Mathematics with philosophy degree personal statement example (1a) IB study - St Andrews, Bristol offers

This is a real personal statement written by a student for their university application. It might help you decide what to include in your own. There are lots more examples in our collection of sample personal statements. 



The joke goes that Biology is applied Chemistry, Chemistry applied Physics, Physics applied Maths and Maths (perhaps) applied Philosophy. As I have progressed through my education I have come to realise how much I am drawn to the more fundamental areas of knowledge exemplified by Mathematics and Philosophy, as well as to the balance between the two very different modes of work in each discipline.

In my winning essay for the Corpus Christi Cambridge Philosophy Essay competition, I explored the Sorites Paradox, also known as the paradox of the heap. I love the way that Philosophy can take something as seemingly everyday as a heap of sand and use it to explore issues such as the law of excluded middle (is 'P or not-P' always true?) and the nature of language (can words have meaning beyond their use?).

To more fully understand the ideas involved I taught myself basic symbolic logic from Guttenplan's "Languages of Logic". In my Extended Essay for the IB Diploma, I explored the issue of how we justify our deductive processes, touching on the Philosophy of Logic, and theories of meaning. After reading Shapiro's "Thinking About Mathematics", I presented talks about the Philosophy of Mathematics at two symposiums with other schools.

I enjoyed the opportunity to communicate the ideas involved to others in an understandable way, and to try to develop my own view on the subject. Reaching the level at which I can start to interact with other philosophers’ arguments in my essays and thought, from Dummett's views on logic to Mill's views on the value of liberty, has been a rewarding experience.

Despite the differences in subject-matter, I have found that both Philosophy and Mathematics share the same commitment to rigour and clarity of argument. I have found reading through proofs of simple theorems, or more recently beginning to construct my own, particularly in the Group Theory I have studied for the IB Diploma, provides a deeper intellectual satisfaction than that of any other subject I have studied. I have been reading further into Group Theory in "Groups" by Remy.

Working through Allenby's "Numbers & Proofs" and Liebeck's "Pure Mathematics" I have seen this more rigorous approach applied to other areas of Mathematics. I have enjoyed reading about the world of contemporary Mathematics in popular books such as Sabbagh's "Dr Riemann's Zeros" and Clegg's "Infinity", as well as the insight into the life of the professional mathematician and the many ups and downs along the way to producing theorems that are not only true but also elegant. When I attended a series of Mathematics Masterclasses at Greenwich University I saw how Mathematics, even in what we might consider to be 'pure' forms, can be brought to bear on topics ranging from the price of gold to search engine design.

Debating is an activity which has benefited my academic work. In order to debate effectively, one must be able to construct and present a clear and logical argument, and simultaneously to dissect opposing arguments effectively. As well as participating in national and international competitions, reaching the finals of the IDEA Karl Popper World Championships, I was Secretary of my school's Debating Society, selecting weekly motions and finding speakers.

As a member of two orchestras and a choir, a Senior School Prefect and a House Captain, I learned to manage my time and responsibilities effectively. In my school's Combined Cadet Force I improved my leadership and teamwork skills, rising to the highest possible rank. In my year before university, I will be participating in a conservation project in Costa Rica, as well as independent travel and time living abroad, to encounter other cultures and improve my German skills. I believe that the opportunity for a more extended travel experience will be a valuable and enriching one, before I embark on a course in two disciplines that fascinate me, and which I believe I am ideally suited to study.

Universities Applied to:

  • Bristol (GV15) - Unconditional offer
  • Edinburgh (VG51) - Unconditional offer
  • Liverpool (GV15) - Unconditional offer
  • Oxford, Merton (GV15) - Unconditional offer
  • St Andrews (GV15) - Unconditional offer

Grades Achieved:

IB Diploma subjects:

  • English SL - 7
  • German SL - 7
  • Philosophy HL - 7
  • Physics HL - 7
  • Mathematics HL - 7
  • Latin HL - 7
  • EE - A
  • ToK - B

Student's comments

This was my reapplication; the first time around I applied to the same courses for deferred entry except for Liverpool, with Durham (University College) instead, and to Worcester instead of Merton. I got offers last year from all but Oxford (and at Durham was given an offer by St Cuthbert's instead) after interviews at Oxford. Since I was planning a gap year anyway, once I got my grades I decided to reapply with this PS.