How to write a personal statement for university

Personal statements are frequently required in applications for postgraduate study. in particular business courses. such as MBAs. but are also required for areas such as postgraduate teacher training. You are typically allowed about 1 page of A4 (250-500 words) to "sell yourself". Sometimes you will simply be asked to "provide evidence in support of your application" whereas sometimes the question will be much more prescriptive:

"Describe briefly your reasons for wanting to teach giving the relevance of your previous education and experience, including teaching, visits to schools and work with other young people "

PGCE (teacher training) application form.

Sometimes (as in the example given above), you will be given a very clear indication of what you should write, but in the absence of this, here are some guidelines. Don't use the same statement for all applications. Each statement will need a slightly different emphasis, depending on the university you are applying to. Make sure that you answer the questions asked in each statement. Research the university and course/research area. Find out what sets your choice apart from other universities.

Use good English. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the crowd. Read your statement very carefully. Do your draft on a word-processor and spell and grammar check it, but also give it to a friend to read. Be clear and concise. Don't woffle! Show the ability to put the salient points across in a few words. Stay within prescribed word limits. Pay attention to presentation - type the statement if your handwriting is at all poor. Be positive and enthusiastic – selectors will read many personal statements and you want yours to stand out.

Give your statement a structure with an introduction, a main body and an end. The opening paragraph is important as it is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. The middle section might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information.

Get your final draft checked by friends or the duty careers adviser. A careers adviser is on duty to help with queries between 10.30 am to 12.30 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. every weekday in the Careers Service. You don't need to book an appointment to see the duty careers adviser -

just ask at reception to see them.

Possible content for your statement

  • Why do you want to do the course/research?
Try to convey your enthusiasm and motivation for study/research. Don't try to write what you think they want to hear, write your real reasons. Write about any projects dissertations or extended essays you have done if they are relevant or demonstrate relevant skills. Mention any prizes you have won, also travel or study abroad and relevant employment. Describe anything that shows creativity. dependability or independence.
  • Why this subject? Be clear about why you have chosen this. Is the programme noted for a particular emphasis, speciality or orientation? When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it? What insights have you gained? How have you learned about this field - through classes, seminars, work or conversations with academic staff?
  • Why this university? Are there specific academic staff you want to do research or study with?
  • What academic skills have you got to offer? Computing skills. knowledge of relevant scientific techniques etc. If your A levels were poor (or you didn't do these, try to show an upward progression during your time at University).
  • What personal skills can you offer? e.g. ability to work in a team , with little supervision . Demonstrate that you've done your homework about the course/research and that you've seriously considered your strengths and weaknesses for postgraduate study or research. If you have done vacation jobs, what skills have you learned e.g. teamworking. communication. working under pressure. Have you had to overcome any obstacles or hardships in your life? This may show evidence of determination/resilience.
  • What are your strengths? In what ways are you better than other applicants. If you can't answer this question, don't expect the selectors to answer it for you!
  • What is the relevance of your first degree to this study? Point out any circumstances that may have effected your academic results, that you think should be considerered by the selectors.
  • What are your career aims?

    You may not have a very clear focus on what you want to do afterwards, but you should have some ideas. A clear direction will strengthen your commitment to do well in your studies and selectors will know this. Your desire to become a lawyer. lecturer. or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience in your statement.

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