Applying for postgraduate study? This guide supports you in writing a great postgraduate personal statement that’s tailored to your course.
A personal statement is part of your university application. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for a course. Admissions tutors want to know why you want to study the course and how your experiences make you the ideal candidate.
The difference between a postgraduate application from an undergraduate one is that it is fully tailored to a particular university’s course. As an undergraduate, your statement is more generic as it can be sent to five universities. Whereas your postgraduate personal statement is for one course only – it should be a lot more specific to what and where you’re applying for.
Postgraduate study is also a significant level up from undergraduate, so avoid using the statement you wrote for your bachelor’s course as a template. The admissions team is interested in how you’ve grown since your previous studies.
Writing a personal statement for university is different to writing one for a job application. It should show your academic interests and explain why the university will help develop your learning and research. You’re not trying to charm the reader. Instead, you're providing insight into who you are, your achievements and your enthusiasm for the course.
Before putting pen to paper, read through all information about the course and what you need to do to apply.
If you can, arrange to speak with one of the course tutors or a current student to discuss what admissions tutors are looking for. Are you able to see examples of successful personal statements from previous applicants?
You can then use this to structure your plan.
Carefully plan what you’re going to write in each paragraph to ensure you include all the important information and present it coherently. Your course will demand effective communication from you, and admissions tutors will look for evidence of this in your writing.
Each paragraph and sentence should flow logically into the next. If you want, you can split up sections with headings (like ‘Academic achievements’ or ‘Career goals’) to make the statement easy to navigate.
For the word count, check with the university you’re applying to, as each may ask for different things.
You want to show how your interests and experiences make you the right person.
Rather than just listing experiences, explain how they shaped you and how they will help you succeed. There’s no need to write down your qualifications as the admissions tutor will have these details with the rest of your application.
This builds a picture of who you are and what you’ll be like as a student. If you want to and if relevant, refer to challenges you encountered during the pandemic – but in a positive way.
You don’t need to include everything in your statement. It should highlight the key information and leave the reader wanting to interview you to find out more.
The admissions team will be looking through many personal statements – they want to see a variety of experiences and stories. You can reflect this in your writing style; avoid repetition and use a variety of words to paint a unique picture.
Try not to use obvious phrases such as ‘I have always been interested in...’ or a gimmicky opening line like a famous quote. Instead, get to the point quickly and say in your voice why you’re excited about the course.
Be concise and make every word count. What you write should be relevant and honest, demonstrating your potential. Everything should be balanced; you can be confident in your abilities but try not to come across as arrogant. Show why you should be given the place, but don’t beg.
Proofread your statement to check that your points are clear and there are no spelling or grammatical errors. You can use spellchecking tools and free writing assistants like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to perfect your work. Reading your statement aloud can be helpful to see if it makes sense and flows well.
Ask at least one other person to read through and check it. This could be a friend, family member, careers adviser or a tutor if you’re still at university. A second pair of eyes may spot anything that doesn’t make sense or errors that you’ve missed.
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