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Writing a Personal Statement for Postgraduate Study Applications

 

Student struggling with application forms

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

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