Personal statements

Personal statements

Some applications have a ‘Personal Statement’ or ‘Additional Information’ section. It's the key section on this type of application form and will take the most amount of time to complete.

Before you start writing your statement, make sure you have read the section 'Demonstrate you meet the criteria'.

  • Think carefully before you write anything. Decide what you need to include based on your key selling points.
  • Structure your statement by relating it to the Person Specification. If there isn’t a formal job specification available, then write it against the competencies that they say they are looking for.
  • If you are writing a personal statement for a course, look carefully at the course description and entry requirements.
  • Start with a strong opening paragraph to grab the attention of the recruiter. Try to be original in what you write throughout your statement and make sure that it is relevant.
  • Be clear in what you write so the recruiter / academic tutor does not have to hunt around for your skills /qualifications or experiences. Make it easy for them to see that you have what they are looking for. Consider using sub-headings and bullet points to help.
  • Do not miss things out. Try to address all the essential requirements.
  • Write concisely. Don’t make the statement too long with superfluous detail, but neither should it be too short. There should be enough to ‘sell’ yourself, without boring them. Stick to a word count if there is one.
  • Make sure you check spelling and grammar - recruiters will be reviewing your writing ability. Set your spell checker to UK English if you are applying for jobs in the UK.
  • Get a second opinion on your statement. Ask friends or family, and ideally someone knowledgeable about the role or course you are applying to.

Personal statements for jobs

Here are some tips

Create sections using sub-headings derived from those in the person specification. Include all the information asked for. If you are not given specific instructions about content, you should aim to include the following:

Why you’ve decided to apply for the job

Describe what motivates you and attracts you about the job. Show that you have a realistic understanding of what is involved and can draw parallels with positive experiences you have already had, even if these have been in different settings.

Why this organisation?

Say why you want to work for this particular organisation, for example, this might be related to its clients, values, reputation or staff development policy. Draw on the research you have done in preparing to apply and don’t just make it up! Be honest about your reasons (although don’t just say that the salary appeals!).

Make the match against the person specification or job description

Make it easy for the recruiter to read, so state clearly and provide evidence of how you match the essential and if possible the desirable criteria within the person specification or job description. For example, if the person specification states 'must have the ability to prioritise and manage a busy workload', describe in detail how you have developed this skill and provide evidence from your course, work experience or interests.

This is the opportunity for you to demonstrate your relevant skills, attributes and specific knowledge, so make sure you sell yourself.

Things you haven’t had chance to tell them about in other parts of the form

You might also use this section to set out experiences that you feel are of ‘secondary’ importance, i.e. things that are still relevant but which you haven’t written about elsewhere in the form. For example, you might write about interests, leisure pursuits or volunteering that are not directly relevant to the job but where you have developed some pertinent transferable skills.

End with a closing paragraph

Try to end on a high note with a positive concluding statement. You could reiterate your motivation and commitment or, if you have one, provide a relevant and memorable fact about yourself.


Personal statements for study or research

Match against the course specification

State clearly with evidence how you match the course specification, using the information you have gathered as part of preparing to apply. Consider whether you want to divide your statement into sections with sub-headings.

If you are not given specific instructions about content, you should aim to include the following:

Introduce yourself and your reasons for applying

Admissions tutors won’t have long to read your statement so start with a strong opening paragraph to grab their attention. Try to be original in what you write throughout your statement and make sure that it is relevant to the PG study to which you are applying.

Why this course?

Show you have investigated details about the course/research by saying what attracts you to it. For example, comment on particular modules or experiences the course offers? Explain how you became interested in this subject, and what you have learnt about it through your education and experience.

Write about your studies to date, including any relevant projects, essays or presentations. Use this section to demonstrate study skills, research skills and/or transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving or others that are necessary for the course. If applying for postgraduate research, include details of any papers you have written.

If you are applying for a course to a number of institutions through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), don’t name them in your statement or describe why you would like to study at one in particular. Instead, state what appeals to you about the subject or field you're applying to.

Why this institution?

If your application is to an individual institution, show that you have investigated details about the programme and department. For example, is the programme noted for a specialism, or highly regarded for its training? You can also state why you wish to study at this particular institution.

  • Does it have a reputation in your field?
  • Is the mode of study appealing?
  • Are there specific academics or research staff you wish to work with?
  • Are there other reasons for choosing this institution?

Your career / academic goals

Outline your aims and specific goals, showing how you think the course will help you achieve these. This helps you demonstrate your commitment to succeed in your studies. Ensure your goals are realistic and relevant.

Work experience

For vocational courses, you may be expected to have already undertaken a period of directly relevant work experience. Provide details, including what you have learnt and how you feel you have developed as a result. Even if you don’t need specific prior experience, think about the recent work experience you have done including part-time, temporary jobs, volunteering, work shadowing, membership of clubs/societies, etc. What skills have you developed as a result that would be relevant to your application?

Things not covered elsewhere in the form

You might also use the personal statement to set out experiences you feel are of ‘secondary’ importance ie, things that are still relevant but which you haven’t written about earlier. For example, you might write about interests, leisure pursuits or volunteering where you have developed pertinent transferable skills and show that you get involved in university life outside your studies.

Finally

Try to end on a high note with a positive concluding statement. You could re-iterate your motivation and commitment or, if you have one, provide a relevant and memorable fact about yourself. It is vital that your writing is impressive.


Research proposals

If you are asked to submit a research proposal, check what is required with the institution. Below are the components which should be addressed in any research proposal (the specific research problem will dictate other sections that are required).

  • A working title of the topic area / research problem
  • General overview of the research area / problem - include a brief abstract of the general area of research you would like to investigate, identifying the discipline(s) within which it falls
  • Research objectives - state what you would seek to achieve by your research.
  • Rationale - convince the reader that the research is worth doing by describing how the results may be used
  • Identification of the relevant literature - demonstrate that you are aware of the debates and issues raised in relevant bodies of literature
  • Methodology / strategy - given your objectives, explain the methods you would use to achieve them – reading, reviewing, designing experiments or questionnaires, data collection, analysis and interpretation
  • Timescale/research planning - demonstrate an awareness of the need for planning and the timescale of the research
  • Bibliography - include a short list of references to key articles and texts. Use an acceptable referencing format

Aim to produce a professional looking proposal, which is easy to read. Include a contents page and use clear headings and sub-headings. Try to write a logical, flowing piece. Check your spelling and grammar. Ask a friend or family member to proof-read it for you.