How to Write a Master’s Personal Statement

A personal statement is a key part of your Master’s application and the first chance you get to sell yourself to your prospective university. However, unlike during the undergraduate admissions process, there isn’t a one-statement-fits-all approach and there’s often little support, so it can be hard to know where to start and what to include.

Whatever you’re struggling with, The Profs’ tutors understand there are many hurdles to surmount and, thankfully, know just how to help. Our postgraduate admissions experts created this guide to help you get the most out of your Master’s personal statement and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like more personalised support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today.

Do all Master’s courses require a personal statement?

Most Master’s courses require applicants to submit a personal statement. Some courses, for example London Business School’s Master’s in Management (MiM), require short-form answers to preset questions, rather than a personal statement. Other courses require a personal statement as well as answers to specific questions, such as Imperial College London, which asks 2-4 career questions to many of its Master’s applicants.

If you’re unsure if a personal statement is required, get in touch with your chosen university directly.

Joe’s tip: Make sure you do your research on the application process before starting to write your personal statement. You do not want to put hours into writing a personal statement for a university such as London Business School, only to find out there is no way to submit it.
In addition, if you know which types of additional questions will be asked, you can focus less on these elements in your personal statement, freeing up space for your other achievements. For example, knowing Imperial asks career questions means you can focus less on your future career in your statement and include more university-specific research and evidence of your academic capabilities. Students who are able to get the maximum out of each word count will have the edge over those who are not prepared.

How long should a Master’s personal statement be?

Unlike an undergraduate personal statement, which is capped by UCAS, each university can decide on their own word limit for Master’s personal statements. Usually, the word limit is around 500 words. However, some universities set a higher word count range, such as LSE, which usually specifies a 1,000-1,500 word count. Make sure you always check directly with the university if you’re unsure of the word count or any other element of the application process.

Joe’s tip: Some courses, such as LSE’s 2-year Global Master’s in Management, ask applicants to cover specific questions within their personal statement. If you do not do your research and follow these instructions, you are likely to be rejected immediately. To counter this, we recommend including these specific questions as bold subheadings in your personal statement to show the admissions team that you have done your research and followed their instructions to the letter – giving you an edge over those who have not made this clear.

What should you include in your Master’s personal statement?

Your Master’s personal statement should focus on why you want to study your chosen degree programme and your potential to excel on the course. It’s your first chance in your application to sell yourself to your chosen university and to demonstrate that you’re well-suited to your chosen course. Thus, it should include any information that demonstrates your academic suitability and passion for the subject area.

You should tailor your personal statement to suit the course you’re applying for. This means that exactly what you should include will largely depend on the course requirements and the specific criteria for entry. In general, though, you should look to answer the following questions at some point in your personal statement:

Joe’s tip: Though you’ve probably already written a personal statement for an undergraduate application before, don’t be tempted to use this as a template. The goal of your postgraduate personal statement is not too dissimilar to an undergraduate personal statement, however you will have progressed academically since then and your chosen universities will want to see your most up to date qualifications, skills and experience.
Also, make sure to be aware of cultural differences in application procedure if you’re an international student applying for a Master’s at a UK university. For example, while US universities place more emphasis on extracurricular activities and look for a more personal approach, UK universities tend to focus solely on you in relation to your chosen course.

1. What appeals to you specifically about the course you’re applying to?
2. Who are you and what are your motivations for applying?
3. How have you prepared to study at postgraduate level?
4. What relevant work experience do you have?
5. What relevant skills do you have?

1. What appeals to you specifically about the course you’re applying to?

It is important to research the specific Master’s course you’re applying for and discuss exactly why it appeals to you in your personal statement. University-specific research is often the most overlooked part of a postgraduate application and so it is a great way to stand out to universities.

Make sure you look at the course content carefully and cite specific modules that you are interested in taking. Go into detail about how they align with your wider motivations and long-term goals (either academic or career-based). You should also link these modules to any relevant research or coursework you have done in the past, and include technical language that shows you have a solid grasp of the topic. For example:

“I would like to enrol on Oxford’s Environmental Change and Management course because it aligns excellently with my long-term goal of working for an international climate change agency such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. For example, the Environmental Economics and Policy (ER456) module would allow me to build on my existing knowledge and interest in the global attitudes towards – and policy around – the climate crisis.”

Joe’s tip: Unlike when applying for undergraduate universities, when applying for Master’s courses, you have the option of writing multiple personal statements and tailoring each one to each university you apply for. This means that you can name-drop particular modules you are interested in and lecturers you are excited to learn from, showing you are a diligent student who has done their research.

2. Who are you and what are your motivations for applying?

The university admissions team will first want to know your motivations for applying to your chosen course. It’s all well and good to be interested in the subject area, but having a more specific purpose or goal in mind will show the university that you are committed to pursuing the topic in the long-term.

For example, perhaps you have a particular career goal and this course will help you achieve it. If so, how will it help and what specifically do you hope to gain from the course? Maybe you have been inspired by a particular event related to your chosen course and want to enact real-world change. If so, tell the university how pursuing this course will help you do this. For example:

“I believe that the UK needs to rethink its stance on tackling addiction. The Addiction Commission (AC) reports that youth addiction is up 104% on five years ago and that “urgent action is required to prevent a generation succumbing to the associated social costs of addiction”. I am applying to KCL’s MSc Public Health to learn how I might one day be able to start a national conversation that needs to be had, and reduce the stigma and other social barriers so that patients can more easily access the mental health support they need.”

Joe’s tip: A recurring ‘theme’ can elevate a statement into something powerful. The above exemplar introduces the theme of addiction. Ideally, the applicant will now expand on this theme, tying in their work experience, linking any readings they have on successful health policies to tackle additions, and relating the modules at KCL to their mission of reducing the stigma around addiction.
A binding theme can help the reader to understand your motivations and tie what you want to learn on the course with what you wish to achieve in your career. Finding a powerful theme that ties together your experiences, motivations and aspirations can greatly help you to stand out from other applicants.

3. How have you prepared to study your subject at postgraduate level?

When applying for a postgraduate degree programme, you need to outline exactly why you are well-suited to the course. Universities will know what you have studied as it will be outlined in your grade transcript, so don’t be too vague. It’s best to talk about specific modules or topics you covered in your undergraduate studies – and beyond – that have prepared you for specific modules on your chosen Master’s course.

You should focus on discussing any independent work you have completed, both during your undergraduate studies (such as a dissertation or independent research project) or, ideally, studying and reading you have done outside of your degree. This will help to demonstrate your commitment to the subject and your ability to work independently – a highly important skill at postgraduate level.

Joe’s tip: If you have any gaps in your education history, make sure you address these in your postgraduate personal statement. Your university will be keen to know that your postgraduate degree is not just a back-up, but that you are serious and committed, and that it is part of your academic or career plan.

4. What relevant work experience do you have?

Including your work experience in your personal statement helps to further demonstrate your genuine interest and real-world understanding of your chosen course. It is particularly important in a postgraduate personal statement because it shows proactivity and dedication to your future academic or professional career – something that your chosen university will be looking for closely.

Rather than simply listing the relevant work experience you have, make sure you show a degree of introspection. Tell your chosen university not only what you did on your placement, but what you learnt from it and how you intend to apply that experience in order to excel in your postgraduate-level studies.

In this example, a student applying for MSc Risk Management and Financial Engineering at Imperial describes what her work experience placement involved and how she intends to build on her existing skills to achieve her career goals:

“During my time interning at J.P. Morgan, I acted as an advisor to business and group heads and gained experience in identifying, escalating and mitigating business risks and optimising business performance by driving key initiatives. I intend to build upon my existing knowledge of fundamental finance theories and models as well as gaining experience in a range of programming tools to develop live implementations of financial models, with a view to use these implementations in practice in preparation for a career in risk management.”

Joe’s tip: Though it’s important to include it if you have it, don’t worry if you are lacking in professional work experience. If you are missing experience then simply fill the space with further educational experience and skills that prove you are well-suited to your chosen Master’s course.

5. What relevant skills do you have?

Throughout your Master’s personal statement, it’s important to highlight relevant skills you have that will enable you to make an impact in the department you’ll be a part of. These skills should not be listed, but evidenced through work experience and other achievements. If possible, you should also include figures that show your soft skills had a real impact. See the examples below for some ideas:

  • If you are applying for a Finance course, think about what online software you have experience with and how have you utilised this to the benefit of your development.
  • If you are applying for a Marketing course, what evidence do you have that you would make a successful marketer? (e.g. “During my internship at Social Chain, my innovative approach to email marketing led to a 30% increase in subscriptions to our online newsletter.)
  • If you are applying for a Master’s in Statistics, think of examples where you have used your data analysis skills to solve real world problems.
  • If you are applying for a Master’s in Law, how have you furthered your debating and communication skills outside of your degree? For example, were you part of a debating society or did you gain direct experience in a courtroom?

6. What is your 5-year plan?

Postgraduate admissions teams will be looking for applicants who are driven and committed to their industry. A strong personal statement will outline an applicant’s goals for the future and explain how studying on their chosen course will help them to achieve their 5-year plan.

If you don’t have a 5-year plan, you’re not alone! Start by thinking specifically about what you hope to achieve by the end of your postgraduate study, whether educationally or professionally. If you have professional objectives – and these aren’t asked by the university as separate questions – explain how this course will help you move towards your career goal.

Joe’s tip: Coming up with a 5-year plan may seem like a daunting task, but remember that plans can always change. The 5-year plan you outline in your personal statement does not have to be set in stone and it is expected that you will inevitably adapt your plans based on your changing circumstances and interests. However, no matter how daunted you are, never be tempted to leave this part out of your postgraduate personal statement – it is invaluable for demonstrating your motivation and commitment to the course.
If you’re not sure of your career path and don’t know where to start, try getting on LinkedIn and searching for people with the job title that you would like to have in 5 years’ time. Then, work backwards on their CV and see how they have worked their way up to that position. If you reach out to them with a message, they might even be kind enough to give you a short mentoring call to help you out – which you can then mention in your statement!

How should you structure your Master’s personal statement?

There’s no one way to structure a Master’s personal statement – as long as you have covered all of the key areas above, you will already have the ingredients of a strong statement. However, you may only have around 500 words in which to include all of this information, so it is important to think about the structure.

Based on the experience of our postgraduate admissions experts, we’ve put together a template for how to structure your personal statement:

Introduction

Start with a short, eye-catching and interesting (but not cliché) introduction. Talk about your motivations for studying the course and, if relevant, include a powerful ‘mission statement’ on what you hope to achieve.

The introduction should act as a framework for the rest of your statement, with the main body of your statement going into more detail about your interests, experience and knowledge. For example:

“Whilst the UK’s financial services sector is currently booming with innovation and technological development, the professional services sector of Malta – my home country – is suffering from a decade-long decline. I want to learn management theories from world-leading lecturers, such as LSE’s Dr. Samantha Carr, whose research into the revitalisation of hospitality in Southern Spain may be the key to breathing life into Malta’s third sector. I am applying to LSE’s Public Policy so that I can return to my current role within Malta’s Department for Employment to help reverse the current decline.”

Joe’s tip: Your introduction should be no more than four sentences long and as succinct as possible. You may wish to include a quote or, better still, facts and figures to back up your mission statement. If you’re stuck, try to simply begin with the line, “I am applying to [insert university and course] in order to [insert career goal].”

Main body

The main body is where you discuss your university-specific course research, work experience, academic experience and wider reading in greater detail. These sections can go in any order you like – just make sure each paragraph follows on logically from the previous paragraph and that there is a clear direction to your overall statement.

As you will be limited to a word count (usually around 500 words), it’s also best to keep each sentence precise. Aim to ensure that every sentence tells the university in some way why you would be a great fit for the course you’re applying for.

Here are some further tips for structuring your main body:

  • If it helps you to structure your personal statement in a clear way, you can use headings to break up the content – for example, ‘Why this university?’, ‘Personal experience’ and ‘Career aspirations’.
  • Always back up claims with evidence. Remember that your personal statement is not just about telling the university why you want to study there, but also proving what makes you the best candidate for a place on their course.
  • Strive for depth rather than breadth. Rather than trying to include every topic and module that interests you, perhaps think about one or two key themes or ideas and provide detail and examples around those.

Conclusion

Finish your personal statement with a summary of points you have raised throughout your introduction and main body. Focus particularly on how the skills and experience you have mentioned would make you a great fit and how this particular course will help you to achieve your 5-year plan. For example:

“Studying Cambridge’s MPhil in Finance would provide me with the best experience and skill set for a career in leveraged finance. I endeavour to apply my quantitative skills to further my knowledge about valuation, financing and leveraged buyouts whilst developing a broader understanding of finance, especially with the available corporate finance modules. I hope to explore all that Cambridge’s MPhil Finance course offers and ultimately pursue my goal of a career in leveraged finance. Thank you for taking the time to consider my application.”

Joe’s tip: Your personal statement should not end abruptly. A summary of the key points you have covered is a good way of reminding the reader of all of the things that are great about you and leave them remembering the most important parts of your application.

How can you get help?

Your personal statement is an important part of your postgraduate application, so it’s a good idea to get professional help to make it as compelling as possible. Our personal statement tutors can help you by:

  • Giving a statement of review on your personal statement
    Once you’re in touch with one of our Master’s personal statement tutors, you can submit a draft for review. Based on many years of experience helping students refine their personal statements and get into top universities, our experts will provide detailed feedback with action points advising you on how to improve it. Nobody, not even a tutor, is allowed to make direct changes to your personal statement, and it is ultimately up to you what you write and whether you make changes based on any feedback you receive.
  • Giving a strengths and weaknesses assessment
    Knowing how to stand out from the crowd can be difficult. Unless, that is, you are a professional applications tutor with years of experience doing just that! Our expert tutors can interview you and help you to paint the strongest possible picture of yourself. Knowing how to highlight your strengths, and address your weaknesses is often the difference between an offer and a rejection.
  • Recommending templates and structures
    Whilst every statement should be unique, there are common templates which can help you greatly speed up the drafting process, avoid common pitfalls, and improve the impact of your statement. Get in touch with us to learn more about how to best showcase your strengths and make sure that you tick all the boxes that the admissions staff are looking for.
  • Proofreading for grammar
    Though it might seem obvious, proofreading for grammar before you submit your personal statement is critical to your application’s success. Grammatical mistakes – even small ones – could detract from the contents of your personal statement and prevent assessors from focusing on your experience and academic potential. Use a document that has a spelling and grammar checker incorporated in it to avoid mistakes, and always ask a tutor, friend or family member to read over it to check for errors.
  • Helping you sell your skills and academic profile
    A great postgraduate personal statement relies on great skills, experience and qualifications. If you’re applying for a postgraduate course, it’s likely you already have all of this, but it can be hard to put it onto paper. Our tutors can advise you on how to write about your key selling points in a way that appeals to the university you’re applying to.
  • Wider application support
    Our team can also help you with your wider postgraduate application, including improving your grades (if you are in the final year of an undergraduate course) and preparing for the different types of postgraduate interviews. Get in touch with us to start your admissions tutoring today.