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Postgraduate Personal Statement

A postgraduate personal statement is one of the most important steps to consider when applying for a postgraduate course

Writing a postgraduate personal statement is a standard part of the admissions and entry requirements process. Your personal statement and your references are the two main sources of information in your postgraduate application, and the personal statement is the one you have control over. 

So, how do you write a postgraduate personal statement that stands out?


How to write a postgraduate personal statement

Postgraduate Personal StatementWriting a postgraduate or masters personal statement can feel like a daunting task at first, but once you break it down into a step-by-step process, you’ll find it much easier to write something that stands out.

Follow this process to write the perfect personal statement. 

  1. Check the course criteria

Firstly, you’ll need to check the course criteria. It is important that you become familiar with what the program involves, as well as its entry requirements, and the kind of skills that will be required from you in order to gain a place on the course.

This will provide you with key information to cover in your postgraduate personal statement, and give you an idea of the kind of student that the university accepts on that particular course.

Key information that will help you write your postgraduate personal statement includes:

  • Course modules - Are there any specific course modules that will play to your strengths? Mention how you can bring knowledge, passion and discussion to these particular areas of the course in your masters personal statement, and relate this to your previous experience at undergraduate level. 

  • Teaching and assessment style - Does the course specify particular teaching or assessment styles? Show the university that you are well suited to those styles. For example, if the course uses group presentation assessments, mention your previous experience with this during undergraduate study.

  • Key skills - Do the course details specify any desired skills or requirements from students? Tailor your personal statement to demonstrate your ability in these skills. 

  • Entry requirements - Most masters and postgraduate courses will specify entry requirements. This usually relates to the grade, or predicted grade, you have at undergraduate level. It is a good idea to mention this in your postgraduate personal statement when applying for a course. 

  1. Outline your skills and experience

The next step is to outline your skills, knowledge and experience. You can do this by drafting out a rough mind map of the skills that you think would be relevant to your chosen postgraduate course. 

This will also help demonstrate your passion for the subject, and give the university a strong impression of why you want to study that particular course.

When including these skills in your statement, mention your intention to develop your skills at postgraduate level. This will help reflect your intentions to engage with the course content and thrive in an academic setting. 

  1. Answer key admission questions

The easiest way to start writing a postgraduate personal statement is to make a plan. Work out what sort of things the university wants to know about you, and then answer those questions. Good questions to look at include:

  • Why do you want to study this particular course?

  • Why do you want to study at this particular university?

  • What part of the course in particular appeals to you? e.g. certain modules or work opportunities.

  • What previous experience do you have in the area you are applying to study?

  • What skills do you have that’ll lend themselves to postgraduate study? e.g. if you apply for a research masters, what did you learn from doing a dissertation?

  • What career path or further study route would you like to take after your postgraduate study?

  1. Write with a positive tone

As well as thinking about what to write in your postgraduate personal statement, it’s just as important to consider how to write it.

Your postgraduate or masters personal statement should be received with a positive tone, demonstrating your passion and drive to the reader. Create a positive sentiment using confident language. 

Here’s an overview of action verbs to include in your personal statement:

  1. Created

  2. Achieved

  3. Developed

  4. Discovered

  5. Established

  6. Enjoyed

  7. Influenced

  8. Improved

Write in an active voice to demonstrate your active participation in projects.

What do you mean by active voice?

Take a look at the two examples below:

  • Active voice: I developed key interpersonal skills through group work. 

  • Passive voice: Key interpersonal skills were developed through group work.

  1. Add personality

Postgraduate Personal StatementMost people who apply will write very similar content in their masters or postgraduate personal statement, so you need to ensure you stand out. 

This doesn’t mean you need to write something that no-one has ever read before, but that you need to make sure some of your personality comes across in your statement. 

Did you get into philosophy thanks to a certain work of fiction? Mention it (briefly). Did a particular incident doing undergrad biology make you want to study medicine? Write it down! Remember, whilst there’s a set amount of things you need to include (like answering the questions above); don’t restrict your personal template to a template you find online if you see opportunities to make your writing stand out.

  1. Tailor to individual universities

Remember that a postgraduate personal statement is different to an undergraduate statement as you can tailor it to each individual university. You shouldn’t send out the same masters personal statement to each university. 

There are two good ways to do this – either write one for each university, or write a basic template, and adjust it to focus on each university you apply for.

  1. Create your first draft

Once you have all of your thoughts and key points together, it’s time to write the first draft of your masters personal statement. Don’t worry about perfecting it at this point. The aim of a first draft is to revisit it later on and identify any areas that need improvement.

How long should a postgraduate personal statement be?

A postgraduate personal statement should have a word count of around 500 words, or one side of A4. Some universities will specify personal statement word count requirements in the application details, and some will use online submission forms with set character limits. 

It is important that you adhere to this and make sure that your postgraduate personal statement is the ideal length. This will show that you can interpret and deliver a brief. Some universities require much more than the standard personal statement length, such as the University of Oxford, so make sure you check!

How do you start a postgraduate personal statement?

Starting your personal statement can be the hardest part of writing your first draft. It is best to keep your opening statement simple. University admissions will have to read through a lot of applications, so it’s helpful to get to the point and demonstrate your interest in the course from the beginning.

Here are some top tips for writing your personal statement intro:

  • Avoid clichés. Admission staff will have read these a thousand times. Cliche openings can include sentences like “For as long as I remember…”, or “I have always wanted to be a…”

  • Show your passion for the topic and explain the reasons you want to study that course

  • Why are you excited about studying that course? Be specific.

  • Don't always start at the beginning. Try writing your introduction as the last step in the writing process.

  1. Proofread and edit your statement

Finally (and the most important part of all!), proofread your personal statement. Take a few days away from it, and then go back and read it again. 

After you’ve edited it, find someone else to take a look too. Ideally, if you can find a tutor willing to help, they’re your best bet. If not, a friend already on a postgraduate course should have an idea of how to write a postgraduate personal statement successfully.

Once you’ve done all of this, your statement should be ready. Take a deep breath, upload the file (or put it along with your printed copy), and finish the rest of your application. 

Make sure you keep a copy on file, just in case you need to refer to it later!

Postgraduate personal statement tips

Postgraduate personal statement top tipsDon’t lie!

Another important thing to remember when writing your postgraduate personal statement is to be 100% honest and true - don’t just make things up

In the same way that you should NEVER lie on your postgraduate CV, you shouldn’t do this on your postgraduate personal statement either. It’s not just important to make sure you don’t make things up about yourself – make sure anything you say about the university and the postgraduate course you’re applying to has been thoroughly researched. 

After all, the university is definitely the expert on what it offers, and the admissions office will certainly know if you’re making it up.

Make sure you’re memorable

Of course, there are also ways to help your postgraduate personal statement get noticed beyond what you actually write, and that’s to make yourself memorable in other ways

Name-dropping is probably not the solution here, but dropping in references to subjects you know their department specialises in is definitely worthwhile. Just make sure you know what you’re talking about and haven’t just picked something at random!

Fill in the gaps

But what if you’ve got some weak spot that comes up? Perhaps you did worse than expected on a certain module, or you have an unexplained gap in between leaving university and applying for further study? You simply need to own it. 

The university might want to know about these things, and the best thing you can do is explain it, and put a positive spin on it. Did you get worse results than expected because you were ill? Say as much – and then mention how much extra reading you’ve done since, and how much you’re looking forward to improving in that area!

The university will understand this and appreciate your additional efforts in other areas.

Keep it concise

A personal statement shouldn't be too long, there'll be many other personal statements that need to be read and considered, so you should ensure you make your points in a concise and engaging fashion.

Start early

This advice may be common sense but it is crucial. By starting early you will reduce the stress of writing a personal statement by a long way. This will give you plenty of time to get a head start and reduce your stress when applying for a masters or other course.

Use consistent structure

Keep your masters personal statement structure clear and consistent. If the overall structure and layout of your personal statement is poor, you will drastically decrease your chances of getting an offer. 

You can easily solve the problem of poor layout by following this simple check-list:

  • Ensure all margins are the same

  • Ensure the font is the same throughout

  • Ensure the size of the font is the same throughout (except subheadings)

  • Ensure spacing is the same throughout

You will need to plan the structure of your statement and make sure that it flows – with the best way of checking this being to read your personal statement out loud a number of times. This will enable you to weed out any sentences or words that just don't quite fit.


In conclusion, a personal statement is important to get right because it gives the university admissions panel their very first impression of you. Take your time, be proud of your skills and achievements. Your statement could make the difference between securing a spot and not, so make sure your application stands out from the crowd. 


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