If you’re applying for Maths and Philosophy at Oxford, you might be wondering how to start writing your personal statement. As inspiration, we have here an example personal statement for Oxford Maths and Philosophy. Throughout, there’s commentary in italics, explaining what works, and what could be improved:
Example Personal Statement
During a Kent County Youth Orchestra rehearsal, playing Part’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, I was struck by the vast influence and significance of mathematics.
It is good to include extra-curricular interests in your personal statement, but try and link them directly back to the subject you are applying for, as this is what admissions tutors are interested in!
This beautifully poignant piece, solely reliant on mathematical ratios and patterns, widened my view of mathematics and its effect on numerous disciplines. Based on a simple divergent series, Part’s composition showed me that sometimes the beauty of mathematics lies in simplicity.
This was reiterated to me when I began investigating proofs [margin quote: Here, instead of just saying that they are interested in something, they show what they did to explore it, showing their active interest in the subject.], such as the fascinating Euclidean proof of the infinitude of primes and the proof of the irrationality of the square root of two.
These are both great proofs to look at if you are interested in both maths and philosophy.
I was truly amazed to see that such simple and succinct proofs can resonate throughout mathematics. Bearing in mind this cross-fertilisation of mathematics into so many disciplines and having been inspired by a masterclass run by RIM on “music and juggling”, I have completed my EPQ on “whether music based on a mathematical structure is more satisfying.”
Looking at more Part music, observing the clean and simple use of symmetry, as well as observing Mozart’s subtle use of the Fibonacci sequence, I wrote my own piece and varied it imitating their techniques, which I then tested on a sample group.
However, for me, the most beautiful parts of mathematics lie in the limitless, which has sparked my particular love for the infinitude of numbers. Having been introduced to some basic ideas of the concept of infinity at a lecture, I developed my ideas further through reading Stewart’s “From Here to Infinity”, which details the laws of the limitless. I then watched an enthralling lecture showing some powerful Cantorian proofs of infinity.
I continued my investigations through the harmonic series, gaining huge satisfaction from the integral test, which inspired me to further my knowledge of the incomprehensibly-sized elements of mathematics by completing an online course on calculus. This allowed me to begin to use implicit differentiation, the product and chain rules, giving me the tools to start manipulating more complex functions and solve differential equations.
Concrete examples of mathematical techniques you have learnt and developed are good, instead of just hand-waving over general statements such as “I really like calculus, so I learnt more about it.”
The only discipline which seems comparable to mathematics in terms of the enormity of scale and its abstract nature is philosophy.
It’s important to try and have a sentence connecting the two disciplines together.
Studying English, I have always had a passion for literature and words and this has fuelled my interest in philosophy.
Linking philosophy to your current studies and what you currently do is a good idea, as it shows you can think around the course and its applications.
I began to see how philosophy could unlock meanings in various texts, including ontological issues in Frankenstein and existential questions in Hamlet, as well as the way in which Hamlet’s soliloquies interrogate the idea of the inner self, a concept mirrored in Hume’s later writing. Reading Sophie’s World, I took pleasure in the overt connection between the ludicrous philosopher’s tea party and Nagel’s theory of the absurd in human life, which I found one of the most memorable extracts from Hanfling’s compilation Life and Meaning.
I completed an online philosophy course, with 97%, taking a particular interest in epistemology, which led me to read The Philosophy of Mind.
You could perhaps have more details here about the texts actually read, as opposed to just listing them here.
I am constantly trying to widen my philosophical knowledge; I have been captivated by Plato’s The Republic and Descartes’ Meditations, as well as listening to podcasts on relativism, beauty and scepticism.
The self-discipline I have learnt through the meticulous nature of solving a mathematical problem I have channelled into being an officer in the CCF, and into the expeditions of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Mention any other areas of interest you may have, but constantly link it back to the subject – this is really important!
I recently spent a month in Borneo completing my jungle warfare training and volunteering as a school maths teacher. The latter experience showed me that, when there is no common language, communication is still possible through the medium of numbers. I feel I have only scraped the surface of these two hugely influential disciplines, and I am keen to pursue mathematics and philosophy further, as I strive for a deeper understanding of the incomprehensible elements of the world.
Hopefully, this example personal statement for Oxford Maths and Philosophy has given you a few ideas for how to express your enthusiasm for the subject, and how to link your interests back to the subject. For more advice, see our further reading suggestions for maths, and our further reading suggestions for philosophy. We also have