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]

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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

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Thomas,

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

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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

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Thomas,

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

Robert

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Dear Dr Bowles,

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

Yes,

Thomas x

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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.

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Thomas,

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

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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…

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