A Masters personal statement can make or break your application, so you need to make a convincing case for why you deserve a place on the course

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement for Masters study is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your postgraduate application. In a nutshell, it's your first real chance to sell yourself to the university and demonstrate to admissions tutors you are right for the course.

Personal statements should be unique and tailored to the course that you're applying to. You should use the opportunity to show off your academic interests and abilities, and demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.

How long should a personal statement be?

A Masters personal statement should generally be around 500 words long. This equates to one side of A4, although some universities require more, often two sides. Some institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so check the guidelines before starting to write your statement.

Postgraduate personal statements shouldn't include autobiographical information about your personal life. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular programme and your potential to successfully complete the course.

What to include in a personal statement

You should tailor your Masters personal statement to fit the course you're applying for, so what to include will largely depend on the course requirements. However, in general you should write about:

  • Your reasons for applying and why you deserve a place above other candidates - discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department's reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, such as modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and experience.
  • Your preparation - address how undergraduate study has prepared you for a postgraduate courses, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topics that most interest you.
  • Evidence of your skillset - highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact on the department, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, work placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended and how these have contributed to your readiness for Masters study.
  • Your goals - explain your career aspirations and how the course will help you achieve them.

Personal statement structure

Your personal statement should follow a logical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Capture the reader's attention with an enthusiastic introduction covering why you want to study a particular Masters. Then, engage the reader in your middle paragraphs by evidencing your knowledge and skills and demonstrating why the course is right for you.

Around half of the main body should focus on you and your interests, and the other half on the course. Your conclusion should be concise, and summarise why you're the ideal candidate. Overall, aim for four to five paragraphs. You can use headings to break up the text if you prefer.

Address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these, so explain them with a positive spin. Lower-than-expected results may be caused by illness, for example. Admit this, but mention that you've done extra reading to catch up and want to improve in this area.

The majority of postgraduate applications are submitted online directly to the university. If this is the case, present your personal statement in a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, text size 11 or 12. If your course application is submitted through UKPASS (UCAS's postgraduate application service) font style won't matter as personal statements will be automatically formatted.

How to write a good personal statement

They're often the trickiest part of your postgraduate application, so knowing how to write a good personal statement will help.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete it. Tutors will be able to tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.

The best personal statements adopt a positive, enthusiastic tone and are presented in clear, short sentences. Avoid elaborate or overly-complicated phrases. Unless otherwise stated in the guidelines, all postgraduate personal statements should be written in English and your spelling, grammar and punctuation must be perfect, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability.

Don't use the same supporting statement for every course - admissions tutors will be able to spot copy-and-paste jobs. Generic applications demonstrate that you have little understanding of the course. Masters study is much more advanced, so your undergraduate personal statement will be of little relevance in this instance. In order to stand out from the crowd postgraduate personal statements must be unique and specific to the course and institution.

Continue drafting and redrafting your statement until you're happy, then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Proofreading is incredibly important to avoid mistakes. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.

What to avoid

You shouldn't:

  • be negative
  • follow an online template
  • include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extracurricular activities
  • include inspirational quotes
  • lie or exaggerate
  • make pleading statements
  • namedrop key authors without explanation
  • needlessly flatter the organisation that you're applying to
  • repeat information found elsewhere in your application
  • use clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used word such as 'passion' or Americanisms
  • use overly long sentences
  • use the same statement for each application
  • use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
  • waffle
  • leave writing your personal statement to the last minute.

How to start a personal statement

Starting a personal statement isn't easy but try not to waste too much time coming up with a catchy opening. The more you try, the more contrived you'll sound and the more likely you are to fall into the trap of using clichés.

The most overused opening phrases include:

  • For as long as I can remember…
  • From a young age…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed
  • I have always been interested in…
  • I have always been passionate about…
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences…

Admissions tutors read hundreds of applications per course so the opening paragraph of your personal statement needs to get straight to the point and make a real impact. Avoid overkill statements, gimmicks and popular quotes.

If you're really struggling with starting a personal statement you can always come back and tackle it once you have written the rest.

How to end a personal statement

Knowing how to end a personal statement is just as important as knowing how to start one. Conclusions should be short, sharp and memorable, and leave no doubt in an admissions tutors mind that you deserve a place on a course.

The perfect ending should pull all of your key points together without waffling or repeating yourself.

Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and to the point - make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.

If you follow these tips your personal statement should leave a lasting impression.

What admissions tutors are looking for

Admissions tutors will be looking for:

  • an explanation of how the course links your past and future
  • an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course
  • evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm
  • knowledge of the institution's area of expertise
  • reasons why you want to study at the institution
  • you to express your interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.

Personal statement examples

The style and content of your personal statement will depend on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a Masters degree, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or teacher training. Here are four examples to help you get started:

Law personal statement

Although CABs, the centralised applications system, allows space for up to 10,000 characters in length, many law schools aren't expecting students to fill this space. It's therefore important not to unnecessarily pad out your personal statement with irrelevant detail. Students apply to three courses ranked in order of preference, so your personal statement must reflect this. Discover more about the Legal Practice Course.

Psychology personal statement

Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help you with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future.

Personal statement for PGCE primary

This is your chance to explain why you want to teach primary age children and convey your enthusiasm for teaching. You need to back everything up with examples from your classroom experience, reflecting on what you did, how this made a difference and what you learned about teaching and learning within Key Stages 1 and 2. Find out more about applying for teacher training.

PGCE secondary personal statement

If you want to teach children aged 11 and over you'll need to apply through UCAS Teacher Training (UTT). The UTT teacher training application process includes a single personal statement, whatever route(s) you're applying for. You should tailor your personal statement to reflect the specific requirements of secondary level teaching. Learn more about applying for teacher training.

Find out more