Postgraduate study - Writing the perfect personal statement

Personal statement puzzle You may still remember crafting your first personal statement back when you were a prospective undergraduate and applying for your course through the UCAS system. However the process is not the same at postgraduate level: instead of your application going to universities via UCAS, your personal statement will this time go directly to the university to which you are applying. By following this simple guide you will learn there are some easy things you can do that will ensure that the personal statement you submit will be of the best possible quality.

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.

Do Some Research

This is the first step you should take before you put pen to paper. Research the university that you are applying to and look at the contents of the course. Doing this is important as it will allow you to tailor your personal statement to include any particular attractions you have of the specific course and allow you to mention something like how research done by course staff has helped you through your graduate study.

You should not make the mistake of lying about your interest in staff members, as if you get an interview you will easily be caught out. By showing that you have done a little research and actually know about the department and staff. you will increase your chances of being considered as it shows that you are truly interested.

Make It Catchy

The opening sentence on your personal statement should be out of this world. Its job is to compel the person reading your statement to take notice of you, so a bit of time should be spent on this high importance section. While it needs to be eye-catching and intrigue the viewer to read on, it should also display your passion for the course. You should always avoid generic lines such as 'I have always dreamt' or 'Ever since I was little' as these will give your personal statement a one-way ticket to the rubbish bin.

Structure Keep It Structured

The opening sentence is important but 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 through out

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 word that just don't quite fit.

Don't Overuse Words

It is good not to overuse any particular word when writing your postgraduate personal statement for two main reasons. The first reason is so that you do not run the risk of boring the person reading your statement to death. The second reason is that you need to display that you can write through your personal statement. At postgraduate level the academics looking through your personal statement will also be checking to make sure you can write well. In order to demonstrate that you can you really do need to avoid overusing any particular word, and also bear in mind that you should vary your language and sentence structure throughout.

Include Extra-curricular Activities

The person reading you personal statement will be interested in activities that you have done outside your course: however, when writing a postgraduate personal statement the activities should mostly be academic. They will want to know how you went that extra mile outside your course such as extra reading, attending conferences or writing for a magazine related to your course. They certainly do NOT want to know what you do on your weekends or that you are interested in acting when you are applying for a PhD in molecular biology. It is better to mention things such as independent work you conducted when you were at undergraduate level that show you have a unique edge. It is also important not just to name drop: if you mention a piece of further reading you need to show what you actually gained from it.

Proofread Get it Proofread

I cannot stress the importance of proofreading your personal statement enough. There would be nothing worse than sending off your personal statement only to realise that is was laden with some major spelling and grammatical errors. The way to get around this problem is to get your work proofread by a number of different people as sometimes just proofreading it yourself isn't enough. Using more than one person to proofread your article reduces the chances of errors significantly.

Following all this advice is really easy and will help you to create the perfect personal statement for postgraduate study. I wish you all the best in getting an offer from the university where you wish to study and pursuing a career .

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