This is How to Write a Personal Statement for a Master'sby Kristina
In theory, a personal statement should be easy. But we understand how hard it is to put pen to paper. Read our latest blog by postgraduate student, Kristina, on how to write a personal statement when applying for your Master's.
It can be tricky to put down in words why you should be accepted on a course, especially when you're trying to be persuasive, formal and concise all at once. Below, I've collated both what to include in a personal statement, as well as top tips to make sure your personal statement accurately reflects you, your passion and why you're a perfect fit for the postgraduate course of your choosing.
What should I include in a postgraduate personal statement?
1. Why do you want to study this course?
This section has two clear and distinct points. Firstly, you need to project your passion for the subject. In my opinion, the hardest part about this is being engaging and passionate, without sounding cliched or insincere.
Secondly, you need to have some kind of idea how this Master's relates to your life goals. Is there a specific job you want? Or, perhaps a specific organisation that you’d like to work for? Maybe you have plans to study this subject beyond your Master's, and you intend on completing a PhD?
The admissions team is more likely to recruit you if they think that you might contribute to the academic field, or to the specific university department.
2. What relevant skills can you bring from previous academia?
Once you've stated why you want to study a course, now you need to argue why the university should want you. At this stage, give a succinct but comprehensive overview of your relevant skills and academic experience. For example, “During my undergraduate studies, I improved my mathematical, analytical and problem-solving skills.”. Then go into detail about specific case studies, assignments, achievements etc..
The key point here is to make sure everything you mention is relevant. It's natural to want to sell yourself by listing all of your achievements, but only showcasing relevant information can act as a testament to your essay-writing skills.
3. What relevant skills can you bring from your personal or professional life?
Have you had relevant jobs/volunteering/internships? This is an opportunity to show that you’ve taken initiative to develop skills in the field beyond compulsory academic activities. This section doesn't just reflect your abilities, but your passion for your chosen career path through the fact you've dedicated your personal time to expanding your skills.
4. Why this specific course?
So you've said which subject you want to study, you've shown how you fit the requirements and how you intend to put your learnings to good use. Now, explain why you want to study this specific course. Mention the modules by name and how the learning formats will help your learning i.e. if there's lab work, field work etc. This is your opportunity to show you have carefully considered the different postgraduate courses available to you, and state your reasons for narrowing it down to the one you're applying for.
Tips for writing a university personal statement
Rediscover your old statement as a reminder
Writing a personal statement for a Master’s degree is much the same as writing one for an undergraduate degree. My first tip would be to search through your old files and find the personal statement you submitted to UCAS all those years ago.
Whilst the content will be very different, reminding yourself of the structure you used and the topics you covered is just one way to trigger ideas for what to write in your new personal statement.
In fact, I have a folder on my laptop full of all my old job and university applications so that I can draw inspiration and sometimes re-use relevant sections, whilst slightly modifying them to fit the role I am applying for. This saves a lot of time.
Start early so you can take your time, and revisit
Writing ~1,000 words in one sitting probably isn’t the best idea. Whilst everyone has different styles of working, I personally feel that the best way to write something like this is to start out with a bullet point plan. This way you don’t have to simultaneously think about content, structure, and wording, you can just brainstorm ideas for the content, then reshuffle them into an order that makes sense and flows. Once you've sorted this out, you can spend time thinking about how you will construct the sentences and paragraphs.
Being organised like this gives you the freedom to take breaks and revisit your personal statement at a later time or date.
Make sure your ending is strong and clear
The first and last paragraphs are the most important. The serial-position effect in psychology shows that people tend to remember the first and last items on a list much better than they remember the content in the middle, so your introduction and conclusion should be your best-selling points.
Make sure every point you make is evidenced
Anyone can say that they have a specific skill or interest in a certain topic, but you need to convince the admissions team that you know what you’re talking about.
A key framework to follow is skill > evidence & understanding > outcome. For example, state you have a relevant skill (e.g. scientific literature reviews) and then talk about specific techniques (e.g. avoiding bias, using a reference manager) or specific examples (dissertation topic and what methods you used / conclusions you reached / real world implications of the topic). The outcome will often be that you achieved a high grade or were praised.
Draw on your undergraduate successes
Talking in detail about your dissertation is imperative for research master’s or those which include a dissertation. If you achieved a first-class grade for it, or are predicted a first-class grade, then mention it.
Write for academics
Write academically (e.g. “it is” rather than “it’s”) and formally, but balance this with conveying enthusiasm and not sounding robotic. One way to test whether your writing flows is to read it out loud to yourself.
Tailor your application to your course
Tailor your application so that it is very specific to the course. Mention specific modules or interests/skills that relate strongly to aspects of the course. Most courses have their own webpage on the university website. This page is your most important resource for ensuring that you write a persuasive personal statement, as it will outline relevant skills, interests, career paths, module descriptions etc.
Get a second opinion
Ask someone to proofread the final draft. Fresh perspectives are always valuable. Also, it’s often easier for someone else to point out your strengths and accomplishments than it is for you to.
Overall, your personal statement needs to be lots of small anecdotes that relate to each other and can be joined up to tell one overarching story about you, to persuade the admissions team that you will succeed in the course, benefiting the university and also your own progress in life. For more information on applying for a Master's, why not read this blog by student Amy Harris on funding a Master's?
Published By Kristina on 02/09/2020 | Last Updated 15/03/2023