How To Write A Masters Personal Statement
As experts in this area, you may have visited us several years ago when scratching your head over the undergraduate UCAS personal statement.
If not, rest assured you’re in the right place for getting the best help and advice that will lead to a successful application.
The personal statement may seem like an overwhelming task, but if you begin early enough and give yourself plenty of time to redraft it, you can easily write a stress-free statement.
1. Getting started
The aim of the postgraduate personal statement is to highlight your relevant skills, knowledge and experience for the course.
Admissions tutors want to know what you can offer, and why they should choose you over everyone else.
This means your statement needs to be clear and focused throughout, so the best way to begin is by thinking about and making notes on the following points:
- Why are you applying for a postgraduate course? Reasons might include your passion and enthusiasm for the subject, a new challenge, and your career aspirations.
- What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Look at the course content - what interests you about the topics covered, and why? If you’re applying for a Research Masters, why do you want to undertake a research project in the subject?
- Why are you applying to this university? Make sure you research all the institutions you are considering - what do you like about them? What facilities do they provide? Do they have a good reputation in your field? What does the surrounding town/city have to offer? If you’re invited to interview, it’s likely you will be asked why you have chosen their university, so make sure you have some good reasons, or it will look like you don’t really care.
- What work experience do you have that demonstrates your interest in the subject? Think about any placements you’ve completed since your GCSEs - what did you learn, and how is this related to your subject? Part of writing a good personal statement is being able to provide examples in order to back up your claims. Work experience is a great source to use for this, so note down anything you think might be useful or relevant.
- What skills have you gained from your undergraduate studies that will help you make the transition to postgraduate study?Again, think about what you learned during your degree. Skills you might talk about include communication, analytical, problem-solving, IT, numeracy, teamwork, public speaking, practical e.g. laboratory or fieldwork (if you are applying for a Research Masters). How did you improve or develop these skills? Try to think of specific projects as examples.
- What hobbies and interests do you have, and how might they help you on the course? If you’re part of any clubs or societies, done voluntary/charity work, or held a position of responsibility during your degree, e.g. student representative, then write a bit about your experiences and how they could assist you with your postgraduate studies.
Try to be as detailed as possible with your notes - the more you get down at this early stage, the easier it will be to put together your first draft.
2. The introduction
From your notes, you can now begin to write the first draft of your statement.
The opening should grab the readers’ attention, so they want to carry on reading until the end.
One way of doing this is to talk about an incident or experience in your life that has compelled you to study the subject to postgraduate level. Take a look at our Postgraduate personal statement examples to see how others have used this technique.
Another way of starting your statement is to pick one aspect of your subject and talk about why it fascinates you. Look back at your notes to point #2 above.
Although these suggestions will help make your opening unique and more likely to stand out from the crowd, you don’t have to use them.
If you can think of another way to achieve the same effect with the first few sentences, then that’s fine.
3. Selling yourself
This is the point where you should read through the rest of your notes, and draft several paragraphs that cover your skills, experience and knowledge.
The easiest way to do this is to allocate a paragraph to each point: one for work experience, one for your skills, etc.
Make sure you include everything you jotted down earlier, and most importantly, relate it to the course you are applying for. Remember, making claims are no good unless you back them up with evidence.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, paragraph structure etc. at this stage - you can fix all this later once you’ve got the essentials in place.
4. Rounding it off
Generally, it’s a good idea to conclude your statement with a short paragraph about your career aspirations and/or how you believe a postgraduate course in the subject will help you in the future.
You’ve spent the rest of the statement talking about the past and what you’ve learned from your experiences, so looking to the future is a nice, positive way to round things off.
5. Next steps
Now you’ve got a basic draft down, show it to your family, friends and anyone else you think might be able to help.
Don't feel bad about asking other people for help - it's actually a great way to get that perfect personal statement in shape. Sitting and staring at it yourself for too long will just give you a headache, and a fresh pair of eyes will pick up on things that you would otherwise have missed.
Take their comments on board, and make any necessary amendments to your statement.
You don’t have to implement all recommendations, but showing it to several or more people should highlight any common areas where changes need to be made.
It’s advisable to redraft and ask for other people’s input at least several times before polishing it up into your final statement. This will give you the best possible chance of success with your application.
6. Before you send your application
Check your statement carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes. Remember that a Spellcheck tool isn’t infallible, and could easily fail to pick up errors.
Go through it several times, and ask someone else to take a look in case you’ve missed anything.
Also check that it isn’t overly long - if you’ve been given a word count, make sure you’ve stuck to it. Generally, you will be allowed one side of A4 for your statement.
If the application form has asked you to answer a specific question in your statement, or talk about particular aspects of your skills, experience or background, check these have been covered as well.
For more advice and tips on postgraduate study and writing the personal statement, please visit:
- Writing A Postgraduate Personal Statement
- Types Of Postgraduate Degree
- Postgraduate Personal Statement Examples
- UCAS Postgraduate Course Search
- Oxbridge Postgraduate Study
- Benefits Of Postgraduate Study
- Research Vs Taught Masters
Best of luck with your application if you're applying for a Masters degree. If you have any of your own tips you'd like to share on writing the personal statement, please post them below!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2013, but has been updated for 2019 to reflect changes in advice on applying for a Masters course.