The Difficult Life Of Thomas Smith

THOMAS SMITH says "Hello!" to UCL University.

Life became quite difficult after I was unable to apply to Nottingham, but my friend Sanjeeb told me the Mathematics course at UCL University is supposed to be excellent, so I thought I’d give that a try. Maths is great, and London is my favourite city in Greater London, but I needed to find a course that does not involve using a compass.

[The following are genuine exchanges]


Dear UCL University Mathematics Admissions,

I am interested in applying to study Mathematics at UCL University next year. I am a straight A* candidate and I think I am exactly the type of student you tend to accept. Not only do I have a natural gift for Mathematics but I am also passionate about it; I count everything I see, from leaves on a tree to tiles on the floor.

However, a few months ago I suffered a severe injury caused by my younger sister, Beth, jamming a compass into my head when I wouldn’t let her borrow my globe. Since the incident I have been traumatised and felt unable to use a compass effectively.

How much of your mathematics course would require using a compass? Would I be able to get by without using one? I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I can draw circles pretty neatly without one anyway.

I would be grateful if you could get back to me because I really want to apply to UCL University.

Kind thanks,

Thomas x



Thanks for this enquiry. I can reassure you that you will not need to use a compass (or calculator). Please contact me again if you have further questions or concerns.

Robert Bowles
Admissions Tutor
Mathematics, UCL


Dear Dr Bowles,

Many thanks for responding to my previous enquiry. That is certainly a large relief that there is zero compass use. However — NO calculators are used????!! Are students supposed to do all calculations in their heads?!

The biggest numbers I’ve ever added up without a calculator are in the thousands… any higher and my brain goes funny. Perhaps UCL University Mathematics isn’t for me after all. Yes, I got a well-deserved A* in A Level Mathematics, but that was using several calculators.

Love Thomas xxx



I have now had my initial suspicions that you may not be “exactly the type of student [we] tend to accept” pretty much confirmed. Still, I look forward with relish to reading an application from you.

Best wishes



Dear Dr Bowles,

In hope of proving your initial suspicions wrong, I am sending you my application directly. Attached is my personal statement.


Thomas x


Personal Statement:

Hi, I’m Thomas and I want to study Mathematics at university. I’m 17 years old and about 5”10’.

My passion of mathematics started at the cute age of 2 years old when I was taught the first ten numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10). I immediately took a liking to them, but, as we all know, mathematics isn’t the most interesting of subjects, so I decided to make up personalities for each of the digits to make the maths more fun. e.g. 2 is really cheeky, always saying things he shouldn’t be; 5 is shyer but her heart is in the right place (and that’s the most important thing after all); 7 is greedy – he likes Pi. So 2 + 5 = 7, or cheeky + shy = greedy. See?

From then on my excitement of mathematics grew and grew to the size of infinity! When shopping with my parents I would always count to infinity in 2s; when walking the dog, Fergus, I would count in 3s. At the mischievous age of 7 I programmed my first calculator and between the two-digit ages of 11 and 14 I developed the skill to tell the gradient of a line just by looking at it.

A ‘party trick’ of mine is being able to recite pi to pi decimal places.

I’m also great at bringing mathematics into everyday life – when texting my classmates, I make an effort to use digits instead of letters where possible (e.g. l8er, 2morrow). I have also taken my mathematical comedy to new heights in the last few years, touring the world with my mathematical jokes. I hope to continue my mathematical comedy at university as this is the route I would like to pursue after my degree.

I teach mathematics in my village at the competitive price of £2 an hour. This involves counting games, songs, sports-maths, food-maths, among other things. The village love it and await each lesson eagerly.



I think that I may well have misjudged you and I apologise and would be happy to encourage an application to UCL. I suggest a more formal approach to the personal statement however – although the version below was a very enjoyable read.

In your village, do you teach the pig farmers about swine and coswine?



Robert Bowles is now a dear friend and we play darts together every other Friday, but I didn’t think I could face three years at UCL University without using a calculator. So my search continued…

  • hippiegirl010

    made me laugh so much, these make my week!

  • X..babygal..X

    thomas… marry me! <3 <3 <3 x x x x

  • congrats

    this tickled me in all the write places

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