A personal statement has an upper limit of 4,000 characters. So you have a single side of A4 to write about all your mathematical ideas and experiences.
Given this, you need to be as succinct and insightful as possible. The question is: what are Oxbridge admissions tutors looking for in a Maths personal statement?
5 things to include in your Maths personal statement
- Concrete examples
Giving concrete examples of how you have shown your passion for maths is the best indicator of your love for the subject.
For example, substitute the sentence:
“I really love the concept of infinity”
“The infinite has intrigued me ever since I read Stewart’s From Here to Infinity. I then watched some online lectures on Cantor’s diagonal proof of infinity, and have been working on a project exploring different proofs of the infinite.”
Your personal statement must be full of solid examples of your work ethic and love for maths, as opposed to generalised, sweeping statements that don’t convey anything more than a quick internet search of “key mathematical concepts.”
2. Independent study
At university, you will find yourself in situations unlike anything you have encountered at school. You will often leave lectures unsure about many of the concepts covered, and it will then be down to you to understand them without any help from a tutor.
Showing an ability to study independently will mark you out as the right sort of candidate. A good example of this would be if you have embarked on an independent project, where you researched an area in depth by yourself.
“I have always loved geometry, and so to explore this field further I completed an online introductory course on projective geometry, and went to a lecture about the use of geometry in engineering.”
3. Questions, challenges, and extra problem solving
It is vital that you show an active engagement with solving mathematical problems. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Solving problems on the UKMT website.
- Preparing with STEP resources and past papers.
- Reading maths books designed to bridge the gap between school and university, and solving the end of chapter questions.
- Solving the weekly nrich maths problems.
- Solving problems in the PLUS Maths magazine (an online newsletter).
4. “I enjoy this in school, so I do this…”
Admissions tutors don’t want to know that you’re just good at the maths you’ve covered in school; they also want to know what you’ve been doing to further the knowledge gained in the classroom. Don’t just list A-Level topics you’ve enjoyed; say what you’ve done to enhance your understanding of these topics.
5. A genuine passion for maths
This might sound a bit cheesy when written down, but it is so important that you get across to the admissions tutors just how much you love the subject and want to study it. They want to know why you are the student they want to teach, so make sure you seem as enthusiastic and keen to learn as you can, without sounding sycophantic.
The personal statement is a difficult part of the maths application process, but if you follow our top tips, you’re bound to impress the admissions tutors with your passion for maths. Good luck!