Writing A Successful Personal Statement

The situation …

Here’s the situation, you’ve been studying for a Bachelor’s degree for 3 years and you decide you want to continue into postgraduate education. The problem is, it’s been a long time since you submitted your university application and you realise that in order to study at postgraduate level your personal statement must be a vast improvement on your earlier effort. Here, I compile some useful tips and advice from my experience in writing a standout personal statement.


Research bring results …

Postgraduate study is often highly specific to a subject area, and to accept you onto their course, Universities want to know you are highly motivated and interested in that area. Compile a list of all the modules available on the course. Choose 3-4 modules that you have a keen interest in and think of how your past education and extracurricular experiences make that module exciting to you. With Bachelors degrees, the course flexibility is greater than in postgraduate study where universities expect students to have firm ideas on both module choice and career progression.

Research what graduates do after studying this particular course. How do these figures support your plans for the future? If you want to study for a PhD, what are the chances of being accepted after taking this degree?

Finally, you must understand the benefits of attending that specific university. This could be for a variety of reasons such as: 1) A desire to study in a particular city and experience the culture it has on offer; 2) This university has an excellent record for graduate hires; 3) This course has world-renowned lecturers that provide cutting edge insight into the subject area. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, so long as its relevant to you and your application shows how strong your motivation to attend that institution is.


Extracurricular experiences shape your future …

While excellent academic grades are a must for postgraduate study, extracurricular experiences are also central to your application. I recommend compiling a list of all your recent experiences and link these to your course. These could include internships to highlight your career motivation, projects you have excelled at, outstanding sporting achievement or skills that make you stand out.


Preparation from your Bachelors course …

A key area of any Masters application is convincing the admissions team that you have the skills required to be successful on the course. The last thing Universities want is to accept a student who will be unable to complete the work and will drop out without finishing. You must therefore make sure that this course is suitable for you. If the course is advanced and specific, you must assess whether your level of knowledge is at the requisite level to be successful. For example, there is no point applying for a Masters degree in Physics if mathematics is not a strong suit of yours.

Coupled with this, highlighting areas of achievement at University will really make your application stand out. Has there been a project for which you have got an outstanding grade? Put this in your application!


The final stage …

Once all the preparation is complete, you are ready to begin writing your personal statement. While there is no set way to write a personal statement, as individualism is highly valued, here are a few essential tips to follow:

1. Structure – This is crucial to any successful application. The first paragraph should introduce the course, your motivation for joining and why you want to study at that university. Interim paragraphs should link modules on the course to your academic and extracurricular experiences and skills. Your conclusive paragraph should be brief, summarising your reasons for joining and expressing your desire to study at postgraduate level.

2. Length – Admissions tutors receive hundreds of applications for every course, and the last thing they want to do is read pages of irrelevant information about you. Keep everything succinct and professional, aiming to keep your experiences to approximately one side of A4.

3. Reference to your course – Remember that to impress the admissions team, they want to see a highly motivated individual with relevant skill sets. This means you must tailor all your experiences to highlight skills that will be needed on the course.

Good luck with your applications and I hope I could be of some help!

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Additional resources:

5 Tips for Writing your Oxbridge Personal Statement
How to Write a Good Personal Statement
How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement

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