Postgraduate Personal Statements |
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Postgraduate Personal Statements

Written by Ben Taylor

Once you’ve found the perfect Masters programme, the next step is to begin the application process. You’ll usually have to write a postgraduate personal statement that highlights your strengths, skills and experience, giving you the perfect opportunity to sell yourself and to show the admissions tutor that you’ll thrive at their university.

This page provides some practical tips on writing a successful personal statement for a Masters application, from the typical structure to avoidable mistakes – along with some examples of what to do and what not to do! We’ve also included links to several postgraduate personal statement examples in subjects including Business, Psychology and International Relations.

What is a Masters personal statement?

If you’re applying for a Masters, it’s likely that you’ve already written a personal statement for a Bachelors degree and will have a good idea of how one works. Normally, a Masters personal statement won’t be wildly different to what you wrote back then.

You should say why you’re applying for this particular course and institution, talking about what makes it such an appealing place to study. Perhaps there’s a member of staff who you’re especially excited about working with, or a unique element of the curriculum that jumps out at you.

Demonstrate how and why you are invested in your subject. It’s important to mention your academic and employment history, explaining its impact on your choice of a postgraduate course.

What should I include in a Masters personal statement?

Give examples of some of the skills and experience you’ve developed at university or at work, and how they’ll help you succeed with a Masters degree. These could include:

  • Research
  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Field work
  • Internships
  • Public engagement
  • Conference attendance
  • Relevant extracurricular activities

Your personal statement is an opportunity to write about your future career goals, and how you think this Masters will help you achieve them. You can also discuss preliminary ideas you might have for your Masters dissertation, giving the admissions tutor an indication of the specialist knowledge you have in your discipline.

If there are any significant gaps in your education or employment, you should offer a brief explanation of those extenuating situations (for example, illness or a gap year). Don’t dwell on any unfortunate circumstances though – always strike a positive, optimistic tone.

In most (but not all) cases, you’ll apply directly to the university for a Masters rather than through a centralised system like UCAS. This means you can tailor each personal statement to the institution and programme in question (rather than submitting a single personal statement for five courses, like at undergraduate level in the UK).

You don’t necessarily have to a completely new personal statement for each Masters programme you apply to (there will usually be a degree of overlap between them), but it’s worth putting the extra effort in to make sure your application doesn’t seem like a generic copy-and-paste job to the admissions tutor reading it. You can do this by mentioning the university and department by name, and by providing specific examples of their syllabus that you find intriguing. Pay attention to what makes this particular Masters unique and refer to this in your statement.

How long should a Masters personal statement be?

When writing a postgraduate personal statement, you should aim for a word count of around 500 words (one A4 side of text). Some universities will have more specific requirements, however – for example, they might ask you to submit your personal statement via a form on their website with a character limit.

The relatively short nature of a Masters personal statement means that you should focus on being as succinct as possible, getting straight to the point and avoiding unnecessary detail.

Frequently asked questions about Masters applications

If you have any other questions or concerns about applying for a Masters, our FAQ page features lots of useful information on the application process and beyond. Find out more.

How should I write a personal statement?

How you write your personal statement is just as important as the content; a clear, structured statement is proof of your ability to communicate effectively.

These are some of the most essential attributes of a successful postgraduate personal statement:

  • Positive, enthusiastic language
  • Professional tone of voice
  • Compelling evidence to back up your claims
  • Concise and clear sentences

Meanwhile, this is a list of the tendencies to avoid in your personal statement:

  • Clichés – think of a way to put it that the admissions tutor won’t have seen lots of times before!
  • Waffle – don’t use meandering, vague sentences
  • Poor spelling and grammar – check, check and check again, running it past someone with a trustworthy pair of eyes

Don't: After falling in love with the Artemis Fowl series as a young child I have been driven to pursue the study of literature and I think your Masters would be the perfect place for me to continue my journey, given it’s world-leading status and your outstanding academic staff who’s expertise is aligned with my own personal interest in novels and poetry.

Do: Since graduating in 2015 with a First in Advertising from the University of Ogdenville, I’ve been working full-time as a copywriter for Hutz&co (one of Shelbyville’s largest marketing agencies). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at the company, learning a great deal about the importance of clear, compelling language. I’ve honed the communication skills I developed at university and feel well-equipped to continue my studies at North Haverbrook University.

Don’t make the mistake of using your undergraduate personal statement as a template for your Masters application. A Masters is a big step up from your undergraduate degree, and the admissions tutor will be looking for evidence that you’ve developed academically since then. Find out more about the differences between undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Always give yourself enough time to complete your personal statement (and the application process in general) well before the deadline — don’t leave things to the last minute! It’s crucial to get another pair of eyes on your statement, so ask a friend or relative to proofread the text. It’s also worth checking if you have access to a careers adviser through your current (or previous) university who can help you with the application.

How should I structure a personal statement?

By carefully structuring your personal statement, you’ll present the admissions tutor with a logical and easy-to-follow text that shows exactly why you’re a perfect fit for a Masters. Make sure there’s a clear thread of argument linking each paragraph – avoid jumping from topic to topic.

Jot down a short plan before you begin working on the statement (don’t make it up as you go along!). In general, you should aim to write around five or six paragraphs, covering three broad categories:

  • An attention-grabbing introduction that sums up your academic and employment background. Don’t be tempted to use a gimmicky inspirational quote or cheesy opener, you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons!
  • An engaging middle section that expands on your interests and provides concrete evidence of your strengths and skills.
  • A concise conclusion that draws together the most important elements of your application and will leave a lasting, positive impression of your motivation for study on this particular Masters programme.

Bear in mind that admissions tutors will be reading dozens (if not hundreds) of personal statements. They’ll appreciate a well-organised, methodical text that signposts all the significant parts of your experience and skills.

Postgraduate personal statement examples

We’ve written a selection of postgraduate personal statement samples for several popular subjects.

If you’re working on a personal statement for your Masters application, hopefully they’ll give you some inspiration – but don’t forget that they’re certainly not a substitute for your own unique experiences and background!

Want more advice on postgraduate applications?

Check out our full guide to applying for a Masters or visit our pages on entry requirements and postgraduate references.

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Last updated: 25 May 2021