Writing a personal statement for your postgraduate university application can be daunting. So we have asked two experts, Charlotte Lynsdale from the University of Kent and Yasmin Bell from the University of Reading, to share their advice and help you write the best personal statement for your postgraduate university application.
What is a postgraduate personal statement?
Charlotte Lynsdale, internationalisation and recruitment manager of Kent Business School at the University of Kent, explains that a postgraduate personal statement “is a supporting statement required as part of your formal application for postgraduate study. It provides the university with an overview of who you are and why you are applying to study at that particular university and for that particular course. It should not be generic but specific to the university in question.”
Yasmin Bell, the postgraduate student recruitment officer at the University of Reading, agrees that “the personal statement is a document that allows you to sell yourself to the admissions officer reviewing your application and tell them why you deserve a place on your chosen course – much like a covering letter for your CV tells companies why you should be hired. While your undergraduate personal statement broadly expressed why you wanted to study a particular subject, a postgraduate personal statement is more in-depth as you now have more insight into your academic interests, and more life experience.”
How long should it be?
Both Yasmin and Charlotte agree that the personal statement should aim to be around one side of A4 paper, but to always check admissions requirements with your university before starting your personal statement.
“The application software your chosen institution uses may have an embedded text box with a word or character limit for you to input your personal statement. In these cases, it is worth checking with the university in question what the limits are to ensure your personal statement is submitted in its entirety,” adds Yasmin.
How to structure a postgraduate personal statement?
Charlotte’s tips on structuring a personal statement:
- A good personal statement is one that has been clearly thought through, highlighting clear evidence of research into the university and course by the student. Do not simply cut and paste elements of a university’s website as this demonstrates poor independent writing ability and will not help your application.
- You should start by providing an overview of yourself and the course that you are applying for. This could include what has inspired you to study your chosen subject and where your interest stems from.
- This should lead itself into providing more detail about your chosen course, highlighting key elements of the course structure, the modules you will study, specific areas of interest etc. You could note subjects that you studied at undergraduate level that may have sparked your interest and why you may wish to continue learning at a higher level, within a specialist masters. You can also list modules that interest you in a change of subject direction for those conversion master’s courses.
- If you have undertaken any relevant work experience or internships this could also be highlighted, elaborating on skills and knowledge gained that could enhance your master’s study.
- Likewise, any skills you’ve gained from extracurricular activities. If you’re not involved in any extracurricular activities, you could reference any books, articles and journals that are specific to your subject of interest and explain why you’ve found them engaging.
- You should ensure that you highlight the key reasons why you wish to study at the university – such as location, accreditations, ranking, personal recommendation etc. Again, ensure this is not generic but shows that you have undertaken research in this area.
- You should finish with an overall conclusion as to why you should be considered for the course. This doesn’t need to be lengthy, just a sentence or two. Some students use their conclusion to share what they want to pursue in the future, others use it to emphasise their motives for going to university.
“Your writing should be clear and concise; with all the points you mention serving your overarching purpose: to convince the person reviewing your application that you are the ideal candidate for the programme. Therefore, you should only include information that is relevant to this goal,” Yasmin adds.
Helpful tips and tricks
The University of Kent has some extra tips on writing your personal statement:
- Plan before you write. This will allow you to collate your thoughts before writing to ensure you mention all the things you want to/ensure you have included a wide range of topics that allow the reader to get a sense of who you are as a person.
- Check your spelling and grammar. I know this sounds like an obvious one, but universities don’t only want to see your academic record, achievements and what you have to offer, but also if you are careful and precise when providing work. They will not care how clever you are if you have not taken the time to read over your work and ensure it has been submitted to the highest standard possible.
- Go into detail about why you deserve a place at the university. You do not have to make it overly personal but showing that you are an individual who truly cares about their education and advancing to be the best they can be will always impress others and make your personal statement stand out among the rest.
- Provide mini conclusions after every major point. Not only will this help navigate around your personal statement, make it easier to read and digest and ensure you clarify each point, but it will also ensure that your writing remains focused and on topic.
- Showcase your current skills and how enrolling on to this course will enhance them. Postgraduate education is all about enhancing your current skill set, adding new ones and accomplishing things that are not possible at undergraduate level. It is important to note your excitement of growing into an individual fully versed within their chosen field of topic, and how you are looking forward to being at the top of your game.
How do postgraduate personal statements compare to undergraduate statements?
Charlotte points out that “postgraduate statements are very similar to undergraduate ones apart from the fact that you will need to showcase how your undergraduate degree has equipped you with the essential skills to advance to the next level.”
Yasmin wants to remind postgraduate applicants to “remember from your undergraduate studies, universities take plagiarism very seriously. The expectation to submit purely your own work similarly applies to your postgraduate personal statement. While reading example statements online can help you understand how to structure your writing, you should avoid copying someone else’s work. The decision to accept or reject your application may be affected by this behaviour.”
How should I end the statement?
Charlotte says that your final paragraph doesn’t need to be lengthy, just a sentence or two. Some students use their conclusion to share what they want to pursue in the future, others use it to emphasise their motives for going to uni. Whatever you choose, make sure you get across your ambition and passion for the subject.
Are you applying for a postgraduate degree and want to know how to write the best personal statement? We have all the answers, tips and tricks for you!