How do I Write a Postgraduate Personal Statement?

Jane Lapham

Writing a postgraduate personal statement requires careful planning, hard work, and a willingness to revise and rewrite after seeking feedback from peers and advisers. This statement is your opportunity to present yourself as a unique individual rather than a flat set of test scores and grades. Follow all directions provided for each school you are applying to, and be sure to remain within the page or word count limit. Revealing details about yourself that show you are a dedicated, hardworking and organized individual will gain points among admissions officers, who are looking to accept students that will survive and thrive in the program.

Libraries are a good resource for examples of postgraduate personal statements.
Libraries are a good resource for examples of postgraduate personal statements.

Many graduate school applicants may forget how important it is to follow directions when writing a personal statement. Each school you apply to will provide a writing prompt and guidelines. Answer the prompt fully and follow all guidelines, including page or word count limit. Although some graduate school hopefuls believe that one personal statement can fit the application for several graduate programs, the best personal statements are tailored to each specific school.

Admissions officers want to know that you are passionate about the field you plan to study. Disclosing details about yourself that reveal an organized and hard-working nature will show that you are the type of student who can survive a graduate program. It is also helpful to show that you have already taken steps toward your chosen career. Any volunteer or work experience that ties to the field you plan to study should be discussed in the postgraduate personal statement.

Writing a good personal statement requires time and multiple revisions. It is useful to find at least three friends or academic associates willing to read and provide feedback on your personal statement. You must make the final decision with respect to which advice you will use in your postgraduate personal statement and which you will ignore. Keep an open mind, consider all feedback received, and remain true to yourself in your final product.

Your personal statement will serve as just one piece in a graduate school application packet that includes many items. Test scores and grade point averages tell admissions officers what type of student you are. The personal statement is your opportunity to tell them why you want to study at the postgraduate level, and what you can bring to the field. Rather than using big, impressive words, use precise words and concise phrasing to convey a true idea of who you are as an individual. A short, powerful essay will score more points than a flowery, descriptive one.

Try your local library for additional advice on writing your postgraduate personal statement: Read examples of essays written by others if possible. For some, the postgraduate personal statement will be the deciding factor in a graduate school application. With time, hard work, and a willingness to revise before finalizing your essay, you can write a personal statement that will serve as the first step in a successful graduate school journey.

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