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Postgraduate Personal Statement
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?Find your PERFECT POSTGRAD PROGRAM
How to write a postgraduate personal statement
Writing 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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
Most 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Things to avoid in your postgrad personal statement
So far in this article we’ve looked at how to write your postgraduate personal statement, but what about the things that you should avoid? Here’s our rundown of the top eight postgraduate personal statement no-nos!
- Misinformation & exaggeration – stick to the facts and don't lie, sounds fairly straightforward, right? But it's all too easy to write what you would like to have done rather than what you actually have done. Even easier than a little misinformation, is a little exaggeration. Stretching work experience to cover a gap or inflating your responsibility can get you caught out. Ultimately exaggerating or making up information in your personal statement can end up in you losing your place on the course or your funding – so stick to the truth.
- Typos – obviously, you need to proofread your personal statement and not just for the information you've contained in it. Don't rely on spell checkers to get it right, read through it a few times just for errors and get someone you trust to do the same as sometimes you can read and re-read something and not spot a small error. Small typos could have a big impact on the admissions panel.
- Passionless personal statement – try to convey your passion for your postgraduate subject through your personal statement, however be careful as you don't want to overdo it and come across as being insincere. It's a difficult balance, but an important one. Again, get someone you trust or who has experience of the course you're applying for to give your personal statement a read through and give you their honest opinion.
- Slang words – keep your language formal and avoid slang words as well as impenetrable technical language. You've already successfully applied for an undergraduate degree and you've probably also successfully applied for a job, so you should understand what clear language to use. Some courses, like law or medicine, might require more formal language than some of the arts, but check with trusted colleagues or those who've already completed the course. Which leads us onto…
- Ignoring feedback – if you ask someone to read through your personal statement, then you should probably take the time to listen to what they really think about it. If you disagree with them remember it is your personal statement and it is you who will be doing the course you're applying for, but, do listen to the advice in the first instance.
- Repetition – you'll want to include a short introduction and a short conclusion, but avoid repeating yourself in the main body of your personal statement. You will only need to explain a point once – again it is always useful to get someone else to read through to check you're not repeating yourself at any point.
- Plagiarism – unless you completed your undergraduate degree a long time ago, then you should know that almost everything you submit will be run through plagiarism software. Many universities and the system used in the UK for undergraduate applications use plagiarism software on personal statements already. Stay away from copying and pasting anything, even if you plan to rewrite it, as it is easy to forget or not notice the plagiarised sections once you've finished.
- Bitterness & negativity – avoid complaining about any past experiences you’ve had, especially educational ones, you will never know where the person reviewing your application has worked or studied before. Negativity reflects badly on you, and you should try instead to demonstrate any positive outcomes that you have had from a bad experience.
Masters personal statement examples
Personal statement example: psychology masters
"I have always been fascinated by the human mind and its intricate workings, which is why I am excited to pursue a Masters in Psychology. My previous studies in psychology at undergraduate level have inspired my interests in this field, and I am now eager to take my understanding of the subject to the next level.
Areas that particularly interested me at undergraduate level include cognitive psychology and neuroscience. I am fascinated by the ways in which the brain processes information, and the impact this has on human behaviour. By studying a masters degree in psychology, I hope to further explore these areas and develop a deeper understanding of the subject.
Alongside my academic studies, I have volunteered for a local mental health support charity, where I gained experience in a practice-based setting. This experience helped me develop valuable insight into real-life applications of psychology, and has inspired me to pursue a career in this field.
I am excited about the opportunity to study psychology in more depth, and am confident that I have the skills and motivation to succeed at masters level. I am committed to making a positive impact with my skills and knowledge, and believe that this course will provide me with the necessary tools to achieve this.”
Personal statement example: engineering masters
“As an ambitious and driven individual with a strong passion for engineering, I am excited to apply for the Master of Engineering program at XYZ University. My undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering provided me with a solid foundation in the field, and I am now eager to take my knowledge and skills to the next level.
Throughout my studies, I have had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through various internships and research projects. These experiences have not only confirmed my passion for engineering but also allowed me to develop important skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
I am particularly interested in the area of sustainable energy and am eager to explore this field further through the Master of Engineering program. I am confident that the program's emphasis on research and hands-on learning will provide me with the knowledge and skills necessary to make a positive impact in this field.
Furthermore, I believe that the diverse student body and faculty at XYZ University will provide a valuable learning environment and endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. I am excited to be a part of this community and contribute to the university's mission of advancing the field of engineering.
I am confident that the Master of Engineering program at XYZ University is the perfect next step in my academic and professional journey – and I am eager to begin this new chapter of my life.”
Personal statement example: linguistics masters
“Having always been fascinated by language, I am thrilled to apply for the Linguistics masters course at XYZ University. My undergraduate studies in English Language and Linguistics have given me a solid foundation of knowledge in this field, and I am now ready to delve deeper and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of human language.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, I have been particularly interested in phonology and syntax, and have had the opportunity to conduct independent research in these fields of study. This experience further inspired my passion for linguistics and helped me develop important skills – such as analytical thinking and data analysis.
I am excited for the opportunity to continue developing my knowledge in these areas, as well as expand my understanding in other areas of linguistics. I am drawn to the program’s focus on computational linguistics, as this is not something that I have had the opportunity to explore at undergraduate level, despite being an area I find fascinating.
The diverse student body and renowned linguistics faculty at XYZ University will provide a valuable learning environment and promising opportunities for personal and professional development. I hope to be a part of this community and contribute to the faculty’s aims to advance the field of linguistics.
I am confident that the program offers the perfect next step in my academic journey, and I am excited to begin this new chapter of my life.”
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.Find your PERFECT POSTGRAD PROGRAM