As promised in my previous post, here is a copy of my own personal statement for my university applications. The statement itself is specifically for the subject of English Literature, but its basic template can be adapted for almost any subject. Try and spot the different sections I outlined in my How to write a personal statement guide!
In his essay ‘Why I Write’ George Orwell states, “Good prose is like a window pane.” For me, this embodies why I have always wished to study literature. I am fascinated by all aspects of the world: art to politics, history to music, sociology to drama – and to me, that which has the ability to link all of these and more is literature. If ‘prose’ is Orwell’s window pane, the entire spectrum of literature is mine. Yet for me, it is not only about the window’s view, but the glass itself – its composition, its formation, its atoms.
Literature enables us to explore different worlds. Stories – regardless of their form – allow both the past and the future to become present. An evening cruise on Derwentwater gave me chills as I, like Wordsworth, ‘fixed my view’ on the ‘horizon’s utmost boundary’. Further Lake District visits engaged me in literary tourism, following the homes and works of the Wordsworths, Coleridge and Potter, thus immersing myself in past worlds. Recently, I have avidly read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ alongside my coursework text ‘Brideshead Revisited’ – as Charles made ‘[his] first entry as the freeholder of a property [he] would enjoy and develop’, I immediately drew comparisons with the Commander ‘doing his duty’ with Offred; despite the opposing experiences, the presentation of women as sexual objects remains the same.
Throughout my life I have attended drama productions from Sophocles to Trevor Griffiths and have considered and questioned them; a stage performance of ‘Lord of the Flies’ juxtaposing the island against a classroom enabled me to expand my own reading of the novel. This year I have heard acclaimed ‘Great Gatsby’ scholar Sarah Churchwell speak and was particularly interested in her discussion of whether ‘Gatsby’ is truly a love story.
These works and experiences – and uncountable others – have enabled me to not only assert my own place in the world but further comprehend humanity. I know a higher academic study of literature will allow me to focus on aspects in which I am most interested – such as women in literature or the origins of the novel – and discover multitudes more. Though I will take a gap year in order to experience more of our world prior to higher education, I am thrilled for all that university promises.
During Year 12 I worked on the annual College Magazine as Deputy Editor – through this my organisational and social skills improved enormously as I helped lead a team of students, whilst my flair for writing was happily stretched. Participation in the Madrid session of the Model European Parliament engaged me in debating and served to significantly improve my communication skills. I am the Administrations Officer for the JCR, involving minute-taking and working closely with the team, and a Subject Leader for English and Music, roles which include working with younger students – some of primary school age – to aid them in their studies.
I am a keen musician; though first a pastime for enjoyment, I now view it as intellectual study, drawing comparisons between the pieces I play and the books I read – when I first heard Bartok’s opera ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’, the similarities between it and Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ were copious, not only in plot, but through dynamics, pace and tone. I am now working towards Grade 8 exams in both singing and violin, and my pride and joy is my Celtic harp. I am the deputy leader of both the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra and Norfolk County Strings. These activities have given me far more than musical proficiency; singing lessons allow me to analyse poetry through song, whilst my harp studies have introduced me to the world of folk – story upon story told through music.
Muriel Rukeyser states, ‘the universe is not made from atoms; it is made from stories’. Humanity is explained, furthered and even defined by literature, and a study of it at university will enable me to not only explore the view through the window, but also examine its glass.