Writing a personal statement for further study.

The personal statement is your opportunity to convince academic admissions tutors of your suitability for the programme.

  • You should demonstrate academic interest, subject specific knowledge, ability and motivation to succeed.
  • The statement will only be convincing if the points are backed up by hard evidence ie examples drawn from academic achievements, work experience and extra-curricular activities.
  • The statement needs to be concise and should only include information that is strictly relevant. Don't tell your life story.
  • Consideration needs to be given to the content, structure and style of the statement.
  • Organise the information; focus on one topic/theme at a time and ensure the text logically progresses.
  • Be positive and try to start each section with the most impressive evidence or information.

Always follow the instructions on the form. Word length and content may be specified.

Structuring your statement

You can change the order to highlight the areas you feel are most important to your application and create a natural flow for the reader.

These are some suggestions, you may not have everything under every heading and some may not be relevant for you.

Why this university?

Be specific – don’t make generic statements such as “Because you are an internationally-renowned university with an excellent academic reputation”.
If the university itself made a difference in your choice - what was this?

  • Have you studied there before and enjoy the environment?
  • Is it's location and the opportunity to gain work experience locally a factor?
  • Has it got a strong reputation in this particular field of research?
  • Are there specific academic staff you want to do research or study with?
  • Perhaps it offers something else unique?

Why this subject?

  • Your motivation - When did you become interested in this subject and what have you learned about it?
  • Explain what drives your interests and provide strong evidence to back up your claims - e.g. include authors you admire, theories / problems which interest you, conferences you have attended, or relevant work experience.
  • What is it about the structure of the course, or the choice of modules, that appeals to you? Did you attend an open day or talk to lecturers?
  • Demonstrate subject knowledge, through relevant prior learning, projects, dissertations, case studies etc. It could also come through relevant work experience in this field
  • It is especially important to demonstrate your commitment if you are applying to a conversion course – why the change of direction?
  • In the case of PhD applications, explain what of their research you’ve read. Reference their journal articles or books, explain what interests you and where you have further questions. You don’t have to be an expert yet, but they will want to know that you’ve read their work.

Academic ability

  • Academic achievement - have you got what it takes to do this course? Grades in key relevant subjects.
  • The standing of the institution where you are studying / have studied.
  • Do you stand out? Academic prizes for exams or dissertations.
  • Does it match your learning style - can you demonstrate this? Will you have to do group projects can you demonstrate teamwork or leadership?
  • Can you demonstrate the dedication and resilience required to complete the course? Ability to use initiative, problem solve, manage workload, work to deadlines, work under pressure.
  • Other academic skills relevant to the course, computing skills, knowledge of relevant scientific techniques, analytical or research skills etc. Explain your skills in detail - do not assume the reader will understand your capabilities just by reading the title of your final year project.

Personal skills & experience

You can talk about work experience, volunteering and extracurricular activities in more depth here, but make sure you are evidencing key knowledge or skills needed for this course and your future career options.

Your future?

What are your career aims? How will this course help you achieve them? Knowledge, skills, accreditation with professional bodies etc. If, for example, if you have a particular career or job in mind, talk briefly about this on your application. The same applies if you plan to go on and do an MPhil / PhD in your chosen subject.