Sample Personal Statements

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  • Oxford
The first time I decided that I really wanted to study a Mathematics degree was after reading Simon Singh’s ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’. I was captivated by his description of Andrew Wiles’ struggle to prove one of the most difficult problems in Mathematics. Besides reading about Wiles’ remarkable perseverance and dedication, two important qualities for a mathematician, I also enjoyed some famous proofs that the book introduced to me. Whilst Mathematics has always been my strongest subject at school, previously I had merely taken for granted laws such as Pythagoras’ theorem or the infinity of primes. To see the proofs, seemingly simple but including one piece of ingenuity, made me understand that there is much beauty involved in Mathematics. This also spurred me on to read other popular mathematics books such as Marcus du Sautoy’s ‘Music of the Primes’, which exposed me to the field of number theory and the Riemann Hypothesis. I am also fascinated by the application of Mathematics in the real world, such as in Physics and Economics, my other A-level choices. One particular area which I have investigated has been the use of Mathematics in cryptography, which forms an essential part of e-commerce in today’s world. My essay on mathematical cyphers won the school Mathematics Essay Prize (out of a year of 150 pupils) and developed my understanding of the importance of number theory and modular arithmetic from researching the RSA system of public key cryptography. 

I think that I have the attributes that are required to study Mathematics successfully; I am very determined and am happy to spend time on a problem if the answer is not immediately obvious. I have advanced to the Intermediate Mathematical Olympiad twice, receiving a certificate of merit, and so have had experience in tackling longer questions. I find the less structured style of the Olympiad problems more interesting than usual syllabus questions as they require more thought and creativity in tackling them. This results in greater satisfaction when one does arrive at the solution. A major benefit of a Mathematics degree is the intellectual challenge that it poses and this is one of the main attractions for me. I will also be taking the STEP and AEA exams next summer along with my A- levels, which will expose me to more demanding material that will help me to make the transition from schoolwork to university level. 

In addition, I have participated in various Mathematics competitions. I was part of four-man teams in two inter-school competitions, the Hans Woyda competition and the Senior Mathematics Team Challenge, run by the UKMT. We were successful in both; in the Hans Woyda competition, our team won the ER Allsopp Plate, while in the Mathematics Team Challenge we were among the top 40 schools nationally. These experiences greatly helped my mathematical education as they tested both my ability to think quickly to tackle short-timed questions as well as my capacity to cope with more varied lengthier questions. As part of a team, I gained the confidence to communicate my ideas and learn from my fellow teammates, a valuable skill for studying Mathematics at university. 

I have also taken part in several extra-curricular activities, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. I am participating in the gold award, having completed the bronze and silver awards. The commitment and time management skills that I have gained from this will be useful in university life. I enjoy music and have passed my grade 7 piano exam with merit. I am also a keen chess player, having twice qualified for the National Gigafinal of the UK Chess Challenge (top 2500 in the UK). The hard thought and rigour associated with chess will transfer well into my mathematical studies. 

I am excited at the prospect of journeying further into the mathematical world that lies ahead at university and feel that I have the qualities that will make me a successful student of this diverse and elegant discipline.