will cater for, rather than actual module titles as you don’t want to be seen to favour one university over another.

If you have any future career plans that classics might help with, then this is a good place to mention them.


What Should I Avoid in a Classics Personal Statement? 

Personal statements should be clear and concise. They should never be florid and laboured, so keep affected language out of it. The same goes for quotations and clichés; you want to demonstrate that you can communicate effectively and be understood easily, so these should never appear in a statement.

Remember not to include anything you wouldn’t be happy to talk about in an interview, therefore it’s a very bad idea to make untrue claims. The statement should be about you and your interests and motivations, which means you should not focus on anyone or anything other than you – writing about a book, classical figure, or school of thought is not appropriate.

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Advice on How to Start a Classics Personal Statement  

Classics is an interdisciplinary subject that covers art, music, history, architecture, literature, philosophy, amongst others. This means you have so many areas from which to choose examples of your passion and motivation to study it.

When it comes to putting this into words, though, it’s sometimes hard to find a starting point. You should try asking yourself a set of questions to begin, including ‘Why do I find this so interesting?’, ‘When did I first become interested in this?’, and ‘What would I like to get out of a classics degree?’

This will help you to formulate your thoughts and, eventually, your words. When you do come to start writing, make your opening direct and appealing, but avoid clichés and quotations. The statement is about you and no one else.


Advice on How to Finish a Classics Personal Statement  

By the time you come to finish the statement, you should have included parts about your rationale for choosing classics, your specific interests within classics, where your interests came from, and any skills you possess that would benefit you during the course.

The conclusion should reinforce these points and, if you wish, talk about what you’d like to get out of the degree course, making sure what you say is applicable to all the courses to which you’re applying. A good conclusion leaves the reader with the impression that you’re the right candidate, that you’d be a good student to teach, and that you’d make the most of your time on the degree at that university.



There are particular attributes that equip students well for embarking on a classics course, such as open-mindedness, critical thinking, and enough intellectual flexibility that you can revise your views in light of new information. Mentioning experiences that either taught you these or allowed you to demonstrate these skills will show you have a skillset valued by the discipline. Try not to start listing qualities you think tutors are looking for; instead choose one or two and make them relevant to the academic study of classics.

Create a plan and structure for your statement. Tutors will want to see that you can organise your thoughts coherently and that your points come across clearly and precisely. It’s never a good idea just to let your mind wander as it gives the impression of unorganised thinking, which would be a severe disadvantage for a classicist.

Every UCAS statement is limited to 4000 characters or 47 lines of the form (whichever you reach first). This encourages you to be selective with your content and to be as succinct as possible. Given the character-limit, it’s sensible to try to use as much of it as possible as you want to inform the universities about yourself in as much detail as you can.

The rule-of-thumb for the inclusion of extracurricular activities is relevance. Obvious examples would include visiting museums and sites, going on archaeological digs, or reading widely.

You should be strict with yourself over what to include as you haven’t many words available, so unless the activity can be related to the discipline or to advanced study in general, it’s probably not worth putting in.

Certain activities might have taught you useful skills, and it’s fine to include those if you can then successfully link them to the study of classics at university – avoid tenuous links though!

You are writing the same statement to all of your UCAS choices, so you can't be too specific to any one course. However, you can make sure your statement is especially appealing to Oxbridge tutors.

The Oxford and Cambridge courses are interdisciplinary, so it’s advisable to demonstrate some interest across the range of areas the degrees encompass, such as in philosophy, literature, or archaeology. T

here is also a large focus on language, so even if you’ve had no experience of Latin or Greek, it’s worthwhile reading about these languages, their history, and their literature, and even trying to teach yourself some to demonstrate willingness to learn.

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

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