Personal statements for Masters degrees – Top Tips

Emily Hogg, Application Adviser

  • Read the university’s requirements: unlike UCAS applications for undergraduate degrees, there is not a centralised system or universal application procedure for Masters courses. Instead each university has its own requirements, and these might be slightly different. Some courses will ask you to answer specific questions; others might specify a word limit. Make sure that you know what each course requires, and you follow the correct guidelines.
  • Don’t simply reuse your undergraduate personal statement: after two, three or four years of an undergraduate degree, you should have learnt new things, acquired a different perspective and be able to articulate your goals and ambitions in a different way than you did when you were at school or college and applied for your first degree. For this reason, it’s more effective to start a new statement than simply try to update your old one.
  • Explain why you want to study the course: in your personal statement, you should explain your motivation for undertaking this particular course of study. Admissions tutors want to know that you are committed and enthusiastic about studying for the Masters, and that you have a detailed and realistic understanding of what the course will cover.
  • Show how the course fits into your wider goals: a good way of showing your motivation is to explain how the Masters will fit into your broader ambitions. Will it provide you with knowledge or skills you will use in your career? Will it allow you to pursue an intellectual interest you care deeply about? Will it build on the knowledge you gained in your undergraduate degree? What are your long-term goals and how does the Masters fit in?

  • Discuss your relevant skills and interests: use your personal statement to show how you have developed the foundational knowledge and skills which will enable you to successfully complete the Masters. Topics to discuss include relevant work experience, relevant modules in your undergraduate degree, general academic skills like research, writing and lab skills, plus transferable skills (such as communication, team work and presentation skills) gained through part-time work or volunteering. Highlight your achievements: any particularly high marks, awards, events attended and so on.
  • Explain why you want to study at that particular university: this is often a difficult part of the personal statement. You should avoid simply listing facts about the university which you’ve copied and pasted from their website. You should also avoid general statements praising the institution (e.g. ‘it would be an honour to study at your renowned and prestigious university’), which sound over-the-top. Instead, show that you have made a thoughtful and well-researched decision to apply to them: state which of their modules, research areas, resources (e.g. libraries), or staff members’ areas of expertise are relevant and interesting to you, and explain why.
  • Avoid clichés and inspirational quotes which tend to come across as cheesy. The best way to make yourself stand out is to make your personal statement detailed and evidence-based, making sure you fully support your assertions and that you can give a convincing account of your motivation for studying the course and your relevant experience to date.

If you would like feedback on your personal statement, call 020 7882 8533 to book a 1-2-1 appointment.

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