Personal statements for postgraduate study

A personal statement is a standard part of applying to postgraduate courses. It's used to convince an admissions tutor that you want and deserve a place on the course to which you are applying.

Some institutions ask you to follow specific guidelines when writing your personal statement. Otherwise, you can consider the following general advice.

Structure and content

Your personal statement should match the course you are applying for, so you should create a new one for every application you make.


The introduction should quickly communicate that you are enthusiastic about applying to the course. It should show that it's worth the admissions tutor’s time to keep reading.


The body of your personal statement should include why you are applying and why you should be selected, with a paragraph on each topic.

Why you are applying

You should explain both why you are applying for postgraduate study in general and why you are applying to this course specifically. You should discuss your academic and career interests and plans, and how the course will help you explore and reach these.

Show your motivation for the course by explaining what you have learned about the course content in your studies so far and why you want to explore it further.

If you want to pursue a career outside academia, you should show an understanding of the sector you are interested in and how the skills learned through the course will help you.

If you are considering an academic career, avoid simply stating that the course is the first step to achieving this. Instead, show a detailed understanding of academic career pathways and how you see this course helping you.

You should also explain why you are applying to this specific institution or department. You could comment on:

  • specific academic staff you want to research with or be taught by
  • how your interests align with the interests of those who already work there – say whether you’ve read any of their work, and cite your sources
  • how it would differ to where you did your undergraduate degree, such as being larger or more specialised
  • networks of contacts it can provide
  • facilities and resources that it offers, such as research equipment and libraries.

Why you should be selected

You also need to explain why the admissions tutor should admit you to the course. Show evidence of your skills and knowledge, mentioning your achievements. Outline how undergraduate study has prepared you for postgraduate study.

You could comment on:

  • your academic strengths and interests
  • high grades you’ve received for specific modules, essays, projects and dissertations
  • academic prizes or bursaries you’ve received
  • experience of attracting research or travel funding
  • work experience or extra-curriculars that have prepared you for the course
  • research activities you’ve been involved in, such as working alongside academic staff during vacations
  • how you can successfully balance academic study with other commitments.

Address any significant weaknesses in your application, such as poor performance in a module. Try to give good reasons for why these weaknesses exist and what you have done about them. This suggests that these problems are not typical of you, and shows that you can confront setbacks in your academic and professional life.


Your conclusion should briefly bring what you have said together and reiterate that you believe you are well suited to the course.


Your personal statement should be no longer than one A4 page, and your font no smaller than size 10 and no larger than size 12. Use a modern and professional font, such as Arial, Aptos, Calibri, or Times New Roman. 

Your personal statement should also be well written.  Admissions tutors will reject applications with poor spelling or grammar, so revise English grammar rules. If applying for courses in the UK, ensure you use British English.

If you use English as a second language, the University's Academic English Service offers one-to-one English tutorials.

Additional resources