Personal statements for postgraduate applications (2023)

A well-crafted Masters personal statement is the key to convincing admissions tutors that you deserve a place on a postgraduate course. Discover the dos and don'ts of writing a personal statement and take a look at some examples for inspiration

What is a personal statement?

'We certainly find the personal statement an essential part of the application process,' says Helen Hayes, assistant registrar (postgraduate and non-standard admissions) at Aberystwyth University.

A Masters personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your postgraduate application. It's your first real chance to sell yourself to the university and to demonstrate to admissions tutors that you're right for the course.

It's likely that you've already written a personal statement for your Bachelors degree, so this should give you some idea of what to expect. However, don't be tempted to use your undergraduate personal statement as a template. You will have progressed academically since then and admissions tutors will want to see evidence of this.

Your postgraduate personal statement should be unique and tailored to the course that you're applying to. Use the opportunity to show off your academic interests and abilities, and to demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.

'From an admissions officer perspective, given that we have to read a large number of personal statements, we are always keen to see enthusiasm, interest and passion for the subject emanating off the page,' adds Helen.

How long should a postgraduate personal statement be?

A Masters personal statement should be around 500 words. This equates to one side of A4. However, some universities require more, often two sides. Some institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so it's important that you check the application guidelines before starting to write your statement.

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As they're relatively short in nature, don't waste words on autobiographical information. This isn't necessary in postgraduate personal statements. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular programme and your potential to successfully complete the course.

What should I include in a Masters personal statement?

You should tailor your personal statement to fit the course you're applying for, so what to include will largely depend on the course requirements. However, in general you should write about:

  • Your reasons for applying for a particular programme 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 preparation- address how undergraduate study has prepared you for a postgraduate course, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topics that most interested you.
  • Evidence of your skillset- highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact on the department, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, work placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended and how these have contributed to your readiness for Masters study.
  • Your goals- explain your career aspirations and how the course will help you achieve them. 'Describe how studying your chosen course fits in with your long-term ambitions and career path,' advises Helen.

Address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance in your undergraduate degree or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these, so explain them with a positive spin. 'We look for positive reflection in situations like this,' explains Helen. 'Cover how things have been addressed and what will be different in your proposed postgraduate studies.'

How should I structure my personal statement?

Your personal statement should follow a logical, methodical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Make sure paragraphs are short, succinct, clear and to the point. Remember, you only have 500 words to use.

Capture the reader's attention with an enthusiastic introduction covering why you want to study a particular Masters. Then, engage the reader in your middle paragraphs by summing up your academic and employment background, evidencing your knowledge and skills and demonstrating why the course is right for you.

Your conclusion should be concise, summarising why you're the ideal candidate. Overall, aim for five or six paragraphs. You can use headings to break up the text if you prefer.

The majority of postgraduate applications are submitted online directly to the university. If this is the case, present your personal statement in a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, text size 11 or 12. If your course application is submitted through UKPASS (UCAS's postgraduate application service) font style won't matter, as personal statements are automatically formatted.

How can I write a good postgraduate personal statement?

  • Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush. Your personal statement can make or break your application so it needs to be perfect. Tutors can 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.
  • The best personal statements adopt a positive, enthusiastic and professional tone and are presented in clear, short sentences. Avoid elaborate or overly complicated phrases. Unless otherwise stated, all postgraduate personal statements should be written in English and your spelling, grammar and punctuation must be spot on, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability.
  • Don't use the same supporting statement for every course. Admissions tutors can spot copy-and-paste jobs. Generic applications demonstrate that you have little understanding of the course. In order to stand out from the crowd, Masters personal statements must be unique and specific to the course and institution.
  • Draft and redraft your statement until you're happy. Then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Proofreading is incredibly important to avoid mistakes. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.

What do I need to avoid?

Don't:

(Video) how to write an AMAZING personal statement for ANY university application.

  • follow online examples too closely
  • use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
  • be negative
  • lie or exaggerate
  • use clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used words such as 'passion' or Americanisms
  • include inspirational quotes
  • make pleading/begging statements
  • needlessly flatter the organisation
  • include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extra-curricular activities
  • namedrop key authors without explanation
  • use overly long sentences
  • repeat information found elsewhere in your application
  • waffle
  • leave writing your personal statement to the last minute.

How should I start my Masters personal statement?

Try not to waste too much time coming up with a catchy opening. The more you try, the more contrived you'll sound and the more likely you are to fall into the trap of using clichés.

Avoid using overused phrases, such as:

  • For as long as I can remember…
  • From a young age…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…
  • I have always been interested in…
  • I have always been passionate about…
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences…

Admissions tutors read hundreds of applications per course so the opening paragraph of your personal statement needs to get straight to the point and make a real impact. Avoid overkill statements, gimmicks and popular quotes.

If you're really struggling, come back and tackle the opening once you have written the rest.

How should I end my personal statement?

Conclusions should be short, sharp and memorable, and leave no doubt in an admissions tutor's mind that you deserve a place on a course.

The perfect ending should pull all of your key points together without waffling or repeating yourself.

Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.

What are admissions tutors are 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
  • demonstrable interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.

Personal statement examples

The style and content of your postgraduate personal statement depends on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as aMasters degree, a conversion course orteacher training. Here are some postgraduate personal statement templates to help you get started:

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Law personal statement

You'll apply for an LLM the same way you would for any other Masters, directly to the university. Whether you're undertaking a general LLM or a more specific programme, such as an LLM in human rights or international business law, you'll need to convey why you want to study the law in more depth and how this could potentially aid your career. Discover more about LLM degrees.

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 with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future. Learn more aboutpsychology conversion courses.

Social work personal statement

If your Bachelors degree was in an unrelated subject but you now have ambitions to work as a social worker you'll need a Masters in social work (MSW) to qualify. Social work Masters have a substantial work placement element so you'll need to cover what you hope to achieve during this time as well as demonstrate other relevant experience. Find out more about social work courses.

PGCE primary personal statement

As well as detailing why you want to work with this particular age group, a PGCE primary personal statement should highlight the ways in which your educational background has inspired you to teach. You'll need to cover relevant skills you have gained and any related work experience, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the primary national curriculum. Read up on PGCEs.

PGCE secondary personal statement

You'll need to cover why you want to teach at secondary level while also acknowledging the pressures and challenges of working with older pupils. As you'll be teaching a specific subject, you'll need to evidence your knowledge in this area and demonstrate how your first degree was relevant. It's also essential to highlight any related work or voluntary experience. Learn more about teaching personal statements.

Find out more

  • Search postgraduate courses.
  • Find out what else you must consider whenapplying for a Masters degree.
  • Completed your application? Discover whatpostgraduate interview questionsyou may be asked.

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FAQs

How do you write a personal statement for postgraduate admission? ›

Your personal statement should:

provide evidence of your key skills including, research, critical thinking, communication, organisation, planning and time-management and show how you can contribute to the department. show what makes you stand out as a candidate. explain who your main influences have been and why.

What should be included in a personal statement postgraduate? ›

We suggest you include some or all of the following points.
  1. Your reasons for choosing the course. Outline your reasons for doing postgraduate study and specifically the course you've chosen. ...
  2. Your interest in your chosen subject. ...
  3. Your future career plans. ...
  4. Your social, sports or leisure interests. ...
  5. International students.

How long should a personal statement be for postgraduate? ›

The statement should be 500 to 1000 words in length, in English, and your own words. Your personal statement must demonstrate your enthusiasm for the course you're applying to.

What should you avoid in a personal statement for Masters? ›

MSc LangSci - 10 things to avoid in your personal statement
  • Quotes. We want to hear about you and your interests in your words. ...
  • Clichés. ...
  • Don't write too much. ...
  • Don't write too little. ...
  • (Irrelevant) Hobbies. ...
  • Don't tell us that you're “passionate” – show us. ...
  • Don't use the same personal statement for different programmes. ...
  • Lists.

What should you avoid in a personal statement? ›

The ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement
  • Telling a story. ...
  • Repeating information already contained in your application. ...
  • Spending too long discussing personal issues. ...
  • Making simple grammatical errors. ...
  • Failing to demonstrate capability of university-level study. ...
  • Using clichés.
15 Sept 2022

How do I begin my personal statement? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

How do you write a strong personal statement? ›

10 Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement
  1. Read the instructions carefully. ...
  2. Focus on yourself. ...
  3. Demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm. ...
  4. Start early. ...
  5. Explain any discrepancies in your application in your personal statement. ...
  6. Review good sentence and paragraph structure. ...
  7. Use the active voice.

What is the most important part of a personal statement? ›

THE MAIN PART OF YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT

Be specific as you identify events and experiences from your life that demonstrate your professional interest and motivation. Share the experiences that have reinforced your interest.

Can you write a personal statement in 2 weeks? ›

Reflect on your writing.

By giving yourself a two-week window, you have the time to 'put your personal statement away' and come back to it after a couple of days. In that time, you'll have had the chance to think about what you've written and at the same time will come back to it with fresh eyes.

How do you end a postgraduate personal statement? ›

Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.

Do all masters require a personal statement? ›

You have the option to upload a CV, personal statement, research proposal (for applications to research programmes) and relevant additional documents. These documents are not mandatory unless stated on the programme page of the Graduate Prospectus [http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate].

What makes a personal statement bad? ›

Additional Personal Statement Mistakes to Avoid

Listing your accomplishments or rehashing your CV and extracurriculars. You need to show, not tell. Choosing a bland topic that admissions committees see over and over again. Overstating the obvious and using clichés.

What is a strong personal statement? ›

The personal statement should demonstrate the qualities, skills, and values that you've cultivated over your life and how those skills have prepared you for attending college.

Do universities actually read personal statements? ›

What do universities look for in a personal statement? In cases where a decision is not clear cut, academics say a strong personal statement can tip the balance in the applicant's favour. Students might get lower grade offers based on how good their personal statement is.

Do you introduce yourself in a personal statement? ›

You need to engage the reader with your relevant thoughts and ideas, but not go overboard. Tutors said: 'The opening is your chance to introduce yourself, to explain your motivation for studying the course and to demonstrate your understanding of it.

How do you write a killer opening to your personal statement? ›

Why you are interested in the subject. Your life ambitions and how the course will help you achieve them. Your skills and relevance to the chosen subject. Reflections on any work experience- especially if you are applying to courses linked to the profession.

How honest should you be in a personal statement? ›

It's important to that your personal statement clearly and sincerely reflects you. It must sound genuine, and the reader should feel that you are being completely honest with them about your reasons for wishing to pursue your career and attend this particular school.

What is a good opening sentence for a personal statement? ›

The TAB revealed the 10 most common personal statement opening lines: From a young age, I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]… For as long as I can remember, I have… I am applying for this course because…

What are universities looking for in a personal statement? ›

Your work experience and future plans are important to include. You should share details of jobs, placements, work experience, or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your course. Try to link any experience to skills or qualities that'll make you successful.

What makes the intro of a personal statement strong? ›

The introduction is the first thing the admissions committee will read. That's why the first sentence of a personal statement should be a catchy, attention-grabbing hook or story that grabs the reader's attention and sets up the main point of your essay.

Can I reuse my own personal statement? ›

It's OK to reuse your previous statement if you have applied before. However, if you are now applying in a different name, make sure you fill in the 'Previous Name' box in UCAS Apply. We will then know it's you when we process your personal statement.

How do you structure a personal statement? ›

Most of your personal statement should provide examples and evidence of: your understanding of the subject you want to study. why you wish to study your course. how your knowledge, skills and experiences have prepared you for studying your course.

How long does it take to write personal statement? ›

If you have the time, leave it for a day (or at least for an hour or two) before giving it a final check. Take any feedback you can get from your teacher and let your parents take a look, too. Reading it out loud can also be helpful when it comes to spotting any sneaky errors.

Should you say thank you at the end of a personal statement? ›

Therefore, while it may seem polite and courteous to end by saying “I hope that I will be admitted to your university”, or “thank you for your consideration”, these sentences are too general and would not do justice to all the impressive aspects of your application you've mentioned in your personal statement.

How do you write a Masters personal statement with no experience? ›

How to write a personal statement when you have no work...
  1. Demonstrate your passion, motivation and understanding of the course/role you are applying for. ...
  2. Reach out to practicing staff or students. ...
  3. Keep up to date with current affairs. ...
  4. Do some further reading.
3 Nov 2020

Are you hooded for a Masters? ›

The master's degree recipient typically wears a hood in the color that represents their school or college. The robe has an oddly shaped sleeve. The doctoral degree recipient can be indentified by the blue hood, velvet facing down the front of the robe and a gold tassel on the cap.

Should I mention illness in personal statement? ›

You SHOULD NOT use a personal/emotional story of hardship/illness if… … you do not want other people to know about it. Your personal statement is not a diary entry so make sure it is something you would not mind other people knowing.

How do you sell yourself in a personal statement example? ›

Start with why you're the perfect fit for a place on your course. Mention the most important aspects of your relevant skills and experience early. Prove the points you've introduced – it's here you'd talk about your current and previous studies, your skills, and your work experience.

Can you get rejected because of personal statement? ›

If your writing is flagged as unoriginal, the universities you are applying to will be alerted to this and are unlikely to make you an offer. If your statement is entirely unoriginal, then your application stands a good chance of being rejected entirely, leaving you without any options.

Should you mention professors in personal statement? ›

- Candidates should commit Professor they want to work within their SOP. For example, mentioning a professor and his work, which of his research captivates you and how you fit in can further make your SOP stand out. - Be concise to explain why you choose the graduate school and field of interest.

What do Cambridge look for in a personal statement? ›

In a personal statement we are looking for applicants to: explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject. demonstrate their enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course. express any particular interests within the field.

What is the format of a personal statement? ›

A general rule of thumb you might follow is to submit a 2-3 page statement, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, in 12-pt. Times New Roman font. While there are no set rules about length or format, this is typically considered appropriate and sufficient.

What is the layout for a personal statement? ›

design Personal Statement Advice

Try writing a section each for: motivation and goals, passion and specific interests, experience and general study skills. Make sure you write with subheadings in place to keep track of what you're doing, but don't include them in the final statement.

How do you write an Oxford personal statement for Masters? ›

Guidelines given vary from the simple “Provide evidence in support of your application” to the more common “Tell us why you are interested in the course to which you have applied. Describe your academic interests and reasons for applying to XXX”.

How do you write a killer personal statement? ›

University Applications: How to Write a Killer Personal Statement
  1. Firstly- don't wait to get started! ...
  2. Make a plan BEFORE you start writing. ...
  3. Know what's expected. ...
  4. Perfect the format. ...
  5. Let your personality shine. ...
  6. Show real interest in the subject. ...
  7. Tell them why should they choose you. ...
  8. Get someone to proofread your writing.
14 Oct 2018

What makes a good personal statement? ›

Your work experience and future plans are important to include. You should share details of jobs, placements, work experience, or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your course. Try to link any experience to skills or qualities that'll make you successful.

Should a personal statement have a title? ›

DON'T write your statement with the goal of telling schools what you think they want to hear. Sincerity is important and recognizable. DON'T use quotes or give a title to your statement.

Is personal statement 47 lines or 4000 characters? ›

A maximum of 4,000 characters (or 47 lines of text) is to be used in the personal statement so you must ensure that you structure your personal statement sensibly to include all of the key areas. As your word count is limited, everything you write should be relevant and add value to your statement.

Is 1000 words good for a personal statement? ›

Personal statements should be no less than 500 words,up to a maximum of 1000 words, or two A4 pages in standard font. What should I say in my personal statement? Your personal statement is personal to you and intended to reflect your own situation. However, there are certain areas that we need you to cover.

What are Cambridge looking for in a personal statement? ›

In a personal statement we are looking for applicants to: explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject. demonstrate their enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course. express any particular interests within the field.

Does Oxford care about personal statements? ›

At the University of Oxford we read every personal statement, multiple times, so it is definitely worth spending a good amount of time writing it. We are interested in your potential in your chosen subject, so we are very keen to hear about anything academic.

What makes a good Oxbridge personal statement? ›

Focus on your academic interests and achievements

You can show your interest and ability in your subject with examples of books you've read, an EPQ you've written, a prize you've won, lectures you've attended, documentaries you've watched, podcasts you've listened to, or really anything you can think of!

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