You may have never studied computer science before, yet you’re expected to write 4000 characters explaining why you want to study the course at university. Understandably, this can seem like a daunting task. So, what sort of things do admissions tutors want to see in an Oxbridge Computer Science personal statement?
In your personal statement, you want to show genuine interest in the subject and a real passion for further developing your understanding. This can be grounded in something you may studied in school, but it is important to show independent study. Try to show how you’ve explored the subject in a way that goes beyond what you’ve been exposed to in school. You could link a particular interest in algorithms, for example, to studying mathematical methods in Further Maths A-Level. However, from there, talk about what you have done to follow up on this interest.
You don’t want your personal statement to be full of broad, empty phrases. You want specific examples that express your interest in the subject. To show your love of computer science you could:
Read around the subject
Check out our great list of further reading for Computer Science. Hopefully, at least one of these will grab your attention. Reading around the subject is a fantastic way to develop your interests, and discover where you want to research further. You can also use books as an example of your passion on your personal statement. To show that you’ve really engaged with the text, talk about specific chapters or sections that interested you, and why. However, only include a book if you’ve actually read it. You don’t want to get caught out at interview!
Develop your problem solving skills
Problem solving is essential to computer science, and there’s lots you can do to show your enjoyment and aptitude for problem solving. Using Project Euler, which provides daily problems to solve, could be a great way to show your interest in problem solving outside the classroom. Conveniently, the Project Euler problems are often of a computational style, giving you an idea of the type of problems you’ll face in a Computer Science degree.
The UKMT problems, all available on their website, are very useful, particularly from the Senior Kangaroo rounds. Also, if you have done well in a UKMT challenge, make the most of your bragging rights. This is the sort of achievement that stands out on a Computer Science personal statement, since the admissions tutors want to know you understand the heavy mathematical element to the course.
Try some programming
Although Computer Science is more than just programming, trying to get to grips with a programming language, such as Haskell or Python, is a good indication of whether the course is for you or not. Furthermore, it shows the admissions tutors that you have an active interest, and have been exploring the various elements of course as much as possible.
Do extra Further Maths modules
If you don’t study Further Maths, or even if you do, try and teach yourself a couple of the modules that you don’t study. This will be of huge use when you get to university, as the Computer Science course goes over Further Maths material very quickly, so already having a knowledge-base will be invaluable. It is also shows your drive and ability to study independently, something very attractive to admissions tutors.
If you don’t have a teacher at school who can go through any sticky areas in any extra topics you study, there are lots of worked solutions and support pages available online – there’s nothing stopping you!
The most important thing to remember when you are trying to expand your hinterland in order to write a brilliant Oxbridge Computer Science personal statement is to be active, not passive. Instead of just claiming you are interested in Computer Science, it is so important to be active in your interest, so the admissions tutor can’t possibly refute this! Try and go to lectures on Artificial Intelligence, the future of computing, or new digital systems. Do an online course in programming, or engage in online problem solving websites.
Don’t just let your interest rest dormant; try and nurture it so that your personal statement is full of concrete examples of your passion, and you can shine in your interviews.
For more help, we’ve got an example Computer Science personal statement, to give you all the inspiration you need.