The personal statement is arguably the trickiest part of the postgraduate application process, and it's essential that you get it right
This is your first real chance to sell yourself to the university. It should be unique to you and tailored to the course that you're applying to. You should use it to show off your skills, academic ability and enthusiasm, and demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.
How long should my personal statement be?
Usually, it should be one side of A4, equating to around 300-500 words. Some universities require more though, so check the guidelines.
What should I include?
You should discuss your:
- reasons for applying and why you deserve a place above other candidates - discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department’s reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, such as modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and experience.
- your goals - consider your short-term course aims and long-term career ambitions, relating the two.
- your preparation - address how undergraduate study has prepared you, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topic interests.
- your skillset - you should highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended
How do I write a good personal statement?
Give yourself plenty of time to complete your personal statement. Tutors will be able to tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.
You should structure your personal statement so that it has a clear introduction, main body and conclusion. Capture the reader's attention with enthusiasm and personality at the outset, before going into more detail about your skills, knowledge and experience. Around half of the main body should focus on you and your interests, and the other half on the course. Finally, summarise why you're the ideal candidate.
Be sure to address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these things, so explain them with a positive spin. Lower-than-expected results may be caused by illness, for example. Admit this, but mention that you've done extra reading to catch up and want to improve in this area.
Continue drafting and redrafting your statement until you're happy, then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Your spelling and grammar must be perfect, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.
What do admissions tutors look for?
Admissions tutors will be looking for:
- an explanation of how the course links your past and future;
- an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course;
- evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm;
- knowledge of the institution's area of expertise;
- reasons why you want to study at the institution;
- you to express your interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.
What do I need to avoid?
- be negative
- follow an online template
- include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extracurricular activities
- include other people's quotes
- lie or exaggerate
- make pleading statements
- namedrop key authors without explanation
- needlessly flatter the organisation that you're applying to
- repeat information found in your application
- use clichés, gimmicks, humour or Americanisms
- use overly long sentences
- use the same statement for each application
- use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
Example personal statements
The style and content of your personal statement will depend on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a Masters degree, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or teacher training. Here are four examples to help you get started:
LPC personal statement
Although CABs, the centralised applications system, allows space for up to 10,000 characters in length, many law schools aren't expecting students to fill this space. It's therefore important not to unnecessarily pad out your personal statement with irrelevant detail. Students apply to three courses ranked in order of preference, so your personal statement must reflect this. Discover more about the Legal Practice Course.
Psychology personal statement
Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help you with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future.
Personal statement for PGCE primary
This is your chance to explain why you want to teach primary age children and convey your enthusiasm for teaching. You need to back everything up with examples from your classroom experience, reflecting on what you did, how this made a difference and what you learned about teaching and learning within Key Stages 1 and 2. Find out more about applying for teacher training.
PGCE secondary personal statement
If you want to teach children aged 11 and over you'll need to apply through UCAS Teacher Training (UTT). The UTT teacher training application process includes a single personal statement, whatever route(s) you're applying for. You should tailor your personal statement to reflect the specific requirements of secondary level teaching. Learn more about applying for teacher training.
Find out more
Written by Editor
Prospects · June 2016
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by Michael Cheary
Still stuck writing your postgraduate personal statement?
If you’ve decided to continue studying after finishing uni, applying for a postgraduate place can sometimes seem like a daunting prospect. And putting together a compelling personal statement is a big part of the process – especially on the most competitive courses.
We’ve already covered how to write your personal statement, but here are some postgraduate personal statement examples to help inspire you:
Personal statement for a master’s degree
It can be easy to think that if you meet the admission criteria, you’re guaranteed a place on a master’s course.
But just because they’re the most common type of postgraduate qualification, it doesn’t mean master’s degrees aren’t competitive – and your personal statement could be the difference between landing your ideal place or not.
This means you should always steer clear of generic statements, and from referencing anything else you’ve already written elsewhere in your application.
Instead, you should clearly explain why you’ve applied for your chosen course, what attracts you to the university, and the skills you have that will set you apart.
Here’s an example of a personal statement for a master’s degree student:
Download Master's Degree Personal Statement Example
Personal statement for a conversion course
Conversion courses are aimed at students who are looking to study a different subject from their undergraduate degree.
There are many different types of conversion course you could choose, ranging from Law and Psychology through to IT and Tech. Typically they will last around a year, however, this may be longer depending on the subject you choose.
The main things to address in your personal statement are why you want to change subjects, and what makes you the right candidate for the course.
Also, always try and include previous experience you might have (including any applicable modules covered), and where you’d ideally like to see your career going.
Here’s an example of a personal statement for a conversion course:
Download Conversion Course Personal Statement Example
Personal statement for a PGCE
Although they are sometimes considered to be conversion courses, PGCEs have some different requirements when it comes to personal statements.
Part of this comes down to concentrating on the relevance of your previous education experience, and the reasons you see teaching as your perfect profession.
Other good things to cover include any work you’ve done with young people in the past, such as teaching or voluntary positions, former teachers or lecturers who may have inspired you, and any hobbies you may have which require a coaching or teaching element.
Additionally, placing precedence on relevant skills, such as leadership, creativity, enthusiasm, patience and communication skills is a great way to make your application stand out.
Here’s an example of a personal statement for a PGCE:
Download PGCE Personal Statement Example
N.B: The personal statements provided about are intended to be examples, NOT templates. To avoid any potential penalties for plagiarism, and to increase the effectiveness of your application, always tailor your personal statement for each course you apply for.
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