When applying for further study such as a Master's or PhD, you will often be asked to write a personal statement (sometimes called a statement of purpose).
This statement should convince the reader that you have the skills, knowledge and motivation to succeed in the course of study you are applying for.
You may also be asked to write a statement when you are applying for a job. This is often a free text box asking you to ‘describe how you fit the person specification or job description’.
In this section find out how to write a strong personal statement when applying for either further study or a job.
Writing a personal statement
- Check the instructions for the statement you have been asked to write. Is there a specified word length? Have you been asked to address any specific topics/questions in the statement?
- For further study applications, research the course you are applying to thoroughly. Find out what topics will be taught, what options you will have, how the department/university supports students, how you will be examined, what they look for in applicants and what graduates of the courses typically go on to do.
- For a job, research the employer and the job role you are applying to thoroughly. Review the job description and person specification and think about experiences you can write about to show your match to what they are looking for.
- Reflect on your motivations for applying for this particular course and how it fits in with your long-term career plans.
Order the content of your statement logically with each paragraph addressing a specific topic/theme.
If you are applying for a job, use the job description and person specification to help you structure your statement into sections that link to what they are looking for. You can use short headings based on the job description and person specification to break up the text. This will enhance the readability of your statement and emphasise that you have based what you have written on what they are looking for.
If you are applying for further study, here are some suggestions of possible topics to address in your personal statement:
- Current studies – how do your current studies relate to the course you are applying to? What topics, projects or technical skills have you done that will form a foundation for the future course. What have you most enjoyed or excelled at?
- Motivation – draw attention to any options you have selected in your current course that show your interest in the subject area you are applying to. Highlight any extra study you have done such as further reading, self-directed learning and attendance at talks/conferences.
- Future career – write about your future career plans and how the course you are applying to fits with them.
- Why this course? – show in your statement that you have thoroughly researched the course you are applying to and know what you will be taking on. Emphasise your fit to the course.
- Work and research experience – talk about previous experiences that you have had during internships, employment or in research projects. Highlight what you did successfully and the successful outcomes of your work. Write about what you learned from your experience that will help you to be successful in the course you are applying to.
- Extracurricular activities and interests – use these to show your personality and demonstrate transferable skills such as confidence, time-management and teamwork.
Use short sentences and straightforward language. Avoid overly formal language that you would not use in conversation (words like ‘hitherto’ or ‘moreover’) and avoid informal ‘chatty’ language or grammar (like slang words or exclamation marks).
- Include your successful achievements and where you have made a difference to something. For example, where you improved something, had an idea or had a successful outcome.
- Present yourself as you are now rather than going back in time to when you were much younger
- Avoid ingratiating language such as ‘I would like to thank the XXX department for considering my application’
- Avoid generic statements that can be sent to any similar course or job – make sure it is clear you are applying for that particular course or job
- Be positive. Don’t write that you didn’t enjoy things – concentrate on the things you have enjoyed
- Proofread and if you can, ask a friend to read it for you to check for spelling and grammar – they may spot mistakes you don’t notice