It can be difficult to know where to start with your personal statement. Summing up the interests, motivations and passions that have driven your academic life up until now in only 4000 characters is a tough task. However, taking a look at example personal statements can be massively helpful. Here, we have an example Oxbridge Computer Science personal statement, annotated to explain why it’s successful.
Example Personal Statement
My interest in computing really took off when I realised I could tell the computer exactly what to do, and hence, in turn, tell others what to do. This was something with an obvious appeal to a teenage boy with a strict mother. This drew me to a game design club at age eleven where, instead of passively receiving other people’s ideas, I could create a game based on my own.
Although I sometimes became frustrated with my limited mathematical understanding, I quickly learned I could use algorithms to bridge the gap between my abilities and my imagination.
This sentence is good as it shows a desire to further and deepen knowledge, above what you learn at school, and the sentence concludes with an example of how this has been done.
For example, on a course at the University of Aberdeen I performed a dry-run of a typical classifier algorithm, using Bayes’ theorem, which taught me how easily formulae can be adapted to seemingly bespoke situations to produce exciting outcomes. This not only developed my Java programming ability, but also gave me an insight into mobile-telephone development, and the care that needs to be given to topics such as memory allocation and battery usage. I realised I could apply similar techniques to conserve resources in a desktop application and create a higher performance app using less processing power.
This paragraph is good because it shows lots of active interest in computer science, and doing lots of self-learning and research, the sort of thing that stand out in a personal statement.
Of course, it is hard to predict the future, but it seems that computing will be increasingly dominated by artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning algorithms. I am excited to see, and to hopefully be a part of, the shift from specialist AIs – which can only be considered “intelligent” in one context – to a general AI which can potentially do most, if not all of the computational tasks that any human could. While attending the recent Computational Intelligence Unconference, I was struck by the suggestion that 95% of AI projects are unknown to the public; being carried out by secret company labs and, perhaps more worryingly, by governments.
There is a good balance of love and interest for the subject, backed up with knowledge and concrete examples of things done to explore this interest further. Passion is important in a personal statement, but it is equally important to ground this in things you have done.
Although there are possible negative consequences of such research, it is quite exhilarating as we are possibly living on the verge of a key paradigm shift: the dawn of artificial intelligence.
Teaching and mentoring students has required me to communicate my ideas effectively. As a Maths Prefect, it is encouraging to see students who have previously achieved limited results flourish in the right environment. As such, I designed a tool to help sixth-form students learn about vectors. This required me to learn some of the FP3 content in advance, which improved not only my problem-solving but also my ability to self-teach, a challenge I relished.
Self-teaching is essential to success at university, so if you have done any independent learning, whether that be an online course, an EPQ, a school extended essay project, or teaching yourself a maths module, this is good to include.
I learnt how to expand my thinking when searching for a solution, a change from the majority of the maths course, where we tend just to be shown the relevant method.
I was appointed a House Leader in Year 12, which gave me an opportunity to voice the concerns of the student body to staff and make changes for the better. Also, as a member of my school’s Digital Council, I have helped introduce new technologies and subsequently present them to the governing body.
Extra-curricular activities are good to include, especially if they link to the course you want to study, as this is ultimately what the admissions tutors are interested in. This is a good example of such a link.
At first I was too directive, but over time I learnt to use open questions to allow the governors to express their understanding, which led to them being more receptive to my proposals. Furthermore, I have delivered training to staff on several occasions, which was initially quite daunting at first but ultimately very rewarding. Unlike students, teachers are more resistant to change, which led me to adapt my approach and build on the familiar, to present it as an upgrade rather than a complete change.
Technology is evolving and reshaping old industries (for better or for worse) because computer scientists are always trying to answer the question: “How do we do it better?” After university, I plan to pursue a career in the computing industry; a degree will help provide me with the necessary skills and knowledge for my selected career.
If you do have an idea of a career you intend to pursue, and it links into your course, then it is good to include this at the end, as it displays drive and focus. However, don’t lie, as you may get caught out in an interview – and it is fine not to know what you want to do, you don’t need to include it!
If you’re looking for more tips on personal statements, take a look at our guide to writing a Computer Science personal statement, or our suggested further reading for Computer Science.