Clare Johnson, Senior Career Zone Information Officer
You’ve decided further study is for you and there’s a fabulous course at a fantastic university which you’d just love to attend. Writing a great postgraduate application will put you in a strong position to do just that. The personal statement is perhaps the trickiest part to get right, so here are my 8 top tips to help you:
1 Plan ahead
Preparation, as so often, is the name of the game. You’ll need to submit your application as early as possible, particularly if the course is very competitive.
Consider having a one to one appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of applying for postgraduate study. Think ahead to who you could ask for feedback and references; more on this later.
Read the Rules and Guidelines provided: It’s vital to read the instructions supplied by the Institution regarding completing your personal statement. Many universities will have a particular procedure they want you to adopt and will give you advice about this. Also check the selection criteria.
2 Structure your personal statement
Your statement should have an introduction, main body and conclusion and should grab the reader’s attention from the beginning.
Roughly half of the main body should focus on you and your interests and the other half on the course. Finally summarise why you’re the ideal candidate.
Regarding length, check the guidelines given by the university you’re applying for, otherwise it should be one and half sides of A4, around 1000-1500 words.
3 Show you’re ready to undertake postgraduate study
Give the admissions tutors evidence of your enthusiasm, commitment and motivation for further study and research.
Give evidence of your skills, academic and non-academic, and how they’ll fit with the course. Demonstrate how you’re motivated to do high levels of independent research, and mention completed projects and dissertations.
Show you can manage yourself and meet tight deadlines and show your academic credentials such as critical analysis and communication skills.
“The Career Zone offers one to one appointments for feedback on postgraduate personal statements. It’s also a very good idea to show your statement to an academic in the field.”
4 Do your homework on the Institution and the Course
Researching the course and the Institution will pay dividends. Show admissions tutors you know something about the Institution you’re applying to. Say why you want to study there and what makes the Institution stand out from others.
Are there certain modules exclusive to this Institution, a specialisation which particularly interests you, links to industry or an academic you’d like to work with?
Be specific, and if you’ve visited the institution or spoken to a course tutor or current student, remember to mention it in your application.
5 Show how the new course links to your past studies and your future career
Is this course a completely new direction for you or is it a development of what you’ve studied before? If the former, you can show how you will deal with the academic challenges which might arise. If the latter you can demonstrate how your current academic study is relevant, and outline particular skills you have to offer.
Express your interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings. Giving some indication of which career you might want to get into will show selectors you have a good motivation for doing well on this course. Show evidence that this is an informed and mature career decision.
6 Thoroughly check your grammar, spelling and punctuation
Your written communication skills are also being assessed so taking the time to get these right will be time well spent.
7 Ask for feedback
You may have read your statement a hundred times over, but it always helps to have others look over it too. The Career Zone offers one to one appointments for feedback on postgraduate personal statements. It’s also a very good idea to show your statement to an academic in the field.
8 References In many cases you’ll need to give the names of two academic referees. These should be lecturers or tutors from your course since they need to comment on your academic capabilities and suitability for the programme of study you’re applying for.
A great personal statement shows just how much you’ve got to offer the programme, as well as what you’ll get out of it and also why you deserve a place on it above other candidates.
Good luck with your applications!