Writing a personal statement for postgraduate study

The application process for postgraduate study is very competitive and a strong personal statement will be crucial to optimise your chances of success.  Your personal statement gives your reasons for wanting to do the course and demonstrates your ability to complete the course successfully. 

Each university is likely to provide its own guidance regarding what to include. You should check the requirements carefully for each application, which might include a word or page limit, or specific content requirement. Make sure that you follow the guidelines and address all the areas that they want you to cover. Failure to follow the guidelines in some instances could lead to rejection – especially where competition for places is strong.

The University of Portsmouth offers guidance to prospective postgraduate students on what to include in your personal statement and suggests you include some or all of the following points:

Your reasons for choosing the course

You need to outline your reasons for undertaking postgraduate study and specifically this course. Try to demonstrate your enthusiasm for further study and/or research. This is your personal statement and it should convey your views and be written in your style.  To be successful you must make sure that you are clear, concise and factual. Do not be tempted to get someone else to write it for you.

Write about relevant previous academic study, achievements and projects.  Focus on the academic skills that you have developed and wish to develop further.  Does the course link to your dissertation? Mention anything which has significantly influenced your choice. Why do you want to study at the particular institution that you are applying to? Are you interested in a particular research focus or quality of research?

What interests you about your chosen subject?

You need to demonstrate that you are quite clear about what the course will involve. What is it about this course that interests you? Are there any features of this course which are particularly attractive to you? Why? What sparked your interest in this study area and what have you done so far to develop your interest? What have you learned about yourself in the process?

Provide details of any relevant jobs, work experience, placement or voluntary work you have done.  Try to include the skills and the experience you have gained from these activities. Reflect back on work experience, how has this influenced your choices? What will you be able to bring to the course as a result?  Consider the skills that you will need to be successful on your course and provide evidence that you have these skills.

How your programme choice fits with your future career plans

Do you have a clear career goal? How does your course choice fit with this? This could demonstrate commitment to the programme in order to achieve a specific outcome. Where your chosen course is of a vocational nature this section will be especially important.  You will need to include evidence of your related work experience and career exploration.

Your social, sports or leisure interests

For some courses it might be useful to provide evidence of additional skills which may be of use in your studies. For challenging courses it would demonstrate that you have an outlet away from your studies.

International students

If you are an international student you may also like to include the following:

  • Why you wish to study in the UK - outline your reasons. This could include the course offered, research, cultural experience, and/or a desire to improve language skills.
  • Language skills - what evidence do you have to show that you can complete a higher education course that is taught in English..
  • Do you have evidence of previous study in an English speaking environment? You should ensure that your personal statement is completed to a high standard with good spelling and grammar and make sure that the meaning is clear. Do not get someone else to write your personal statement for you - you have to demonstrate that you have the right level of English to support your studies.

The Careers and Employability Service can offer support with writing your Personal Statement.  Find out how you can get feedback on your application.

You can find further advice on writing a personal statement from the Prospects website.