15.04.23

Personal Statement - Oxbridge Standard

Personal statement is a 4000 character long summary of why an applicant wishes to study a particular course not a particular university...
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Cambridge, Architecture
Something sizzles in me whenever I enter Kuala Lumpur. The city's architecture is a mélange of culture, a reminder of our past and a source of pride for the present and future. The colonial Straits Eclectic shop-house reflects Malaysia's vibrant and diverse past. Chinese-style carven doors combine eloquently with European shuttered windows and vivid tiles. Architecture intrigues me for its ability to render a society's heritage and aspirations into a visual and usable form.

As a child, looking up at the Petronas Twin Towers stirred awe and pride, along with a sense that they were distinctly Malaysian and fitted into the city perfectly. More recently, I have gained a deeper appreciation of their Islamic design influences and embodiment of Malaysia's ambition for advancement. This new understanding exhilarates me and leaves me thirsting for a greater comprehension of structures. Studying architecture will meet this desire and allow me to contribute in a distinctive way to society.

I have read various books including Rasmussen's "Experiencing Architecture," Pallasmaa's "Eyes of the Skin," and essays on urban spaces in Asia. All these reveal a wealth of ideas waiting. Shortly after beginning on "Eyes of the Skin," I attended a public lecture on constructed atmospheres and was thrilled to see in application Pallasmaa's idea for architecture to rise beyond ocularcentrism. The architect also discussed the use of physics, such as, applying convection currents to create different temperature zones within a constructed space. With its unique interplay of the arts and sciences, architecture is ideal for my dual strengths, as seen in my IGCSE results and present A Level combination.

Spending a month interning at an architecture firm has acquainted me with the architect's attention to detail. From the importance of a symmetrically placed electrical switch and the ungainly effect of an unintentionally exposed beam to scoring meticulously for a model, the internship has highlighted the precision needed to practise in this field. It also gave me a taste of the profession's demanding nature. I feel readier for this having spent a year studying ballet pre-professionally in Melbourne. Training was mentally and emotionally challenging and developed my discipline and perseverance.

I was fortunate to have another wonderful experience this year. I stayed in a village in rural East Malaysia where homes are self-built. No two wooden houses are exactly alike. Narrow, meandering pathways link them. It is the complete opposite of the homogeneity of suburban houses and organised beauty of Haussmann's Paris. I was struck by the way each house is customized to suit the needs of its owners. It calls to mind Toyo Ito's description of architecture as a "piece of clothing" that wraps around its inhabitants. I also admire the villagers' resourcefulness in the use of materials. Bamboo, abundant and easy to transport, is used for verandas, pathways and utility poles. The trip left me with a sense of the endless possibilities of architectural design and construction.

I have always been passionate about the arts, having studied art since age six and seriously considered a career in ballet. Yet, I thrive too in the mental stimulation of academic work. Finding architecture at this juncture in my life is delightful. I am happy at its multi-disciplinary nature and excited at the prospect of creating meaningful environments for people to linger, move through and dwell in.

Oxford, Classics
Before I set my mind on studying Classics, I used to think that my purpose in life was to become a successful businessman. And so, with that in mind, my original intention was to study Economics at university. However, while studying ancient Greek for A-level, I was inspired by Homer’s exceptionally skilful treatment of human affairs in the ‘Iliad’, a book, which so fired my imagination about the vastly enlightening Classical world, that I changed my mind. This decision was in itself a Renaissance for me. I was able to escape the absolutist self in me in the same way that the Enlightenment philosophers moved away from theology in order to bring back the culture of Hellenism. Now, I would like to extend my knowledge in Classics by studying its timeless literature and philosophy and by evaluating ancient sources, which will help to examine the roots of contemporary culture.

I have heard of the culture of 5th century Athens described as the first ‘knowledge explosion’. For me, the prospect of academically participating in the immense achievements of the Greeks holds great excitement. My curiosities particularly lie in ancient philosophy. Socrates is the figure that I admire the most because of his genuine attitude towards philosophy and ethics. I think it is sufficiently explained in the ‘Apology’ how much he loves knowledge for its sake and similarly how much he values the concept of “γνωθι σεαυτον”. I am also fascinated by Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology in his ‘Republic’ because it is extremely sophisticated and is certainly one of the finest answers to Thales’ question of the ultimate substance. Furthermore, Aristotle’s account of the virtues in the ‘Nichomachean Ethics’, I believe, is a brilliant one. He addresses the human telos of happiness directly and the issues of morality, pleasure and friendship are dealt with in an appropriate way. It has been a key text in my life personally and it is not surprising to me that modern philosophers have started a revival of virtue ethics.

The Greek language interests me too. Unlike English or Korean both of which I speak and write fluently, I find ancient Greek so subtle and articulate. There are idioms and grammatical usages that I fully adore because of their uniqueness. For example, the use of the middle intrigues me because of its variety and irregularity. Unsurprisingly, I really enjoy working on Greek grammar and syntax. Also, I have this term started the Latin AS level and look forward to relishing the challenges that Latin has to offer, especially in terms of the Latin language.

On the personal side, I am motivated, scholarly and ambitious. I am an all-round scholar and a prefect at my school and last year received the Classics prize. I think the reason why I am thriving academically is because of my serious attitude towards work and my zeal for self-realisation. Outside of academic study, I am an enthusiastic sportsman and I have represented the school 1st team in both rugby and hockey. Meanwhile playing bridge and chess has helped me to sharpen my mind.

Finally, with the end of my school career rapidly approaching, I am very much looking forward to seizing the opportunity to study a subject that genuinely fascinates me and becoming a more rounded human being at university as I believe that I have much potential to flourish in the years to come.

Oxford, English
My appetite for English Literature was aroused in my third year of secondary school. Through studies done in English class, I have been taught how to truly appreciate literary works and encouraged to have a personal response to them. Until then, I had never paid particular attention to words or structure, enjoying Literature superficially. Recalling that year, two poems instantly spring to my mind: “Full Moon and Little Frieda” by Ted Hughes and “Amends” by Adrienne Rich. These are the first literary compositions that I have treasured, for their lucid style and stimulating images that have left a strong impact on my mind.

My passion for Literature has originated from the creativity of expression that I could find in many literary achievements, even in those dealing with prosaic subjects. I was particularly impressed by the personification of a sickly lethargic atmosphere in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, describing the evening as “a patient etherized upon a table”. Another aspect of Literature that I admire is the way in which it reveals the intricacy residing in a single being, creating a beautiful piece of art at the same time. Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a character who I think represents faithfully the difficulty to understand a complex human being. I consider him as the most endearing character as he has moved me by his sincerity in following his passions and the dual forces that reside in him seem to reflect my own soul. In addition, Literature connects me to the enigmatic world in which I live. ‘Waiting for Godot’ is a play which, by expressing a frustrating sense of being lost, paradoxically made me feel comforted about my existence in this world. I have also found in John Donne’s “No man is an Island” a call for solidarity and compassion between men, and the sharp revelation of the last line has awakened my conscience with a stab.

I envision Literature as a fine tapestry that needs to be unravelled in order to better admire its beauty and the dexterity of the weaver. When reading a truly unique piece of work, I always feel the need to dismantle its components in order to attempt to discover how the writer produces such memorable effects on readers. Moreover, my experience of reading is to delve into a writer’s world to come out of it more perceptive and knowledgeable about myself. In this perspective, Literature is a rewarding subject that leads me to self-discovery.

Ali Smith’s ‘Hotel World’ has led me to question my indifference towards invisible individuals of society, by giving me insight to their consciences through the changing first-person narrative voices. Literary studies are for me an endless process of interpretation and analysis, as one’s opinion about a work can be constantly reshaped by time and experience. This is another reason why I regard Literature as an engaging and dynamic subject. When I first read Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’, I thought that its internal monologues were only pervaded by melancholy and nostalgia, but when I read it a second time, I could discern a flicker of hope and enjoyment of life, especially through Septimus’s sensibility towards nature, “the human voice in certain atmospheric conditions (…) can quicken trees into life!” and his union with nature conveyed by the use of synaesthesia.

Besides Literature, I also enjoy other forms of culture, and while living in Paris, I have had the privilege of accessing its rich cultural asset. Thus in my spare time, I often draw, play the piano, and visit exhibitions. With my dual nationality, French and Korean, I have approached English Literature with the external view of a foreigner, regarding it as a powerful bridge that connects me not only to British culture but to the world as well. I still have many unresolved questions on Literature and for this reason, I am deeply motivated to study English Literature in the United Kingdom, the motherland of this invaluable subject.

Oxford, History
History is not just interesting. History is exciting. The prospect of studying, discussing and debating history for the coming three years is exhilarating.

To many people, history is dead, but to me history is alive. I see the past in the present. When I marched in July in the BERSIH 2.0 rally, history came to life. It was a people's march for clean and fair elections and a landmark event. We had been studying the French and Russian revolutions for A Level History and my mind kept flashing back to 1789 and 1917. Trooping up and down streets, being shot at with water cannons and tear gas by the police and a-firing with revolutionary spirit, I was making history and living out my history books.

I wish to study history. Beyond the knowledge and analytical skills to be gained, it would grow me as person. Studying history makes me reconsider myself. When I read about Napoleon or Caesar, I imagine I am them and they are me. I am inspired to seize my destiny, just as they did. Reading about the Crusades, Holocaust and the horror and folly of humankind makes me question myself. What would I have done in like circumstances? What do I make of such madness? Attempting to answer these questions, I come closer to understanding myself and the world.

To me, the world today is the result of everything that has come before. Comprehending the past helps us to understand the present and understanding the present will prepare us for the future. Wherever the study of history leads me, I shall seek to use my knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on the world. 

My IGCSE experience further convinced me about history. I was homeschooled. At 16, I prepared for the examinations at a tutorial centre. I sat for five subjects in 2009. The next year, I worked for four months at a call centre, joined an expedition to Mount Kinabalu and studied for two more subjects of interest to me - Economics and History. Unable to find a teacher, I studied History on my own. This is the effort which satisfies me most deeply. I scored highestin History for Malaysia and received the CIE High Achievement Award. 

Yet, history is more than just a subject. I draw upon it for other areas of my life. I listen to recordings of great speeches to inspire me before public speaking competitions. I imagine myself a Roman legionnaire to spur me to scale the highest mountain in South-East Asia, and a Spartan warrior to complete a full triathlon in Singapore this July. I think of great leaders when I myself lead - for instance, during the one-and-a-half years I served in presidential positions in the Junior Public Speaking Club. Because I realize how much history has impacted me and has such a huge potential on how people think and act, I took on a project to lead a focus group of youths to review the Malaysian History Secondary School Syllabus from June to August this year. I also teach English classes weekly to Myanmar refugee boys. Knowing their tragic history compels me to help them. Wanting to more fully experience the cultures I have read about has led me to enjoy languages. I speak English, Malay, Hokkien and French, and I aim to speak 10 languages.

It would be stirring to study history in a place steeped in it. I look forward to studying scholarly works and not textbooks. "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" comes to mind - it is more difficult to read, but I find infinitely more thought-provoking and enjoyable. With my love for history and resolve, studying history at Oxford would be the ultimate progression of my passion, education and growth, and I would jump for joy.

Cambridge, Economics
As a volunteer with a local soup kitchen, I work with a team distributing food to and checking the wellbeing of lower income families residing in rental public flats. One day we came across a family of five whose story startled me. They had no breadwinner and, unbelievably, all of them were seriously or terminally ill. Yet they were not receiving any form of social support from the government and had been relying mostly on the help of NGOs to get by.

This encounter exemplifies a social problem which worries me - the lack of adequate social security support in Singapore despite its economic strength. I believe more attention should be paid to solving problems of poverty and inequality. I volunteered with the soup kitchen not just to help the poor in Singapore but also to understand their hardships as their interests are often overlooked.

As an economics student, I have learnt of how well informed economic policy can improve lives by guiding social analysis. Its pertinence as a subject excites me and has driven me to understand it more through books, exposure in volunteer work and participation in many economics-related competitions.

I obtained a distinction award in the National Economics and Financial Management Quiz, where participants are tested on quick thinking, logical and mathematical skills. I submitted an essay for the GlaxoSmithKline-Economic Development Board Book Prize on how Singapore can capitalise on Asian talent as an engine of growth. I participated in the local Math Olympiad and received a bronze award. I also did a month long internship at Centennial Asia Advisors where my work contributed to the analysis of the Great Recession and explored the process of purchasing bonds to solve the crisis. It exposed me to the immensity of macroeconomics, and I learnt a lot about the application of economic policy.

I have also been working on making the change that I can. Through collaborating with an NGO, a team of friends and I have committed ourselves to helping the village of Taom in Cambodia edge out of their poverty by building schools and providing water filtration devices for members of the village. We also intend to support children with scholarships from fund-raisers. Being personally involved in helping Taom escape its poverty trap is one of my goals, and I realise that a firm grasp of economics will go far in doing so.

As I seek to help others, I too seek to grow as a person. I participated in The Odyssey of The Mind, a competition testing one’s ability to think creatively through dramatic performance in a team. We flew to Iowa to compete against teams from 60 other countries and emerged World Champions. I was also an avid sailor, having represented my school as its captain and Singapore in the international arena. What I treasure most from both experiences are the relationships I formed with members of my teams and the importance of dedication and perseverance in order to excel.

At school, I contributed to the founding of the Young Diplomats' Society, an interest group that focused on Model United Nations Conferences (MUNC). At the Princeton University MUNC I received an honourable mention. At the Nanyang Technological University MUNC I was conferred the title of Dorothy Cheung Award for Best Delegate. I also organised the annual iMUN@AC, being Chief of Staff in one year and Secretary General in another. These MUNCs also led me to nurture a deep interest for global politics. I applied this knowledge and interest to my own analysis of the causes of the Rwandan Genocide, the topic I chose for my 4000-word IB Extended Essay, an engaging exercise in independent learning which I thoroughly enjoyed. I received an "A" grade for this research paper.

As Keynes said, an economist is part philosopher, part statesman and part mathematician. It is with great hope that I am able to read economics so that I may one day be able to learn how to make change on all fronts local, regional and global.

Oxford, History & Economics
This summer I was selected to attend a two-week programme at Yale University, based on a graduate course called Grand Strategy. It combined the study of Economics, History, and Philosophy to inspire examination of society from a wide variety of perspectives. I had always been intrigued by the relationship between statecraft and historical events ever since reading 'The Rise and fall of the Great Powers' by Paul Kennedy. In his analysis of how global hegemonies wax and wane, Kennedy highlights that the art of statecraft requires understanding of not only economics and history but also their interaction. Presenting my own arguments and being cross-examined at length by eminent scholars such as Paul Kennedy, John Lewis Gaddis and John Negroponte served only to deepen my interest in History and Economics.

History appeals to me because it is a study as much of the present as it is of the past. I took the medieval history course for A-level because I found charm in studying a period so distant and different from the present. I soon realised, however, that there were many more parallels between the two. For instance, in Charlemagne's efforts to unify Europe, I saw the seed of the European Union. Similarly, when I read Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' and Clausewitz's 'On War', I found that they were not mere military manuals but valuable historical sources for understanding Eastern and Western philosophy on leadership. Christopher Bassford, in his paper, 'Clausewitz and His Works', written for the Army War college, contends that any modern interpretation of Clausewitz or Sun Tzu is a distortion of the original text. However, I believe historians' constant revision of sources is not a distortion but precisely what makes history so compelling.

If History A-level has taught me sensitivity to context, Economics and Mathematics A-levels have helped me develop the ability to derive abstract theories to arrive at logical solutions. Deciphering a mathematical problem that seems impenetrable at first sight or comprehending a complex economic theory brings me immense satisfaction and intellectual pleasure. With the tools that I learnt through the A-level course, I was able to study a wide range of historical examples and justify the logic behind financial institutions' efforts to overcome economic crises. In my independent research this summer for the Keynes Prize in Economics, I analysed the appropriateness of state funding of the BBC through both historical and economic lenses. I studied theories about privatisation and assessed whether they are applicable in the modern broadcasting era. I came to the view that the BBC holds a critical societal role to provide cultural enrichment and to mitigate biased media, eliminating the case for its privatisation.

Although I am a keen academic, winning the subject prize in Medieval History at school and a prize for my Marshall Plan on the grand strategy of the Korean peninsula in the summer programme, I have participated in a range of extra-curricular activities. My commitment to the Debating Society and Model United Nations conferences around the country has enabled me to form my own ideas about current global issues. On the other hand, the Entrepreneurship Society, where I attended numerous lectures given by world-renowned entrepreneurs, has helped me see how these experts' views on the current financial world differed from my own.

I am assured that my intellectual curiosity, which I have developed through profound reading and research, will guide me through the challenges posed by a university degree. Although my capability shall be tested to its limit, it is a challenge I look forward to with relish.

Oxford, Law
If there's one thing I've learnt from Trial Practice sessions in my school, it's this: the reading of law is not just about memorization. Rather, it is about taking set facts and precedents and then learning to see them in new ways, learning to interpret and apply them, in an effort to achieve not only the spirit of the law but also the zeitgeist and needs of the day. That's what truly excites me about reading law. It's about the ability to perceive the dynamic within the static, to see the fluid within what is seemingly set in stone, to find justice in what some people see as a heartless machine.

This belief has been augmented by my involvement in both extemporaneous speaking and debating (an event for which I won the best speaker award at the 2011 SEA Forensics Tournament). In both activities, I am asked to form cogent arguments about all manner of events and issues throughout the world: How should Mubarak be tried? Is the death penalty right? Can Berlusconi be impeached? With these issues, I am constantly struck by the law's relevance, how a law can be neutral and yet be put to good use or misuse by the powers that be. As a speaker, my duty is akin to that of both a lawmaker and a lawyer: I must then argue how a law should or should not be formulated and applied. To be effective, I had to hone my research abilities, learn to see an issue from all sides and finally, analyze a subject in powerful and creative ways. Furthermore, these activities taught me how to present my views by clear, concise means in order to sway an audience, regardless of their beliefs. In fact, it's because of these activities that I love to speak - they gave me an opportunity to feel the rush of engaging an audience, making someone smile, influencing someone's opinion.

Perhaps it's this rush that led me to my leadership roles. Over the years, I've been a leader in many organizations. I've led a team of dedicated actors, been in the Student Council and even served as the Vice-President of my school's Earth Club. Throughout these experiences I've learnt much. The two skills I've learnt that make me most suited to read law is teamwork and malleability. I've become adept at working with other strong personalities, learning to listen but also be heard, learning to motivate but also be motivated by my peers, learning to become part of an environment that is conducive to results. Besides this, leadership has made me malleable in the sense that it's prepared me to deal with the unexpected and to cope with anything thrown my way. Essentially, I know I can think on my feet, even under pressure.

However, it is my experiences as a scholarship student studying the International Baccalaureate in an international school that have most effectively prepared me for university life in the UK. My teachers inspired me to think - to look beyond what they say and to evaluate their words for myself. Learning to blend reason, emotion, language and perception in my Theory of Knowledge class gave me a greater understanding of what makes a potent argument. The sheer weight of the IB and my extracurricular activities forced me to train myself to juggle time and to find passion for what I was doing, even when I was bone-tired. But most importantly, moving from a Malaysian national school to a cosmopolitan, unfamiliar world, has prepared me to embrace new cultures - be they cultures of learning or just cultures of being. It has basically educated me in the art of adapting and building bridges, something which will insulate me from culture shock in a foreign nation.

All in all, I want to read law because I'm passionate about it. I see the law not as a cold, heartless "Thing" but rather, a living, breathing organism with the power for great good. It just needs the right people to wield it. Given a chance, I can be one of those people.

Oxford, Modern Languages & Philosophy
As a high school senior attending a school whose mission is to teach its students to “engage as servant leaders of the world,” I have gained a strong perspective on community values and social justice. The notorious courses in humanities that St. Paul’s offers, a combination of history, literature, and philosophy, have led me to foster a passion for thinking and a commitment to communication.

My main area of academic interest hence has naturally been geared towards philosophy and languages. In fact, the two subjects are more than just an area of interest; it has become a huge part of my life. When we debate where justice stands today in social justice club, we go back to the definition of ethics by Kant and Hume and compare it to the modern-day description of justice. My fascination with philosophy even motivated me to take summer courses in Introduction to Philosophy at Oxford University and History of Early Modern Philosophy at University of Pennsylvania. Though both were challenging courses, I was able to learn, understand, and even thrive in them. This summer, I had the opportunity to explore some of oriental philosophy as well by staying at Woljeongsa for a month enrolled in a school to experience the life of a bonze aspirant. It was interesting to find similarities between Western and Eastern philosophy years before the trade of thoughts have begun. For example, at first glance, the Buddhist notion of karma and rebirth is parallel to Nietzsche’s idea of permanent return, and the place held by the enlightened in the cycle reminded me of the arbitrary privileges of philosophers in Plato’s immortality of the Soul; the Buddhist anatta and the pain and reassurance earned from it resembles existentialism and even Proverbs in the Bible. After the experience, I learned to read Siddhartha and The Unbearable Lightness of Being in a totally new light.

Languages are perhaps a more evident part of my everyday life as I am able to balance English, French, Korean, and even a bit of Japanese based on my needs. While most of the time the homepage of my Google Chrome is the New York Times, before French exams it becomes Le Monde. I have French chansons, English pop, and Korean music all in my iPod, and I have read the Harry Potter series in all three languages; I have to say that it was best in English. I have learned French for five years starting from 7th grade, and am now taking the highest level offered in my school. I am one of the heads of the French Society, where we enjoy and spread French culture through cooking competitions, film screenings, and crepe cafés. I am also the head of the Kimball School Language Club, where students from our school go to a local elementary school to teach children different languages, which in my case is French.

Now, I want to continue this passion of mine studying philosophy and French at Oxford University. As I have not yet had much experience in philosophy or French, I aspire to further explore these fields at Oxford. As I seek to be a traveler, Oxford will be a unique fit as the opportunity to immerse in French in France for a year would be incredibly helpful to my proficiency in the language and studying philosophy which such an esteemed faculty, tutors, and fellow students will further inspire me push myself to my limits. Studying in Europe itself is exhilarating for me.

From my transcripts, you will see that not only am I a student proficient in the humanities, but I succeed in demanding courses similar to college-level courses. When I actually took a college credit course with undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania two summers ago, I finished the course with an A-. This achievement demonstrates my abilities as a goal-oriented student to confront challenges and overcome them. While maintaining a good grade in this course, I also interned under Dr. Ellen Giarelli in the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology. The fact that I had the gumption to e-mail dozens of professors researching autism until someone would finally take me and that I was able to balance my daily internship with my coursework both support that I am a self-advocate with a clear vision and passion for the things I care about. While I am sure that Oxford University will push me beyond my limits, I am also confident that I am ready to take on this challenge and in turn be motivated to succeed.

Cambridge, Music
Since my first piano lesson, I have developed a wide-ranging love of music that takes in everything from Bach to George Crumb. In order to further understand how the composers throughout the different ages trigger audience's emotions, I engage myself in analysis of the pieces I listen to and play. I then attempt to further identify the components to the spirit of the music, which I imitate and experiment through improvisation and then develop them as my own compositions.

Recently, I analysed the Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier whilst preparing for my LRSM exam. During the process, I became more conscious of the voices and harmonic progression. I was fascinated to observe how Bach develops the three themes and combines them as a triple counterpoint throughout the fugue. After studying the piece, I am more conscious of the structure and the texture, highlighting the different entries of the themes in the performance.

Understanding the history of keyboard instruments is also vital to piano performances. After reading John Butts' Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance, I have questioned how I adopt the style and respect the authenticity of Baroque music on the modern piano. I then share my views with the audience. I visited the Bartok memorial house in Csalan Road, Budapest during a school music trip. I have also visited the Zoltan Kodaly Pedagogical Institute of Music, where I was invited to have taster lessons. I listened to a few folk tunes, which were sung in lessons, and was intrigued by the Kodaly method, which sees singing is seen as the essential element to music education. After that, I re-visited Bartok's Mikrokosmos and Suite Op.14, where I became more sensitive to the modes that Bartok used to depict folk melody.

Over the summer, I attended two music summer courses: a conducting course directed by George Hurst in Sherborne and a piano course directed by Murray McLachlan at Chetham's School of Music. Attending piano recitals given by amateurs, students and professionals every night made me more aware of the tone and sound produced by every individual. This enabled me to understand how different musicians interpret music. I then read Chau Yuan-Pu's The Colors between Black and White, which features a collection of interviews with a selection of professional pianists. This reminded me of the benefit of globalization, through which people of diverse upbringings can more easily exchange their ideas on music. While attending the conducting course, I realised that the essence of conducting lies within score studying in order to respect the composer's intentions. A considerable amount of time of the conducting course was spent on interpreting the tempo and studying the instruments and timbre. Great emphasis was also stressed on how the conducting technique is only used as a means to making music. Having had the experience of conducting a full orchestra, I would like to continue to do so whilst at university.

Whilst studying with Adam Gorb, my interest in the field of contemporary music deepened. I also attended Joanna Macgregor's recital during the course, in which I was privileged to listen to A Little Suite for Christmas AD. 1979 by George Crumb. Immediately after the recital, I composed a piece for string piano, imitating the sound of bells and started learning pieces for string piano such as George Crumb's Makrokosmos.

Having had the opportunity to study the evolution of music from early chants to contemporary music, I would like to experiment with music and recording history through composition. I have recently opened a blog to document and share my views, which includes concert and CD reviews, as well as introduction to composers and performers. Reading music at university would enable me to broaden my knowledge of music history and composition. Being a classical music radio broadcaster is one of the ambitions I would like to achieve after university.

Oxford, PPE
My decision to study PPE was confirmed during research for my EPQ, from which I learnt a lesson of crucial importance: the full understanding of any issue in society requires a multidisciplinary approach, one which combines the three disciplines of philosophy, politics and economics. The aim of my project was to ascertain the precise extent to which President Park Chung-hee was responsible for the ‘Miracle on the Han River’, the rapid economic development and industrialisation of my own country, South Korea, after the Korean War. Combining politics and economics was particularly relevant because the entirety of Park’s authoritarian rule revolved around one objective: economic growth. Indeed, weighing the explanations of liberal economists, such as Krugman’s ‘The Myth of Asia’s Miracle’, against those of the statists, such as Kim Hyung-A’s ‘Korea’s Development Under Park Chung-hee’, I concluded that Park’s state intervention had played a key role in facilitating the ‘Miracle’. This, naturally, raised difficult philosophical questions; can such economic growth justify the suspension of political freedoms and rights? I believe it can, under adapted Hobbesian principles. I also saw how the public consensus on Park was being constantly remoulded by contemporary political contexts, radically so following tumultuous events such as Korea’s democratisation in 1987 and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, inspiring me to write a competition essay on the historiography of Park. This experience of searching for evidence, from multiple libraries, the internet, and across two languages, was one which I thoroughly and most truly enjoyed.

The most interesting work I chanced upon during the EPQ was ‘Bad Samaritans’ by Chang Ha-joon, which argued that the path to development lay in pragmatic state capitalism and selective protectionism, contrary to the Washington Consensus. I found this to be well- evidenced and in agreement with my own understanding of Korea’s developmental history, and I have begun questioning several aspects of neoliberal economics in my A2 Economics syllabus, especially regarding free trade and development. I also question the inherent bias in the syllabus for low inflation through contractionary fiscal and monetary policies, which may be an unfavourable trade-off – something which I believe applies to Osborne’s austerity cuts, as the costs of slow growth and unemployment will likely outweigh the benefits.

The subject of nations and nationalism is one of great interest to me, a scholarly passion which began in my History A-level, where nationalism’s role in creating the mass citizen armies of the French Revolution fascinated me (something especially relevant to me with Korea’s compulsory military service). This led me to begin reading into the phenomenon of nationalism itself, from origins and definitions, but especially regarding its ‘morality’. From Michael Sandel’s ‘Justice’, I learnt that the subjection of ethics to rigorous critical examination was essential, for political decisions could not be based solely on considerations of utility. However, I found his justification of patriotism unsatisfactory, especially since based on elusive non-voluntary obligations. Thus, I began reading several other works on the ethics of nationalism, most convincing of which I found to be Thomas Hurka’s ‘Justification for National Partiality’. This additional reading on nations and nationalism has also led to greater appreciation of my A2 Anglo-Irish History module, as it allows me to challenge numerous aspects of the nationalist interpretations of Irish history.

Beyond my academic work, I have several leadership roles. I am a Prefect and a Mentor, and Deputy Head of the boarding house. I am also a licensed paraglider and enjoy playing rugby. I greatly look forward to the opportunity of truly engaging and pushing my intellectual boundaries at a university of academic excellence amidst like-minded peers and tutors.

Oxford, Biochemistry
As a volunteer worker waiting standby in the hematology and oncology department, I saw kids younger than me with no hair because they had cancer. This was in a recent work experience at the Korean Cancer Center Hospital in Seoul. There, I realized that these young cancer patients could not live the same healthy life as most other kids. This has reinforced an aspiration to research cures for diseases as a biochemist, which originated as a result of a personal experience of being a patient at a hospital and meeting many patients with different conditions.

To research cures for diseases, I would need to know how the body functions and, therefore, this is what I am interested in studying. I think that learning about chemical reactions within cells that cause the cell, tissue, organ and organ system to function is more satisfactory than learning about the anatomy or physiology which have limits in biomedical research. One area of interest is stem cell research for its therapeutic potential in repairing damaged parts of body by growing new healthy tissues and organs. I believe that the key to clinically using stem cells lies in identifying how genes become inactivated when a stem cell specializes, as the current stem cell research looks at ways of differentiating embryonic stem cells into specifically specialized cells. I tried to read 'Cloning and Stem Cells' journal from December 2008. Although the journal was difficult to understand, it gave me a flavor of the progress made in this area of research. Learning the mechanism of immune response from the 'The chemistry of life' by Steven Rose was enlightening. In particular, deletion of immature T cells capable of recognizing 'self' peptidE in the thymus in order to maintain 'self-tolerance', and the failure to do so resulting in autoimmune diseases have been something new that I would like study in more depth. In addition, I read 'Power, Sex, Suicide' by Nick Lane and could learn about the mitochondrial evolution and more about respiration. In particular, the mitochondrial theory of ageing, its role in the programmed cell death, 'apoptosis', and how the failure of this program leads to cancer were thought provoking so that I would like to study more about such roles of the mitochondria.

I was selected to take part in the British Biology Olympiad 2009 in my L6th year in which I was 'Highly Commended'. In preparation for this, I read ahead in Biology using several different text books and had to cover the majority of the Olympiad syllabus in my free time. The amount of reading and learning was the biggest challenge. It was my determination to achieve a medal that kept me reading the pages. I hope that my determined quality will help in going through the hard work that the Biochemistry course entails. My strongest subject is chemistry and I received the chemistry prize of the year for lower sixth. Also, I scored the best in the school for the senior UK Maths Challenge 2008.

Outside class, I have participated in various extra-curricular activities such as playing percussions in the college orchestra, performing a play (Pinter Short) and a musical (Chorus Line). The Duke of Edinburgh (bronze and silver) was a challenge that tested my determination at times of tiredness. Also, as the vice-chairman of Science Committee, I helped promote Science for both staff and students at Wellington and, recently, I organized a sustainable design challenge. I am the deputy head of my boarding house. Sports wise, I am a member of my school U18 basketball team. With these determined, organized and intellectual qualities, I believe myself to be an excellent candidate for the Biochemistry course.

Oxford, Chemistry
Presently, lithium ion batteries are the common battery component used in electronic devices. It is astonishing that such a small battery can generate enough electricity to run a laptop. Countless numbers of lithium ions are moving within a polymer matrix inside the battery every second. Chemical reactions similar to this happen around us continuously and benefit our life immensely, but unfortunately they are unseen by most people. I am fascinated by reaction mechanisms and how Chemistry works in general. It is often challenging to find the reason behind reactions, but it also gives a sense of achievement when my basic knowledge explains a piece of a larger puzzle. It is a great motivator and one of the reasons that I love Chemistry. I am particularly fascinated by organic chemistry especially esterification. I have been studying a number of books on this such as 'Chemistry' by Catherine Housecroft and Edwin Constable and 'Why Chemical Reactions Happen' by Peter Wothers and James Keeler in order to expand my knowledge and understand Chemistry more in depth. I aspire to have the chance to apply my knowledge outside laboratories. I believe expanding my knowledge will enable me to discover more about the world of Chemistry.

I was always curious how Chemistry from classroom is employed and used in industry. Therefore, I applied for a two week internship at a Korean company called Daelim Chemical, which produces an essential organic compound used in the secondary cell in electric cars and a bisphenol compound, which is used as an organic photo conductor in laser printers. I performed experiments in ester synthesis and anlaysed the products by myself. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn how Chemistry is used and applied in the industry. It was deeply rewarding to be there working first hand in an industry lab. I learnt how to prepare for experiments to obtain pure products. I also had a chance to operate various pieces of analytic equipment such as a gas chromatograph and karl fischer titrator. I enjoyed sharing opinions with the manager about his philosophy in Chemistry, and its benefit to humanity.

I am also studying A-level Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Economics. I believe mathematics provides the basis for all other subjects and encourages logical thinking. Also, skills involved in proving a formula can be used in Chemistry, such as finding the reaction mechanism and understanding complex equations or formulae. Moreover, maths helps me to manipulate data efficiently and utilise the results effectively, whilst understanding the limitations. I also took part in the Maths Challenge and qualified for the European Mathematical Olympiad, which I came in the top 25% in 30 countries worldwide. Economics is a subject of additional interest to me. Although it favors an essay approach, mathematical and scientific processes are employed to understand market behaviour. It enables me to understand how Chemistry is applied in industries according to the costs and the period or size of production. Economics requires a significant amount of research and it has improved my research skills greatly.

Outside of academics, as a Head of House, it is important to communicate with younger students to spot any troubles and to help them. I have taken more responsibility to be a role model for boys, so they do things the right way. Last year, I set up a tuck shop in the boarding house in order to donate any profits to charity. I am currently learning to play the guitar and improving my handicap in golf. Also, I have a scuba-diving license and enjoy snorkeling. I am involved in the Fencing club at school and represent the 1st XI football team.

I am very much looking forward to studying Chemistry in greater depth as I am sure this will fuel my enthusiasm for the subject. I am keenly anticipating for grasping the opportunity of university life and making positive contribution.

Cambridge, Chemical Engineering
Overcoming the challenges of the future, like managing overpopulation and global warming, will require a robust knowledge of scientific principles, as well as an understanding of the sustainability, safety and practicality of implementing them. Chemical Engineering equips one perfectly for this.

In July, a 5-day Headstart engineering course guided me toward Chemical Engineering, and a subsequent taster day at UCL crystallised in my mind what Chemical Engineering was about – the processes involved in transforming raw materials into finished products. I learned how chemicals like ammonia are manufactured, and I liked finding out how engineers conserve as much energy as possible in industry. That day prompted me to watch a series of lectures from Stanford University on Chemical Engineering, and I found myself hooked. I also subscribe to the New Scientist web feed, which I love to read.

I particularly like the concept of designing and manufacturing pharmaceuticals – there is constant innovation in this sector, and the versatility of a chemical engineer would be ideal in developing new technologies in, for instance, drug delivery and drug synthesis. In cancer alone there are myriad possibilities to explore – Mukherjee writes in “Emperor of All Maladies” that few drugs and techniques are truly effective against cancer. Seeing patients’ devastation at being diagnosed with cancer at an NHS oncology unit showed me first-hand the terrible human cost of this disease. Yet there I also learnt about pioneering treatments for oesophageal cancer; e.g. inserting radioactive wires into malignant tumours.

During the holidays I had the opportunity to see some factories in Ludhiana, India, which was an unforgettable experience. In particular, one warehouse that contained row upon row of 25m high printing presses opened my eyes to the scale of processes used in industry.

On a smaller scale, I read “Vanity, Vitality, and Virility” by Emsley, which gave an appreciation of the surprising range of science in consumer goods. By highlighting the many engineering specifications incorporated into objects like lipstick and chewing gum, Emsley completely changed my assumption that such objects were straightforward to manufacture.

Studying the sciences has given me a good overview of where the traditionally separate branches intersect. My understanding of mechanics in maths allowed me to delve deeper into problems in physics, like explaining the trajectory of a golf ball. Equally, to describe the structure of proteins in biology, one uses chemistry to describe how amino acids bond to each other. The various links between biology and chemistry intrigue me, and inspired me to write an Extended Project on the action of general anaesthesia. I enjoyed exploring this topic in much greater depth than my A-Level studies – the intricate synaptic processes that anaesthetics inhibit are fascinating.

This year, I have enjoyed completing the Cambridge Chemistry Online Challenges, which allowed me to creatively solve unfamiliar chemistry problems. In addition, I also gain real satisfaction out of solving maths problems, and have competed in various maths tournaments for my school, as well as achieving Gold in both Intermediate and Senior Maths Challenges. Furthermore, I feel proud to have been ranked in the UK Maths Olympiad.

My studies have been balanced with playing chess competitively. Having been British Chess Champion for four years and captain of the England Chess team, chess has taught me how to concentrate for hours at a time, think logically, and play as a team. As a member of the school debating team, I have learned to think on my feet and analyse arguments swiftly. I also enjoy playing squash, rugby and tennis. Chemical Engineering truly has the potential to make the world a better place. I look forward to developing my understanding of the subject and to being intellectually stretched at university

Oxford, Computer Sciences
My life so far has been influenced by curiosity and a passion for logical thinking. This is why, during high school, I have been trying to seek knowledge in all areas, not just the ones which particularly interested me. So far, I have not found greater satisfaction than the one you achieve when solving a problem by basing your solution on logical arguments; this comes from my fascination for puzzles, something I do ever since I was 4. Despite the fact that I first had a penchant for Mathematics, managing to achieve a bronze medal at the National Olympiad, my real passion, as I discovered in the 6th grade, was for Computer Science.

Programming came natural to me and as I learned more, I gained a deeper understanding of the way computer programs and algorithms function. In that year, with only 2 months of preparation and lots of hard work I qualified for the National Olympiad of Informatics and scored in the first 15 contestants. This arouse an ambition to learn more, so in 2007 I came 6th, in 2008 3rd and in 2009 5th, having won the 1st place at almost every regional and local stage, even when competing against older students. Nevertheless, I achieved my best result so far when I qualified in the national team of the top 20 high school students, a platform of selection for the international programming contests. I find competitions very engaging and gratifying as they have taught me how to manage my time efficiently and how to work independently and effectively. I also learned how to withstand great amounts of pressure, set objectives and bring everything to the most successful end. Above all, my past experience with competitions helped me develop unique ways of solving problems, an advantage over the other contestants.

But my interest in Computer Science got beyond programming contests so I started learning new languages apart from C++, and I extended my graphical design capabilities. Thus, learning PHP, Javascript, HTML and CSS enabled me to create websites and gain new roles in extracurricular activities. One team­based competition in which I participated in the 11th grade was the national ThinkQuest 2009. My team and I contrived a project about nanotechnology called “Nano­3” which won the 1st prize. In it, I made use of my programming and designing abilities as well as my writing skills. Another important activity in which I took part was Science Week, an international fair meant to promote hands­on science among students. In the 2009 edition I delivered a speech to over 250 students about the usage and benefits Linux and in 2010 my involvement was even more significant as I was both responsible for creating an identity for the project and evaluating, as part of the science committee in the Computer Science contest. I found the experience especially tantalizing. Moreover, switching roles from contestant to problem developer and evaluator gave me a valuable insight in the challenges of creating programming tasks. This year, I’ve have also been working on our school’s website, as a wrap­up of my web­design knowledge so far. Having had the opportunity to work with an institution meant not only delivering high quality work, but also cooperating with my teachers differently.

I am a person with a wide variety of interests. Besides figuring out intriguing problems and solving riddles, I am also attracted by philosophy, since it challenges the very bases of reason and helps you understand the human mind. Furthermore, I like to be connected with the latest news in technology and in order to relax, I dance.

All these experiences, my passions, as well as the skills I have gained from them, made me realize that I want to study Computer Science and eventually become a computer programmer. Challenging my creative thinking, independent learning skills, tenacity, aptitudes, capacities and prior knowledge of Computer Science, this undergraduate course would mean an extraordinary opportunity for my personal and professional development.

Cambridge, Engineering
From a young age I have been mesmerised by the world of science and technology. I am specifically drawn by the science of the materials that are used to create our industrial world. When the Nobel Prize was just recently awarded to the discoverers of graphene, a breakthrough, atom-thin carbon material, my fascination has been reignited. I picture myself one day using the skills that I will acquire at your honoured institution to make invaluable contributions to the world.

To live my fascination, I have poured my last two summers' energy into the laboratories of a company that specialises in metallurgical engineering. I worked with professional engineers and, under guidance, operated machines that tested alloys' properties, recorded and analysed data, and took part in the actual manufacturing. Later on, I visited the laboratories of Baosteel Group, the 3rd largest steel manufacturer in the world, where diligent engineers researched on new machineries to facilitate production. The inspiring works of engineers have awaken my inner ambitions. As I peered over their shoulders onto the scratch papers with its compact equations and elaborate diagrams, I also felt the need for one's strong background in science. Luckily, physics is my favourite and strongest subject; in grade 11 I self-studied AP Physics B and C's, the latter's contents requiring a mastery of calculus. My power of understanding has always enabled me to grasp difficult scientific concept; as well, solving physics problems has brought me pure delight that cannot be found elsewhere.

Engineering also takes strongly from mathematics, which is another of my fortes. My sprint ahead in this area started in grade 6, when I studied grade 8 math at the local high school, overcoming difficulty and building a genuine foundation. Now, 6 years later, the same intrepid spirit and thirst for knowledge has taken me into the lecture halls of the University of British Columbia, where I excel in Calculus III. I have also earned certificates of distinction for the Gauss, Pascal, Cayley, and Euclid math contests. Math is the mother tongue of physics and engineering; I certainly hope that my strength in math will prove useful.

Although my ambition in engineering and my love for science and math have not changed, I feel that the world around me has. When I was younger, many of my peers wanted to become scientists; it was the most admired occupation. But more recently, I have felt that the spotlight of the world has shifted toward finance. My peers told me that it was the only way to gain wealth and power. But isn't it necessary to take a step back and examine what built this world? Our basis has been, and always will be, on science. The world in the 21st century has never been more globalised; yet, so have its problems. Adversaries such as global warming and the possible energy crisis are affecting all of us. Without the creativities of zealous engineers who create materials that make our endeavours more efficient and safer for the environment, the we will find it hard to progress.

Indeed, many of the problems to be solved by engineering are globalised. The need to project creative ideas over national borders links engineering with politics. In this respect, I have made strong preparations. I have attended Model United Nations conferences both in Vancouver and in New York City almost every year. From the MUN meetings, I have gained invaluable knowledge and expressed my own unique views on global issues. At school, I founded the Political Debate Club in grade 10, which brings together passionate members to prepare for the debates and discuss current events. Having a global view makes me more together with the world; this is also an advantage to my engineering potentials.

I will undoubtedly be proud to be able to study and work towards my engineering career in an institution that welcomes and nurtures my intellects. However, one day, it will be my Alma Mater who is proud of me.

Oxford, Mathematics
The first time I decided that I really wanted to study a Mathematics degree was after reading Simon Singh’s ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’. I was captivated by his description of Andrew Wiles’ struggle to prove one of the most difficult problems in Mathematics. Besides reading about Wiles’ remarkable perseverance and dedication, two important qualities for a mathematician, I also enjoyed some famous proofs that the book introduced to me. Whilst Mathematics has always been my strongest subject at school, previously I had merely taken for granted laws such as Pythagoras’ theorem or the infinity of primes. To see the proofs, seemingly simple but including one piece of ingenuity, made me understand that there is much beauty involved in Mathematics. This also spurred me on to read other popular mathematics books such as Marcus du Sautoy’s ‘Music of the Primes’, which exposed me to the field of number theory and the Riemann Hypothesis. I am also fascinated by the application of Mathematics in the real world, such as in Physics and Economics, my other A-level choices. One particular area which I have investigated has been the use of Mathematics in cryptography, which forms an essential part of e-commerce in today’s world. My essay on mathematical ciphers won the school Mathematics Essay Prize (out of a year of 150 pupils) and developed my understanding of the importance of number theory and modular arithmetic from researching the RSA system of public key cryptography.

I think that I have the attributes that are required to study Mathematics successfully; I am very determined and am happy to spend time on a problem if the answer is not immediately obvious. I have advanced to the Intermediate Mathematical Olympiad twice, receiving a certificate of merit, and so have had experience in tackling longer questions. I find the less structured style of the Olympiad problems more interesting than usual syllabus questions as they require more thought and creativity in tackling them. This results in greater satisfaction when one does arrive at the solution. A major benefit of a Mathematics degree is the intellectual challenge that it poses and this is one of the main attractions for me. I will also be taking the STEP and AEA exams next summer along with my A- levels, which will expose me to more demanding material that will help me to make the transition from schoolwork to university level.

In addition I have participated in various Mathematics competitions. I was part of four-man teams in two inter-school competitions, the Hans Woyda competition and the Senior Mathematics Team Challenge, run by the UKMT. We were successful in both; in the Hans Woyda competition our team won the ER Allsopp Plate, while in the Mathematics Team Challenge we were among the top 40 schools nationally. These experiences greatly helped my mathematical education as they tested both my ability to think quickly to tackle short timed questions as well as my capacity to cope with more varied lengthier questions. As part of a team I gained the confidence to communicate my ideas and learn from my fellow teammates, a valuable skill for studying Mathematics at university.

I have also taken part in several extra-curricular activities, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. I am participating in the gold award, having completed the bronze and silver awards. The commitment and time management skills that I have gained from this will be useful in university life. I enjoy music, and have passed my grade 7 piano exam with merit. I am also a keen chess player, having twice qualified for the National Gigafinal of the UK Chess Challenge (top 2500 in the UK). The hard thought and rigour associated with chess will transfer well into my mathematical studies.

I am excited at the prospect of journeying further into the mathematical world that lies ahead at university, and feel that I have the qualities that will make me a successful student of this diverse and elegant discipline.

Cambridge, Mathematics
Since I was in primary school, I have enjoyed mathematics as I love to analyse problems to find solutions. Now having studied maths for nearly fifteen years, I like it even more as I find it increasingly interesting and useful. Wishing to read maths at University is a natural choice to me.

I find maths interesting because while it demands strict logical thinking, it also involves a huge amount of imagination. Examples include the square root of -1 and the concept of a higher dimension of the Universe, neither of which can be seen nor thought rationally without a sense of imagination in one's brain. They may not appear useful in daily life but influence the progress of science hugely, for example The Big Bang Theory about the birth of our universe relies upon some complicated differential equations. Complex numbers are used in electricity calculations. Maths is also useful directly in daily human life. Without mathematical mechanics it is impossible to create a functioning machine as it may not have enough energy to work, for example scientists would need to calculate the amount of fuel a space shuttle needs to escape Earth's gravity. A tall building would also be a dream since you will never know how easily it would topple. On the other hand the study of the probability enables lottery companies to generate huge income, while statistics is essential to accountants and actuaries, both are vital to the economy of the whole world.

Because of my interest in maths, I have taken part in five UKMT maths challenges since I was in year 9 and I received gold certificates in all of them. In 2007 and 2008 I got distinctions in the intermediate mathematics Olympiad. I particularly enjoy attempting the Olympiad questions because they are not purely complicated theories; they inspire us to think outside the box to find the solution which, very often, is simple while being beautiful. In 2008, as one of the top 40 in the UK, I attended a one-week summer school of UKMT. I have not only learned things beyond the school syllabus such as the Pigeonhole Principle, which is a simple idea that can solve some otherwise difficult problems, but I also became friends with different people from various parts of the UK. In the following year I received a Fuller Memorial Prize for Mathematics in my school, showing again my ability in this area.

Last summer I worked in an accounting firm. While I was there, I learnt to arrange files and documents and enter the data in the computer. I then used a computer program to generate a financial report for a company. All the work required me to have a clear system of arranging pieces of paper and to know what type of expense or income the numbers belong to. I was under great pressure since a mistake could lead to fines to the company, so I had to be extremely careful. This experience made me realise that a clear logical mind is very important in our life, and studying maths will help.

In my free time I enjoy playing bridge, a game not only relying on playing skill, but also good analysis and cooperation between the pair. With a good partner, we managed to qualify to the U19 Pairs National Final for three times, despite the fact that we were not available for the final competition. We also came 8th in the School Cup in March 2010. I have also been playing piano for 9 years and I am about to take the grade 8 exam. One of the grade 8 exam pieces includes a type of music called Fugue. Surprisingly my teacher told me that the composer wrote this music mathematically where he planned carefully and had to calculate how the notes are arranged. To me, this is a fascinating example showing the beauty of maths to the world.

Studying mathematics in the University would certainly provide me with the opportunity to learn it in greater depth and help me to appreciate more of its beauty. I also believe I can further develop my independence and meet different people in the University life, which I really look forward to.

Oxford, Medicine
Choosing to study medicine is not a decision I have taken lightly. It isn't a career I have wanted to do since a particularly young age, nor did a life changing event prompt my choice. I have thought very long and hard before deciding to apply. Various periods of work experience have taught me much about the career. A local hospital placement gave me the opportunity to visit A&E, Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Whilst fleeting, these visits to the departments highlighted the variety and diversity of the fascinating specialities medicine encompasses. A placement shadowing a clinic staff was hugely informative regarding daily life as a doctor. During the day I sat in on consultations ranging from routine post natal checkups to discussions of treatment for young people with diabetes and overactive thyroid glands.

Throughout my time there the doctor's genuine interest in his cases and unfaltering motivation highlighted to me the privilege of having such a stimulating profession. This, together with the ever advancing nature of a career in medicine, was brought to the fore by an infant who was having a check up as a result of her being put on an ECMO machine after her birth with Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. The ease with which the doctor broached and dealt with sensitive subject matter also emphasised the importance of a warm, approachable manner and an ability to communicate to a person on their level of understanding. I believe I have honed these skills and gained invaluable experience of the eccentricities of the general public myself in my job as a salesperson.

Since February of this year I have volunteered in a care home for a couple of hours each week. I assist with serving meals to the residents as well as feeding one of the more infirm ladies. My time there has brought to my attention the more unpleasant side of medicine and has proved by far the most useful work experience I have had; preparing me for the stark realities of physical ageing and senility. In spite of this, I genuinely enjoy my time there; giving residents, some of whom go months without visitors, 10 minutes of my time to chat can be very rewarding in the obvious enjoyment they get from it. The experience has shown me very clearly the importance of caring for the emotional as well as the physical needs of patients.

Outside of my lessons I enjoy orienteering with a local club. As part of an expedition I took part in, we walked 80km over 4 days in torrential rain. The challenging conditions demanded teamwork and trust to maintain morale and perform effectively as a group; as well as calm rational thought in stressful situations. Also, through this activity and the people I met, I have become a member of the SJA which has enabled me to gain first aid qualifications and go out on duties. Other activities I enjoy include drama -I was a member of a local group for 6 years - cycling and playing the guitar and piano which allow me to relax.

I know that medicine is not a "9 to 5" job and is by no means the glamorous source of easy money it is often perceived to be. I understand the hours are long and potentially antisocial and that the career can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. It is apparent that becoming a medic will involve inherent sacrifice.

However medicine is also a deeply gratifying and fascinating career path. I want to be a medic because my passion and aptitude is foremost scientific and to me 5 or 6 years more of formal education followed by a lifetime of further learning sounds like a stimulating career option and, thankfully, a far cry from the monotony some jobs pose. Nevertheless, as an intrinsically social person, I would relish a career requiring the development of strong empathic relationships with patients too. Crucially, I know I have the enthusiasm, capacity for hard work and the open and enquiring mind needed to succeed in such a fulfilling vocation.

Cambridge, Natural Sciences (Biological)
Arguably, this is an age where societal development is closely linked with advances in science and technology. Things we take for granted, such as drugs, capture my curiosity. This is because our manipulation of them is within the limits of our knowledge on the complexity of life. Therefore progress is largely dependent on explorations and breakthroughs in the frontier of our scientific knowledge.

Our understanding of life’s complexity has been pushed into greater depths by generations of biologists, and I am equally eager to pursue this mission. I am particularly intrigued with transcription and translation, and from my reading I have been exploring the complicated regulation processes for gene expression, including transcription factors and RNA interference pathways. This deeper understanding gives me true appreciation for the intricacy of these cellular processes, which come together in perfect order to form a functional healthy being. I have also done reading on ‘lipid rafts’, which has given me insight into a more sophisticated and dynamic model of cell membranes, including the role of Golgi apparatus in sorting membrane proteins and lipids.

Writing my Extended Essay in Chemistry has increased my maturity as a scientist. The process of writing my extended essay was stimulating as there were many opportunities to exchange scientific ideas with my supervisor through dialogue. By devising my own method, I sought to analyze the zinc oxide content in different brands of sunscreen. There were some obstacles to begin with as the data collected using a back titration method suggested there were negative amounts of zinc oxide in the sunscreens. In the process of solving this problem, I first brainstormed the causes of it by critically assessing every step in my method. From my analysis, I identified the systematic error affecting the reliability of the data: other chemicals present in the sunscreen had influenced the pH of the solution, creating a deviation between the data and the expected value. In the end I solved this by filtering the insoluble chemicals, which significantly improved the data. Recently, I completed an exciting summer course focused on biotechnology at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Working in the laboratory with E.coli almost every day, I was introduced to techniques such as plate assays, identifying bacterial colonies which are transformed by recombinant plasmid DNA and express a certain enzyme, which in this case was endoglucanase. Within our groups, I also presented in front of a panel of professors and my fellow students on telomeres and telomerase, about their functions and problems associated with them. This allowed me to develop my communication skills on a small group level and to larger audiences. In addition, I attended a variety of lectures, which opened my mind to the diversity in the fields of the sciences. The experience has confirmed my interest to explore the biological sciences and its applications in more depth.

I also enjoy playing the violin and piano, which I have done for 11 years, and will be performing at the Shanghai World Expo as a member of the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra in October. I am also a committed volunteer at a local elderly centre, working with social workers to help the local residents. From balancing my studies with these activities, I have acquired good time management skills, which I will need in order to excel in university. Although frustration sometimes sets in, my commitment for music and charity work reflects my determination to pursue my goals even when I am facing difficulties.

My goal in the future is to bring scientific knowledge I have acquired into research. I aspire to further specialize in pharmacology, and to be able to widen our understanding of how drugs work within our bodies. Ultimately this will contribute to the innovations of drugs, which can become more effective in treating diseases and disorders.

Cambridge, Natural Sciences (Physical)
I have always had a keen interest in the Natural Sciences especially Chemistry. I recall from an early Chemistry class, my teacher emphasising the point that Chemistry is essential for the improvements and innovations necessary for human comfort. This statement had a profound effect on me; it intensified my interest in Chemistry and over time I have found my teacher's assertion to be true. The applications of Chemistry are numerous; from the manufacturing of life saving drugs to the food production industry and the race for alternative sources of fuel. This has led me to conclude that the knowledge of Chemistry and indeed the Natural Sciences is fundamental and it is my desire to further my studies in this area.

My academic interests are focused on the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. I'm particularly fascinated by atomic and nuclear physics and how quantum mechanics very beautifully explains the electron structures of elements and their chemical behaviour. To further my academic interests outside of the classroom, I take part in the "Tricky Physics" programme where a teacher challenges us with tasking and advanced questions, which encourages me think outside the box and gain a better appreciation for the subject. I recently participated in the Royal Society of Chemistry Lower Sixth Olympiad, attaining a score of 39 out of 40 and I also competed in the Mathematics Olympiad, winning a Bronze prize. I was very pleased to be awarded Wellington College's Chemistry Prize for outstanding work during the 2009/10 school year.

I am also a member of the Wellington College Science Society, which actively encourages students in lower years to appreciate science subjects. Each term, the Society organises lectures, activities, and publishes a magazine in which I wrote an article entitled Nuclear Fusion: the future source of energy. I frequently read the Chemistry Review in order to expand my knowledge about ground- breaking technology in the world of Chemistry. Last summer, I worked at GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria for two weeks during their preparations for the booster phase for the test of a new vaccine for pneumonia. This practical experience gave me an insight into the pharmaceutical industry and good clinical practice in a developing country. Aside from learning as much as I can on the Natural Sciences, I take an active interest in volunteering and community service. Over the last year, I participated in the fundraiser for the Debra Foundation, a charity which supports children with Epidermolysis Bullosa, for which we raised GBP 12,000. We raised money by selling a music record written, composed and recorded by Wellington College students. I worked in the Photo & Video group that arranged the photos, videos and interviews that promoted the record and the Foundation. This has helped me learn effective time management and teamwork.

I understand the importance of a well-rounded education; so I am a fervent believer in working hard and playing just as hard. I have a keen interest in football and participate in other competitive sports. I have represented the school football 3rd & 4th XI teams as well as representing the College Athletics Squad participating in the 400m, 800m and high jump events.

I am constantly reminded that Chemistry permeates everything around me and I believe that my life experiences and educational background have equipped me with tools to be an asset to the university community. I believe that my diverse cultural and educational background, zeal and commitment will aid me in achieving my future academic and career aspirations.

Oxford, Physics
I have always felt compelled to discover and understand how things work. I would love to study Physics at university to learn far more about how the world works. I attend a weekly Physics discussion society with a group of individuals at school where we talk about a specific problem with a teacher and try to solve or explain it. Such problems include why a polystyrene cuboid will stay horizontal when floating on water yet a denser wooden cuboid tends to float diagonally on its side. Another problem we discussed was how to find the velocity-time graph equation for an object falling under the influence of a gravitational field, taking into account the change in force as it nears. We have also looked at the inertia of rolling objects, angular momentum and even tried to find the compression of a car tyre with varying air pressure inside it. These sessions have really helped me learn more than just the A-Level syllabus and develop a better ability to solve problems. I enjoy trying tricky Physics questions and problem solving in general, which is why I take part in the Maths and Physics Olympiads. In Maths, I particularly enjoy the mechanics modules and love the strong relation they have to Physics. I am challenging myself to complete the fifth mechanics module this coming summer.

So far I have achieved full UMS marks in two of the Physics papers, two Maths papers and two Biology papers which has set me up well for my last year with the aim of obtaining at least two A stars. I have been watching Physics lectures on the internet by Professor Walter Lewin from MIT. He has numerous recorded lectures on a huge variety of topics; I’ve found the ones on electromagnetism and classical mechanics particularly interesting. Two of my favourite Physics books include the inspiring autobiography of Richard Feynman; I found it interesting reading about his childhood and how he had grown up into a great physicist. I’ve also read ‘Time travel through Einstein’s universe’, which was a brilliant book providing a clear and deep insight into special relativity. I often read parts of the NewScientist and enjoy novels in general.

I am interested in electronics; I have designed and built numerous projects in my free time. I have taught myself some programming languages including C++, pbasic, spin and an assembly language. These have allowed me to incorporate microprocessors into my projects, which opened up vast new areas to work in, such as graphics and audio. I led a small team of students from school to participate in the Cambridge University Spaceflight competition and as a group we ended up winning both the independence award and the overall competition prize. Being able to fly ones own experiment into near space alongside university students was incredible. My group built a payload, flown by a huge helium balloon to measure temperature and ozone concentrations over ascending height.

I have completed my bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh and am finalising my gold award. I participated in DoE because I’m fond of camping and trekking, I love the open outdoors, the spectacular views one can see and the company of a good group of friends. I completed the Yorkshire Peaks Challenge with a school friend this summer. I am curious about the environment and am in the schools Sustainability Committee. I recently won an internal school design contest where I built an electricity producing exercise bike, the prize was a mere hundred pounds.

I have worked on two occasions for a short period of time with ACR Controls Ltd, a small engineering company that designs control systems for buildings. It was a fascinating experience; I learnt about how the business was managed, I also saw how they designed the systems they install and the stages of production from CAD drawings to manufacture. I have become accustomed to their design schematics and independently aided with the design of one small project they had while I was there.

Oxford, Physics & Philosophy
Physics and Philosophy explore both the physical and metaphysical world. The former poses questions such as 'what are quarks?' whereas the latter can ask 'are quarks real?'. They form a complete whole in understanding the world to me, for a gap in knowledge in the former can be explored via latter, and vice-versa. I want to develop my enquiry skills in understanding theories of physicality, such as Newtonian Mechanics, as well as non-physical theories like Anti-Realism. My favourite topic is Mechanics because of how it can reduce a physical phenomenon, such as a gravitational force, to mathematical expressions which apply directly to our world. Learning about Quantum Mechanics however, interested me because a research programme so far removed from Newtonian physics was also just as relevant. Quanta's indeterminacy gives it a sense of intrigue, as it flies in the face of common sense. How can an object be in two places at once? Why can we not determine the velocity and position of a particle? By studying these topics at a higher level, I hope to gain more rounded knowledge of both systems and a better grasp of how relevant they are. I've also read a few physics-related articles in New Scientist and been surprised at how philosophical some subjects become, like the conceivability of Free Will, as well as computers that can automatically generate formulae from experiments. If the latter is true, can the computed approach be as reliable as a human who can conceptualise the physical entities themselves, as opposed to just binary?

The logical grounding of Philosophy tackled my own inconsistent common-sense beliefs with the “Theories of Perception” unit, which introduced me to Naive and Sophisticated forms of Realism and Idealism. Moral philosophy struck me most, because theories that we unconsciously apply every day have such gaping flaws that go unrealised; from the unreality of Hobbesian 'state of nature' to the rigidity of Kantian deontology. They make me want to study them further to realise answers to some problems they entail: to develop an ethical theory of my own that borrows from and improves upon their ideas. Ethics brought forth my skills in critiquing more so than the other units, so it is the topic that I'm most passionate about. I've read sections of “Understand Ethics” by M.Thompson to better understand the syllabus, but to gain knowledge in the Philosophy of Science, I've also read through “What is This Thing Called Science?” by A.F.Chalmers and “Representing and Intervening” by Ian Hacking. My roundedness for other subjects can also be seen in Mathematics and Art. The former has given me solid grounding for the arithmetic side of Physics by rigorously testing my deductive skills, while the latter allowed me to explore my creativity and imagination, as well as methods of realising the ideas in different media.

Partaking in extra-curricular activities have made me an independent problem-solver who frequently works to deadlines, as well as a role model who engages with the community. I've co-administrated a forum for several years that produced digital pixel drawings, which later fed into my own personal site that I now manage. In joining the Interact fund-raiser, I helped put forward ideas and supported events that included the Christmas fair and a Sponsored Silence. Homework Club took me on to aid the library, where I mentored Year 8 pupil and was also selected to help update the library's database. Currently I am Head Boy, making me a student face of the school. I have to write and deliver speeches, perform supervisory duties during lunch and coordinate prefects, in addition to organising events such as the Summer Ball. In taking this course, I wish to become an educator. Be it as a lecturer or academic author, I want to broach these subjects for future scholars and contemporaries; to be in a strong position to put forth my own opinion on leading edge discoveries and theories, both physical and metaphysical.

Physics and Philosophy explore both the physical and metaphysical world. The former poses questions such as 'what are quarks?' whereas the latter can ask 'are quarks real?'. They form a complete whole in understanding the world to me, for a gap in knowledge in the former can be explored via latter, and vice-versa. I want to develop my enquiry skills in understanding theories of physicality, such as Newtonian Mechanics, as well as non-physical theories like Anti-Realism.My favourite topic is Mechanics because of how it can reduce a physical phenomenon, such as a gravitational force, to mathematical expressions which apply directly to our world. Learning about Quantum Mechanics however, interested me because a research programme so far removed from Newtonian physics was also just as relevant. Quanta's indeterminacy gives it a sense of intrigue, as it flies in the face of common sense. How can an object be in two places at once? Why can we not determine the velocity and position of a particle? By studying these topics at a higher level, I hope to gain more rounded knowledge of both systems and a better grasp of how relevant they are. I've also read a few physics-related articles in New Scientist and been surprised at how philosophical some subjects become, like the conceivability of Free Will, as well as computers that can automatically generate formulae from experiments. If the latter is true, can the computed approach be as reliable as a human who can conceptualise the physical entities themselves, as opposed to just binary?