Personal statements

Read the phrasing carefully

Different institutions will phrase what they want to see in their personal statement differently, some examples (as of September 2013) and how you could break the wording down to ensure you address everything are below:

Example of application guidance from LSE:

You must submit a personal statement with your application form. This should be between 1,000 and 1,500 words. It should describe your academic interests and your purpose and objectives in undertaking graduate study. 

Suggestions of what to include for this phrasing:

  • Your academic interests – This part of your answer should show your understanding of what the course entails and can include subject specific language.
    • Outline what are your academic interests specifically
    • How they are related to the course.
    • How do you see the course furthering these interests?
    • Do you have previous experience of studying these areas?
    • Was your undergraduate dissertation, major project or a group presentation relevant to the course or your academic interests?
    •  Have you attended conferences, seminars or networking events outside your studies to increase your knowledge?
    • What have you learnt recently,
    • and how does this link to the course you are applying for?
    • Perhaps you can link your academic interests to work experience you have gained?
  • Purpose in undertaking graduate study – Why are you applying for postgraduate study? This could be linked to discussing your academic interests, or perhaps you have a career orientated goal.
  • Objectives in undertaking graduate study – What do you hope to achieve by the end of your postgraduate study, whether educationally or professionally? If you have professional objectives, how will this course help you move towards your career goal?
  • What else? – you could also include some of the suggestions in the guidelines below, but make sure you address everything in their description.

 

Example of application guidance from SOAS:

Your personal statement should be no more than 1,000 words. It should include the reasons why you are interested in the programme, highlight your relevant experience and suitability for the programme as well as future plans. 

Suggestions of what to include for this phrasing:

  • Why you are interested in the programme – Look at the course content carefully to decide what it is that most interests you in the programme content-wise. Discuss any relevant research or coursework you might have done in the past, and include technical language or language that shows you have a grasp of the topic.
  • Relevant experience – think back to your work experience, extracurricular activities and voluntary experiences and reflect upon relevant projects you might have worked on, tasks you were set or research you conducted that demonstrates relevance to the course. You might not feel you have this experience yet, but perhaps you have worked in a relevant sector and you could show your technical and commercial understanding.
  • Suitability for the programme – Think about the skills you might need to succeed in this programme. What is your experience that makes you suitable for the programme? Perhaps you will reflect on study or research skills that you have gained, or maybe you’ll need strong negotiation, communication or presentation skills which you gained through mooting or as a student representative? If you can show you were engaged with your undergraduate university’s community then this might be a good place to mention what you did.
  • Future plans – What are your career aspirations and how do you see the course furthering these?

Writing a personal statement

If they do not specify what to include in your personal statement, areas you might want to include are below. There is no set order of when to mention what but starting your personal statement with your most relevant point is advised.

Motivations

  • Why are you applying for the programme?
  • What do you hope to gain from the programme?
  • What is it that interests you about the subject? Can this be related to your previous education or work experience (see below)?
  • What are your career aspirations and how will this course help you achieve them?

Educational experience and commercial knowledge

  • Do you have past education that gives you the knowledge base you need for the course?
  • Is your undergraduate dissertation relevant? Tell the tutor about it and the research methods you used (especially if applying for a research masters).
  • Perhaps you like to keep up with current news in the sector you hope to go into. You could mention a topical issue and discuss how you see the course furthering your understanding.

Work experience

  • Have you gained work experience in a field relevant to the course or relevant to your career ambitions? Can you link this experience to your motivation to wanting to continue studying in this field?
  • Tell the tutor about this experience and reflect on how this could help with the course or use it as an example of your motivation for continued study in a related area.
  • If you are a mature student returning to study, why are you returning? Are you looking to make a career change? Why, and how, do you expect the course will support your new ambition?

Other experience

  • Include your extracurricular and voluntary experience too. Tutors want rounded people on their course; show that you engaged in university life during your undergraduate course or that you gained some relevant skills or experiences through volunteering.

Anything else

  • You can outline your main achievements, awards or successes in competitions. Think about the course you are applying for and if there is anything they might be particularly impressed by.
  • Mention relevant summer schools, overseas study or conferences/ short courses you might have attended that are related to the course.

Other circumstances

  • Deferred entry – if you would like to start the course the following year explain to the course tutor what you will be doing with the next year.

Final checks

  • Spelling and grammar – this will give the course tutor an idea as to your writing skills, so ensure there are no mistakes.
  • Abbreviations and acronyms – explain any you have used.
  • Content structure – ensure the paragraphs make sense and that the document flows well. Don’t repeat yourself by revisiting an experience or educational point.
  • Don’t write a narrative of your life, from leaving school to current day.
  • Be positive; don’t use negative language i.e. Although I have little experience of…
  • Adhere to the word count (where applicable) or if there isn’t one, keep your statement to two to three pages of A4.

If you are already a student at LSE and would like LSE Careers to check your personal statement before you submit it please make an appointment for a careers discussion on CareerHub. It is also advised that if your application is fairly technically subject specific that you get an academic to check the content for accuracy.

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