The personal statement is arguably the trickiest part of the postgraduate application process, and it's essential that you get it right
This is your first real chance to sell yourself to the university. It should be unique to you and tailored to the course that you're applying to. You should use it to show off your skills, academic ability and enthusiasm, and demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.
How long should my personal statement be?
Usually, it should be one side of A4, equating to around 300-500 words. Some universities require more though, so check the guidelines.
What should I include?
You should discuss 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 goals - consider your short-term course aims and long-term career ambitions, relating the two.
- your preparation - address how undergraduate study has prepared you, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topic interests.
- your skillset - you should highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended
How do I write a good personal statement?
Give yourself plenty of time to complete your personal statement. 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.
You should structure your personal statement so that it has a clear introduction, main body and conclusion. Capture the reader's attention with enthusiasm and personality at the outset, before going into more detail about your skills, knowledge and experience. Around half of the main body should focus on you and your interests, and the other half on the course. Finally, summarise why you're the ideal candidate.
Be sure to 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 things, 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.
Continue drafting and redrafting your statement until you're happy, then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Your spelling and grammar must be perfect, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.
What do admissions tutors look 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.
What do I need to avoid?
- be negative
- follow an online template
- include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extracurricular activities
- include other people's quotes
- lie or exaggerate
- make pleading statements
- namedrop key authors without explanation
- needlessly flatter the organisation that you're applying to
- repeat information found in your application
- use clichés, gimmicks, humour or Americanisms
- use overly long sentences
- use the same statement for each application
- use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
Example personal statements
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:
LPC 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.
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Written by Editor
Prospects · June 2016
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Ah, personal statement. You remember the embarrassment of having to talk about how incredibly passionate you are about law (law is my life, honestly!) from your undergraduate application; you might have even written another personal statement for your GDL if you converted from a non-law degree. Well, open up a new Word document, it's time to do it again for the LPC.
What are the requirements of an LPC personal statement?
Before we get into the kinds of things you could write in your statement, here is what you'll need to remember. You can write up to 10,000 characters, which works out at about 1500–2000 words. This is a lot more than you were allowed when you were applying for your undergraduate degree, but don't think this makes it easier! You have significantly more you'll need to discuss, and you'll need to avoid rambling off about something irrelevant. Which brings us to:
What do I need to say in my LPC personal statement?
Well, you can really say what you want. But your law school probably isn't going to be interested in your creative writing attempts. Here is a handy list of things you should probably cover:
- Why you are applying for the LPC
- What interests you about the course
- What motivates you
- Where you see your future career heading
- Your skills, achievements and hobbies
- Your work experience.
In more detail, you need to discuss why you have decided to become a solicitor instead of a barrister – and you definitely shouldn't say it's because pupillages are more competitive than training contracts.
Why you are applying for the LPC
It'll be worth talking about a specific area of law you're interested in– remember all those core modules from your LLB or GDL? If you don't have a preferred area yet, don't worry. You can talk about different aspects of a few, or even pretend to be more enthusiastic about one area than you really are... All they're looking for is evidence that you're interested and knowledgeable.
The contents of the LPC don't vary much from provider to provider, so anything you say about the course itself will apply to all three of your choices. However certain law school will specialise in certain areas of law, so it's probably good to discuss these and explain your reasoning for choosing these institutions.
Mentioning a specific aspect of law and explaining that you intend to go into this area in your career also shows your provider that you're thinking seriously about your long-terms plans for the future. Everyone applying for the LPC knows they want to be a lawyer, but by proving that you have a specific direction you'll set yourself apart from candidates who are just happy to take any legal career path.
Why you are the best LPC candidate
You've shown why you want to do the LPC at their institution, but now you need to show why they should want you. If you've got to this point in your legal career, chances are you'll have a lot of achievements and skills you can list. You don't need to list every hobby or prize you've ever got: your certificate for best spelling test results in year 3 won't help you on the LPC.
Make sure everything you're writing can be related to your future career as a lawyer. That doesn't mean you can only write about any legal work experience or your involvement with the law society at university, though you should definitely mention this at length. If you were the president of the Chess society, you can explain how this improved your leadership and team management skills.
You should also mention any academic achievements you may have; an award for being the best student in your year would be ideal, but you could also mention any particularly impressive exam results – as long as they relate to an area of law you're interested in.
The structure of your LPC personal statement
Although you have 10,000 characters, you don't have to use them all. It's better to be concise than ramble on, and succinctness is a valuable skill for lawyers to have.
It's best to write your statement out in full sentences and don't use bullet points. It should go without saying that your grammar, spelling and punctuation need to be perfect, so get a friend or family member to proofread it.