The personal statement is arguably the trickiest part of the postgraduate application process, and it's essential that you get it right
This is your first real chance to sell yourself to the university. It should be unique to you and tailored to the course that you're applying to. You should use it to show off your skills, academic ability and enthusiasm, and demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.
How long should my personal statement be?
Usually, it should be one side of A4, equating to around 300-500 words. Some universities require more though, so check the guidelines.
What should I include?
You should discuss your:
- reasons for applying and why you deserve a place above other candidates - discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department’s reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, such as modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and experience.
- your goals - consider your short-term course aims and long-term career ambitions, relating the two.
- your preparation - address how undergraduate study has prepared you, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topic interests.
- your skillset - you should highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended
How do I write a good personal statement?
Give yourself plenty of time to complete your personal statement. Tutors will be able to tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.
You should structure your personal statement so that it has a clear introduction, main body and conclusion. Capture the reader's attention with enthusiasm and personality at the outset, before going into more detail about your skills, knowledge and experience. Around half of the main body should focus on you and your interests, and the other half on the course. Finally, summarise why you're the ideal candidate.
Be sure to address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these things, so explain them with a positive spin. Lower-than-expected results may be caused by illness, for example. Admit this, but mention that you've done extra reading to catch up and want to improve in this area.
Continue drafting and redrafting your statement until you're happy, then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Your spelling and grammar must be perfect, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.
What do admissions tutors look for?
Admissions tutors will be looking for:
- an explanation of how the course links your past and future;
- an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course;
- evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm;
- knowledge of the institution's area of expertise;
- reasons why you want to study at the institution;
- you to express your interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.
What do I need to avoid?
- be negative
- follow an online template
- include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extracurricular activities
- include other people's quotes
- lie or exaggerate
- make pleading statements
- namedrop key authors without explanation
- needlessly flatter the organisation that you're applying to
- repeat information found in your application
- use clichés, gimmicks, humour or Americanisms
- use overly long sentences
- use the same statement for each application
- use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
Example personal statements
The style and content of your personal statement will depend on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a Masters degree, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or teacher training. Here are four examples to help you get started:
LPC personal statement
Although CABs, the centralised applications system, allows space for up to 10,000 characters in length, many law schools aren't expecting students to fill this space. It's therefore important not to unnecessarily pad out your personal statement with irrelevant detail. Students apply to three courses ranked in order of preference, so your personal statement must reflect this. Discover more about the Legal Practice Course.
Psychology personal statement
Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help you with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future.
Personal statement for PGCE primary
This is your chance to explain why you want to teach primary age children and convey your enthusiasm for teaching. You need to back everything up with examples from your classroom experience, reflecting on what you did, how this made a difference and what you learned about teaching and learning within Key Stages 1 and 2. Find out more about applying for teacher training.
PGCE secondary personal statement
If you want to teach children aged 11 and over you'll need to apply through UCAS Teacher Training (UTT). The UTT teacher training application process includes a single personal statement, whatever route(s) you're applying for. You should tailor your personal statement to reflect the specific requirements of secondary level teaching. Learn more about applying for teacher training.
Find out more
Written by Editor
Prospects · June 2016
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Example Management Masters Personal Statement
My ambition to study for a Master’s degree in Management has developed partly out of my family circumstances and equally in response to a recognition of my own natural aptitude for business and trading. My father runs a business and the assumption has long been that I shall take over the running at an appropriate time, and even as a child I was attracted by the idea of being the great decision-maker in a company. Then at Zhejiang University, where my intellectual curiosity at first led me to study biological sciences, my business instincts soon asserted themselves and I started up my own enterprise, taking on a franchise with the Haodada Chicken Cutlet Shop, a national chain, which turned out to be the most inspiring thing I have ever done and convinced me that the business world was my natural environment. I invested my own pocket money in the business, choosing the shop front and store design, recruiting employees and setting up a team. At every stage I was in control of developments and decisions. The business was very successful, taking RMB 1500 yuan daily, and even reaching RMB 2500 yuan at its peak. I invested a total of RMB 60,000 and made a profit of 60%. It was not just the monetary gain which excited me but also the prestige it gave me on campus and the admiration I earned from everyone. When harder times arrived, and competition increased with five other shops opening nearby, I took steps to increase our edge, liaising with the Shanghai HQ of the firm, developing new products and setting up a carryout service. Revenue remained at RMB 1400 and I eventually sold the business on graduation for RMB 120,000.
It is clear, I hope, why I should now like to devote my career to business, and particularly its international aspects, which no Chinese entrepreneur of any ambition can ignore. I am keen to study for an advanced qualification in a UK university, because of the high standing of UK degree courses, but also because it will give me an immediate insight into the key differences in trading practices and attitudes in a part of the world which is very foreign to me. I am eager to explore the ways that social behaviour and attitudes have an influence on business methods, and to learn to be aware of cultural diversity and what this means for demand and marketing. I need to discover more about international financial markets and banking practices in different parts of the world. The management of people demands good knowledge and understanding. How do regional differences make an impact on the relationship between employer and employee? I realise that I have much to learn and that success is very dependent on gaining this sort of knowledge, but I believe that this will be the path to my own personal and professional fulfilment as well as to business success.
It is something of a leap from my undergraduate course to a further degree in Business Management, but I believe that my first degree course has prepared me well for continuing study through the development of my logical thinking, my powers of innovation and my ability to manipulate ideas. Before I return to my father’s firm I am eager to improve my theoretical knowledge of the business world and to gain some practical experience, so my hope is that after completion of my studies I shall be able to spend some time working in a UK firm. After that I should like to set up my own business, with a view ultimately to merging it with my father’s.
I am hard-working and my work record has shown that I am very focused on my goals. I enjoy success and thrive on challenges, and I am always keen to find new ways to solve problems. I like working with other people, but I have natural powers of leadership which mean that I have no fear of taking responsibility for my own decisions. I am full of energy, devoted entirely to the realisation of my ambitions, and I believe I have the necessary qualities to become a very successful Master’s degree student.
This sample Management Masters personal statement should act as an informative guide when looking for help to write your own personal statement.