Guide To Write Perfect Personal Statement For Your Masters or PhD

When applying for a postgraduate study you will often need to write a personal statement. These statements are meant to support your application or to showcase your eligibility for the program and are normally around a page of text. They are typically read by an Admissions Tutor for a postgraduate taught course or the Project Supervisor for postgraduate research programs (e.g. Ph.D. or MRes) who will then decide on your suitability for the program.

Why Do You Need To Write Personal Statement?

A personal statement should demonstrate that the postgraduate course is right for you and that you have the skills, knowledge, aptitude, and passion to achieve the course requirements. For example, the instructions for the Imperial College postgraduate online application state, ‘Tell us why you are interested in the subject for which you have applied. Describe your academic interests and reasons for applying to Imperial College.’ For a Master’s or a Ph.D. program, it will normally detail the key requirements you need to be effective on for the course, including the kind of research aptitude, academic experience and technical ability that you possess. It is worth noting that, along with your motivations for this particular course, the reader of your personal statement is also likely to be interested in how this course fits in with your long-term career plans.

Structure Of Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be logically ordered and interesting. It must show why you are interested in a particular field of study and must demonstrate your ability to undertake the rigours of the program you are applying for. A possible structure that you could use is as follows:

  1. Current Studies: How your present studies relate to your postgraduate application; this is particularly important if you are applying for study or research that does not seem to obviously follow on from your present course. Mention those subject areas related to the postgraduate course that shows a relevant base with the body of knowledge you are currently undertaking. Include technical skills that you have developed that may relate to your future studies.
  2. Why this Master’s/Ph.D. Link your plans for future study with your career aspirations. Demonstrate that you are making an informed decision by referring to research that you have done into the course, studies or research area. It is essential to show that you are genuinely motivated to follow this route and have thoroughly thought it through, in order to show that you will not drop out when the going gets tough.
  3. Past Work Experience: Through this, you can demonstrate that you are able to adapt and ‘fit in’ to a range of environments and experience. Mention how you were successful, and any achievements that demonstrate your ability to work effectively in challenging situations.
  4. Extra-curricular Activities & Interests: You can talk about these to highlight diversity in your personality and demonstrate transferable skills e.g. team-work, ability to take on responsibility, communication, etc.
  5. University Related Information: Showing why you have selected this route of study in this particular university/department/group crucially demonstrates motivation and enthusiasm. For postgraduate research applications, in particular, it is important to show that you have investigated the area in depth. Perhaps mention individual research groups, projects, particular individuals, etc. and link these in with your own research interests and activities. When applying for a vocational course e.g. law, teaching, graduate entry medicine, etc. talking convincingly from an informed perspective about your career motivations is paramount. Your personal statement should reflect this by giving these elements greater emphasis.
  6. Concluding paragraph: Summarise your interest in the subject, your skills, and experiences. Talk about how the program fits in with your intended career path.

By Sweena Karnani, Senior Editor

How do you write a great statement of purpose that sounds original, but at the same time gives the admissions committee what they are looking for? Click here.

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