Write The Perfect Personal Statement For A Master’s Degree Application
Getting your application accepted is the first hurdle in gaining a master’s. Some university courses are highly competitive, with far more candidates than places available on any given intake. When the admissions team and programme director are faced with two evenly matched applicants for one place on a course, postgraduate personal statements can be the deciding factor.
Because of this, spending the time and focus on creating a well-written master’s degree personal statement should not be skipped.
Use this guide to help you create a winning personal statement for your postgraduate application. As we focus on UK online master’s degrees, we discuss including career experience below. If you are moving directly from undergraduate study, you can still use this guide. Just swap those parts for any relevant academic or extracurricular activity.
Why Is A Masters Personal Statement Required?
As we just mentioned, a personal statement can be the deciding factor in gaining a place on a course. But what are the key points that the admissions tutor will be looking for, and how to make your personal statement stand out in amongst the hundreds of postgraduate applications they see each year?
During the application process, course the director wants to understand a candidate’s experience, expertise and potential on and after the programme. In addition, they want students who bring energy, insight and motivation to the assignments and discussions. They also want to see evidence the applicant understands what is involved in the course, that they are at the right level academically, and how the course will contribute to their personal or career goals.
What Exactly Is A Personal Statement For A Master’s Degree?
If you are applying for a master’s degree, you will probably have written an undergraduate personal statement.
A personal statement for a master’s degree is a piece of freewriting which is your opportunity to promote yourself in your own words to the admissions team and course director.
Your personal statement should be unique to the course you are applying for, highlighting your suitability for the programme. It is a chance to demonstrate how you will develop from taking the course and how the programme would benefit from you studying it.
In short, your personal statement should show that you have done your research and understand what is involved in the course and how it will directly impact your professional or personal development. It should also prove your interest, passion and enthusiasm for the subject area.
What You Should Avoid In A Masters Personal Statement.
Quotes, cliches, humour and waffle have no place in a personal statement. If you include these in your statement, you are not telling the person reading it anything about yourself and why you would make a good candidate for the course.
University admissions teams read hundreds of personal statements each year, and including any of these could actually harm your application.
We have compiled a checklist for everything you should avoid in a personal statement.
- Waffle- long, vague sentences
- Following online examples too closely
- Begging or pleading for admission or funding
- Poor spelling and grammar
- Irrelevant life history, personal information, hobbies and interests
If you are reading this, you will have probably already read a few other similar articles with similar advice. A lot of the guides online include personal statement examples. We don’t. Admissions tutors are familiar with the online examples and view applications negatively when they see similar statements with minor changes.
We think the best way to create a unique, compelling personal statement is to plan, write, review and rewrite your personal statement without reading too many examples. Further down this page, we have a seven-step process that we recommend.
How Many Words Should You Write In A Postgraduate Personal Statement?
Unless the university you are applying to sets for a specific length or word count, aim for one page of A4. One page of typed A4 is only around 500 words.
This limited number of words means that you need to keep your statement concise and make each sentence work for you. You need to plan what you want to say and how you want to say it. This process will take time. Even though 500 words is a relatively small amount of text, you should give yourself a week or more of time for this process.
Postgraduate Course Application Guidelines
The application pack will often have guidelines for the personal statement specific to that university or the individual course. Make sure you follow all the guidelines, for example, a specific word count, and note any deadlines.
It’s important to double-check your application before submitting it to ensure all the information across the different documents is consistent, and the dates match up.
Think About How You Write In Your Personal Statement
A good personal statement should be clear, professional, positive and enthusiastic. You need to articulate your message so that the reader is in no doubt about your message. Aim for the tone you would use if you had to introduce yourself in a work situation.
Think about the points you want to cover and lay them out logically. You broadly want to have three main parts- a statement and explanation, and a closing. It’s an obvious one, but make sure you use the correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. The personal statement is also an example of your writing skills.
The Best Information To Include In A Postgraduate Personal Statement.
Use the list below as a starting point. These points are not exhaustive, and there is no rule that you need to include all of them.
- The reason you want to take the course
- Specific reason/s you like this particular programme
- Future career aspirations
- Academic and employment background
- Current academic interests
- Specific examples of relevant skills and experience
The application pack will often have guidelines for the personal statement specific to that university or the individual course. Make sure you follow any instructions you get with the application pack and do what they ask and not what you think they want.
What’s The Best Structure For A Masters Personal Statement
Considering you only have one page of A4 and the person reading your statement will already have read multiple statements that day. Therefore, you want to keep your personal statement structure tight and concise.
- Start with an engaging introduction to get your reader’s attention.
- Use clear language
- Use short sentences- aim for no more than 30 words.
- Where you make a statement, back it up with evidence.
- Aim for around 5 to 7 paragraphs.
- Follow a logical structure- each paragraph leads to the next.
- Your last paragraph should summarise your main points and re-emphasise your desire to study and that you are the right person for the course.
Seven-Step Plan To Write A Winning Personal Statement.
Some of the best personal statements we have seen used clear language to show why the applicant meets the entry requirements and how that particular programme would benefit their career aspirations or personal goals.
Use this plan to help you write a personal statement. By splitting the process of writing your personal statement into manageable steps, you can feel confident that you will have put your best case forward for joining your preferred postgraduate course.
Step 1- Get your main points down on paper.
In this first step, just start writing. Open a new document, copy and paste the questions below and write down everything that comes to mind.
- Why do you want to take the course?
- Why is this specific course the one for you?
- What future career goals do you want to achieve?
- What experience do you have that makes you suitable for this course?
- How exactly do you meet the entry requirement?
- What skills do you have that are relevant to the course?
- What academic qualifications do you have that are relevant to the course, undergraduate degree, and any other certificates?
- How will you fit the course in with your work/ family commitments?
Step 2- Double-check the application pack.
Review the application pack. Note the guidelines for the application process and personal statement—for example, character limit, specific points to include format and deadlines.
Next, review all the information you have about your chosen course. Then, make notes on what parts of the course interest you the most.
Step 3 – Build the structure of your personal statement.
In this step, you create the flow of your postgraduate personal statement. Start with a 5 paragraph structure. Using bullet points write down what you want to cover in each paragraph. For example,
- Why I am interested in the subject area.
- My future goals
- Why I am interested in this course
- My undergraduate degree, career experience/extracurricular activities and skills,
- How taking this course now fits in with where I am at in my career/life.
Step 4- Write your first draft.
Start writing your opening paragraph. Don’t worry about having a catchy opening sentence at this stage. Follow the structure you created in step three for the middle paragraphs. The critical part here is getting words down on paper using your answers to the questions in step one.
Step 5 – Sleep on it.
Once you have a complete draft that you are happy with, save it, and then forget all about your application for at least a day or two. Having a break from your application is essential. When you are ready to finalise your master’s degree personal statement, you want to look at it with fresh eyes.
Step 6 – Revise and amend.
Now you need to revise, polish and tidy up your postgraduate personal statement. You can do this multiple times until you are happy. There is now a wide range of online tools that can help you at this stage. Grammarly and the Hemmingway app are two great examples.
Consider the following points when you are revising your text.
- You should be thinking about the person reading it.
- Does the information you are giving flow
- Does the reader know X before you move on to Y?
- Have you backed up statements with evidence?
- Look at each sentence and make sure it is concise- avoid overly long sentences.
- Does the closing paragraph summarise your main points?
Once you are happy, read your statement out loud. Doing this will help you with the flow and pick up any last changes you need to make. If possible, get a friend or family member to read through what you have written for feedback.
Step 7- Final checks.
The last step is to check it for grammar and spelling. Once done, you will have completed your application with a well-written master’s personal statement that makes it clear that you have done your research and be a good choice for a university admissions tutor to accept.