Postgraduate Application Forms and Personal Statements
- There are books on application forms and personal statements available at the Careers Service, as well as booklets and journals to take away. You can search for what you need via the Careers Catalogue.
- Bring your form and personal statement, and make an appointment with a Careers Adviser.
- University of Bristol Careers Service sample personal statement
- Examples of personal statements from other HE Careers Services:
Postgraduate application forms are often poorly designed and give insufficient instructions as to how they should be completed – the forms are often designed around a ‘one size fits all’ template, with little scope for allowing you to include non standard qualifications and achievements.
However, the same basic principle applies as when you are completing employer application forms – you need to think about the recruiter’s needs and sell the benefits that you can offer. In this case, the recruiter is the postgraduate admissions tutor, PhD Supervisor or course director. There may only be a limited number of places on the course and competition can be fierce. Admissions tutors will be looking for candidates who have good academic potential, who are motivated and have researched the course and can outline clearly why they want to undertake this course of study. You may want to continue your undergraduate studies as you have a strong interest in the subject, or you may be pursuing a course which will help you enter a particular career area or there may be a combination of reasons. You need to provide EVIDENCE of your suitability and what you have done to research this subject.
Think carefully about the structure of the application. It needs a thoughtful, interest-grabbing introduction, a main body explaining why you have chosen this course, research topic, or university, and an end.
- eg. Is the programme noted for any speciality? How did you find out about the course? What have you read about the field? Who have you spoken to about it? Are there specific academic staff you would like to study or research with? Are there any particular modules that interest you?
- Convey your enthusiasm and motivation for study/research. Refer to relevant projects and dissertations and any prizes you have won. Mention the relevance of your first degree. Refer to any personal and academic skills you can offer and where you gained them eg work experience, clubs and societies, positions of responsibility.
- As with any application always check spelling and grammar. Get someone else to look over the draft before you send it. Be concise and keep to any word limit.
Golden rules for completing postgraduate application forms:
- Make sure that you have thoroughly researched the course for which you are applying and can express why you are interested in studying that course at that institution.
- Check if there are any deadlines for submitting your application. Many taught postgraduate courses do not have a closing date for applications, although you will find that popular courses fill their places quickly so it is worth submitting an early application in this case. Some courses may have closing dates (eg. 1 December for primary PGCE courses to ensure that your preferred course provider will consider you).
- Think about who you will ask to be your academic referee – it doesn’t need to be your tutor, but should be an academic who can comment on the quality of your work and your academic ability. Try and give them an outline of the courses that you are applying for and why you are interested in pursuing further study as this will help them to write a better reference.
- Ensure that you have completed all the sections of the form and carried out any additional instructions – eg. sending transcripts of undergraduate course content if required, or proof of existing qualifications, obtaining references etc.
- For the personal statements on PGCE application forms, admissions tutors are looking for your motivation to teach and evidence that you have gained experience in working with young people and what you have observed from this. You need to demonstrate a knowledge of current educational and classroom issues as well as relevant subject knowledge and be able to comment on the challenges of teaching, as well as the rewards.
- For PhD applications, you should demonstrate a keen interest in your intended research area and provide evidence of why your subject background and experience are relevant. PhD students need to be motivated, good at problem-solving and should be organised and able to manage their time effectively so provide evidence of how you have these skills. Strong academic references are important, so think about these carefully before you submit your application.