Useful tips on preparing your personal statement following our recent blog on postgraduate study.
Personal statements for postgraduate study shouldn’t feel like a daunting essay – they are a letter to the Admissions Tutor explaining why you should have a place on the course.
As a former Admissions Officer for several competitive universities, let me tell you: the best statements are written from the heart. Why do you want to do this course? What does the opportunity mean to you – and your future career? Why do you want to study at this university? What have you have done in your work/study or extracurricular life that shows you are ready for the challenge?
Answering these questions personally, and highlighting the unique strengths and qualities you will bring to the course, will help your application to stand out from the crowd.
Step away from the keyboard
Don’t stare down a blank screen worrying where to start. Step away from the keyboard and find the words another way. Draw pictures, write a mind map, talk through your motivations to a friend or an empty chair and record yourself on your phone. Thinking through your work/study experiences to date, course motivations, and why this opportunity is important to you is a great foundation for a strong application.
Write from the heart
Ideally your statement will have a positive beginning and an ending that makes an impact, but don’t waste time over-thinking your first line. Start writing paragraphs on a theme where the words come easily to you. Here are a few questions to help you get started.
- Why is this course important to me?
- What relevant knowledge do I want to show off?
- What experience/skills do I have that I want to bring to their attention?
- Why do I want to study this course at this university?
- What else do I want the Admissions Tutor to know about me
Be passionate, be dynamic
Show them how much you love your subject by writing about it with energy and enthusiasm. Let them see the passion you will bring to the classroom, and the proactive attitude you have taken to manage your own learning. Successful postgraduate students are a joy to teach because they love striving to answer challenging questions. Postgraduate study involves self-directed learning and discipline, so help the university to understand the experiences/skills that have prepared you for the journey ahead.
Be confident on paper
Applications are a great place to shout about your achievements. Highlight relevant projects or work experiences that show you are academically able and equipped with the skills to succeed in this degree. Don’t just focus on degree achievements: voluntary and paid work can also help you to evidence relevant personal qualities such as tenacity, time management and resilience. And if you’re struggling to find the right words to describe your skills, check out the Power Verbs Generator on the Career Centre.
Take your time
Statements take time and your first draft is unlikely to be the one you submit. So don’t put pressure on yourself by leaving it to deadline day. Take regular breaks with each draft, and you will find it easier to find the words, refine the language, and spot grammar errors. Reading your statement aloud to yourself is also a good way of checking ‘readability’. And remember if you can’t fit everything you want to say into a character-limited statement, you can ask the person writing your reference to showcase your achievements too.
I hope this blog helps you to get started with your postgraduate study application. Check out Prospects for more tips on personal statements. If you would like to talk through your personal statement with an Employability & Careers Adviser, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via the Career Centre Live Chat.
By Khrieu Healy, Employability & Careers Adviser
Postgraduate degrees at ARU
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Image credits: tulips by Rupert Britton; You got this by Sydney Rae.