History Personal Statement

Terence Khoo Rong Her  is currently a third year undergraduate reading BA History at King’s College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to King’s College London, LSE, University of Exeter, University of York and University of Bristol for History.

History has a special place in my life due to visits made to my grandfather. His wartime stories brought me closer to him. One particular account that still fascinates me is the first that he ever told me. Images flash through my mind as he describes his youthful curiosity of the roar of the Japanese planes flying overhead their village. Curiosity turned to terror when he relives the anxiety shown in his mother’s eyes when rumours spread that Japanese invasion was imminent thus leading them to seek shelter in the nearby jungle. It was rather disconcerting to pass by the usually vibrant downtown areas of my hometown, Ipoh, knowing that in the past, the same place was a backdrop for horrendous atrocities which occurred there. It’s hard to envisage that almost seventy years ago, people, especially of Chinese ethnicity, lived in fear of the Japanese and the atmosphere of oppression that gripped the city rather than the lively and vibrant city that it is today.

As I grew older, what started as an in-depth look at Malaysian history has progressed to a passionate love of both European and world history. I am fascinated about the interlinking events that occurred in 20th century Europe and how these have a profound effect on the rest of the world. Indeed, how the actions of one individual can have such a grave effect on the history we study today. For example, a craving for a sandwich by Gavrilo Princip after a botched assassination coupled with the jamming of the gears of Archduke Ferdinand’s car culminated not just in his death but more significantly the trigger event of WW1. Indeed, the impact did not stop there as Germany’s eventual defeat in war and its humiliation in regards to the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of Nazism and the eventual outbreak of a further war in 1939. The ending of WW2 saw a new conflict in regards to that of East vs West and likewise the creation of Israel in 1948 has ramifications for peace in the world today.

History allows us to ask questions. Indeed, what if Princip was not hungry, how would the world look today? The fact that History is a huge story filled with tragic coincidences and intriguing human behaviours are what makes the study of history so appealing. Increased understanding of human behaviour empowered me to study A Level Psychology as it enhances my knowledge of how the mind works thus gaining a deeper insight into people’s actions. For example, was it Stalin’s paranoia that led him to purge so many people and likewise was it Hitler’s failure to deal with rejection by Jewish owned artist galleries that led to the holocaust? Solving these dilemmas is like deciphering through a mathematical equation – a skill I have primed during my study of this subject. Likewise, just as History taught me to see things in perspective, economics elicited my ability to translate theory into practice.

My internship at a local law firm certainly gave me an insight into the real life pressures of work. In particular, it enabled me to understand the need for thorough analysis as I was involved in undertaking research of clients and companies. More importantly, it taught me the importance of having the right information for as in history, having the wrong information may lead to misguided conclusions.Outside of academia, I am a keen musician and sportsman. I have achieved Grade 8 in piano and have also been elected as head of the Sports Committee within the college’s Student Council. This has enhanced my communication skills which in turn have aided my oral development during classroom discussion.

The intention to pursue History at undergraduate level comes after much deliberation. However, A Level history has eroded any doubts in my mind as the learning experiences I have gained has strengthened my passion to delve further into this wonderful arena. I am strongly motivated to continue these studies as this will act as a platform for me to contribute back to a society of which I have freely taken from.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.


History Personal Statement 2

Tiong Suet Wei is currently a first year undergraduate reading BA in History in the London School of Economics and Political Science. This personal statement was part of her successful application to the LSE, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Durham University and University of Warwick for History.

“Why study History?” This is a question that I am often faced with. I start my answer by stating the importance of understanding heritage. English wouldn’t be my first language if it weren’t for the British colonisation of Malaysia and construction of English schools. Whereas my grandparents’ generation had condemned imperialism and fought for Malaysian independence, contemporary opinions suggest that British colonisation was necessary to develop Malaysia as a country.  I never thought of the latter, for Malaysian textbooks taught me that British imperial rule was ruthless. As I have read more, I began to form an understanding of the lasting benefits that British rule brought to Malaysia, but also its shortcomings. With this exposure to opposing opinions and having an international background, I have developed a particular cultural awareness as I have realised that each individual has their personal interpretation of events depending on how they have been affected by them. This awareness is vital, as I am now able to think critically about opinions before jumping to conclusions. Studying History at university would deepen my knowledge on how to analyse sources effectively and to judge the strength of an argument by the evidence it has to substantiate it. In the modern world we live in, in which most people are subjected to myriad sources of news and information with little idea of what to believe, I’m convinced that these skills could not be more useful to me. 

Studying the French Revolution at A2, I have taken an interest in the debate between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. If the debate is merely viewed as a critique of the revolution by detached observers, it is of little value as it is easy to see that Paine’s stance was proved wrong with the rise of Napoleon. However, if it is viewed as part of the revolution, it is of enormous value to historians as it becomes a piece of evidence to understand the construction of contemporary views. This debate that shaped modern politics is one clear proof that History is not merely a collection of past events that is too distant for us. The impact of past events still resonate today, thus making History intriguing to me as I am aware of its relevance to us, as we are unravelling the stories behind the formation of the present social structure and the way we live now.

Outside of school, I have read Paul French’s “North Korea, State of Paranoia” which enhanced my understanding of how North Korea is able to maintain its totalitarian regime. Tracing similarities and differences between North and South Korea today, as well as West and East Germany before 1989, has led me to ponder on whether the German reunification could provide clues to political leaders today on how to approach North Korea to give up its regime and failing Juche system. Studying History interests me as it allows me to consider such thought-provoking questions while being mindful of not taking events out of context.

I have picked up important skills from participating in business competitions that would be favourable when pursuing a History degree: presentations have empowered me with confidence when speaking publicly and I have learnt to pick key points from complex case studies to justify arguments. My communication, leadership and time management skills were developed during my service as a prefect, vice-captain of a sports house and student council. Volunteering regularly at church gave me the opportunity to listen to first-hand accounts of war when I served and joined a group of elders for lunch. Listening to how wars were so real to them hit me with a realisation that studying history isn’t only about mastering an impressive amount of information, but also having the stories of the past become alive and vivid to us.

Engaging with the complex past is a challenge I would be delighted to take on – to try to make sense of conflicting perspectives, rather than be spoon fed the easy simplifications of History, as the richness of the past cannot be undervalued.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.


History Personal Statement

This Personal Statement got Lim Sheau Yun into History courses in University of Cambridge, University of St Andrews, University College London and London School of Economics.

As a third-generation Chinese immigrant currently living in Malaysia, studying modern Chinese history at HL was gripping, and at times, even horrifying. My grandfather had always kept mum about his flight from China; I had the vague idea that his siblings in the mainland had been scarred by political circumstance, but I knew better than to ask. My study into Chinese history eventually took upon a larger dimension and became an intimate journey into my personal heritage. I also traced the impact of Confucian values on modern Chinese history: comparing the legacy of Confucianism in modern mainland Chinese and Chinese Diaspora in Malaysia, I found myself questioning the roots of my own upbringing. I read tales of female emancipation by the Red Guards, yet I heard firsthand scar literature from my grandaunt, leading me to doubt the efficacy of Maoʼs gender equality policies: could it really have erased centuries of patriarchy? There was also an interesting irony in studying Chinese history from a Western perspective. My command of Chinese allowed me to examine some Chinese sources, including articles, speeches and posters. The extent of loss in translation amazed me: rousing slogans and puns often lose their dimension, becoming bland and hyperbolic.

Digesting dense texts, condensing often superfluous evidence into a broken series of significant details, then threading these subtleties into a coherent and sound argument, the historical method represents a fundamentally creative challenge. It is only through abandoning Reductionist thought and resisting simplicity that one will know History. As such, fully grasping individual events is impossible without accounting for the dynamism that represents a culture, a society or an era. History tells the collective tale of us: the ability to record, to analyse and to synthesise a narrative is a hallmark of humankind. The beauty of history lies in the triviality of truth; perspective, with its human prejudice and limitations, is supreme. Perhaps there is an inherent paradox in using reliable evidence to chase an unreliable truth, but I believe that it is these truths that speak volumes about human nature and its desire to place ourselves within the context of the world.

Beyond the classroom, I have participated in 7 Model United Nations conferences as both head chair and delegate. History is the foundation of complex international relations of member nations, and this not only helped me understand the blocs that dictate alliances during debate, but also helped me persuade others to overcome these preconceived ideas to come to a common consensus. Furthermore, I am serving as the Secretary-General and founder of Penang MUN, the first MUN conference outside the capital city in Malaysia. The conferenceʼs ideology is entrenched in spreading awareness of world history and the international system to those who do not have the opportunities to pursue their interests.

Moreover, I enjoy continually challenging the horizons of my knowledge, and I had the honour of being named the top student for History, Biology, English and Mandarin in my school last year. I also partake in fulfilling and testing extracurricular activities such as founding the “Do Something Society”, aimed at spreading the spirit of charity to my school community. This humbling experience is evidence of the power of collaboration; it was only through examining other approaches to involve the student body that our efforts were successful. My tenures as prefect and student council president also honed my ability to apply theory to practice. My leadership positions led to the school awarding the Governorʼs Cup for Service to the School to me in both 2012 and 2013.

The cumulation of these experiences have shaped the open minded perspective I have today, encouraging me to continually broaden the frontiers of lifeʼs colourful experiences.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.