Careers Centre Applying for Postgraduate Study & Personal Statements The style of application you make will depend on the institution and type of course. It could be an application form, a CV or a fairly informal approach by letter. Find out what the individual department requires and do exactly what they say. The most common method is an application form. Personal statements are frequently required in applications for postgraduate study, in particular business courses, such as MBAs, but are also required for areas such as postgraduate teacher training. You are typically allowed about 1 page of A4 (250-500 words) to "sell yourself". Sometimes you will simply be asked to "provide evidence in support of your application" whereas sometimes the question will be much more prescriptive: "Describe briefly your reasons for wanting to teach giving the relevance of your previous education and experience, including teaching, visits to schools and work with other young people" PGCE - (teacher training) application form. Sometimes (as in the example given above), you will be given a very clear indication of what you should write, but in the absence of this, here are some guidelines. Don't use the same statement for all applications. Each statement will need a slightly different emphasis, depending on the university you are applying to. Make sure that you answer the questions asked in each statement. Research the university and course/research area. Find out what sets your choice apart from other universities. Use good English. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the crowd. Read your statement very carefully. Do your draft on a word-processor and spell and grammar check it, but also give it to a friend to read. Be clear and concise. Don't waffle! Show the ability to put the salient points across in a few words. Stay within prescribed word limits. Pay attention to presentation type the statement if your handwriting is at all poor. Be positive and enthusiastic – selectors will read many personal statements and you want yours to stand out. Royal Holloway is part of the Careers Group, University of London Give your statement a structure with an introduction, a main body and an end. The opening paragraph is important as it is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. The middle section might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. 1 When applying, your purpose is to demonstrate that you have the ability, motivation and skill-set that matches the requirements of the course. To put it more directly, you have to convince the admissions tutors that, if they take you on the course, you won’t do badly and you won’t drop out. To do this you will have to give them evidence that you have: the intellectual ability and academic background as well as the appropriate skills and qualities to be successful in your chosen programme of study — what you can offer the course the motivation to complete this particular course at this particular institution — what the course offers you Strong academic background If you are contemplating a research programme, you will normally be expected to have or be about to achieve an upper second or first class degree in a relevant subject. Your academic reference is crucial and you should talk to your tutor about your plans in advance to ensure their advice and support. On the application form you must demonstrate relevant academic skills and knowledge such as research methodologies used including use of statistical packages, specialist areas of study/projects undertaken and any publications produced. You will also be expected to give details of your proposed research, what you hope to achieve and how you will go about it. Taught programmes may occasionally be more flexible about your academic background, particularly if you have had good relevant professional work experience which indeed may be a key criterion (e.g. for MBAs and some journalism courses). In these cases you will need to show how the knowledge and skills gained in your professional life will contribute to your success on the programme and they will still want to be assured that you can cope with the academic study involved. The right skills and qualities It is important to study course information carefully, ideally talking to relevant academic staff, in order to identify which skills and qualities a particular programme requires so that you can give evidence of the correct skills profile. This includes any relevant professional skills and the transferable skills indicating that you will be able to study successfully and achieve employment afterwards, if appropriate. Research programmes will want to know that you are self-disciplined and self-motivated, able to work without heavy supervision and manage your time effectively. Research can be a lonely business and requires determination and patience as well as the ability to think critically and think laterally to solve problems. Vocational courses such as IT conversion courses, or professional training such as Law or Accountancy will value skills you have developed through work experience even if they are not directly course related. These might include the range of communication and presentational skills (e.g. gained from customer/client interaction) as well as organisational, time management and analytical and problemsolving skills. Motivation Postgraduate admissions staff will want to know what has led you to apply to their particular programme and institution. There could be many reasons for choosing a course, for example: pursuing a particularly strong interest in a subject gaining qualifications required to enter or progress in a chosen occupation converting to a new career area Show that you have researched your reasons thoughtfully and thoroughly. While subject interest is a perfectly legitimate reason for undertaking further study with no career aim in view, it is not generally 2 advisable to suggest that your main reason is to put off making a decision or just that your tutor thought it would be a good idea. Having a clear career direction that you have thought very carefully about and for which the course is a necessary stepping stone would give some reassurance that you will stick with the programme to the end. Read the course content thoroughly and give examples from projects, current study and/or experience how it meets your needs and interests. Reasons for institutional choice might include: academic reputation (research ratings, relevant research programmes, specialist course expertise, professional background of academic staff, etc.) industry and employer relevance (i.e. course is respected they often recruit from it) networks ( course has links with relevant industries or a good alumni network) sponsorship and bursaries (they offer money) location (relevance to field of study, e.g. London for media, finance) It is not a good idea to flatter without substantiation (this prestigious university…!) as there should always be hard evidence for your reasons, and naked flattery can look unappealingly sycophantic. Finally, when writing a covering letter or a personal statement try to encapsulate the three areas above concisely, referring back to the CV or application form and not duplicating them unless you want to highlight something of particular relevance. The art of the letter or statement is to pull everything together, why you want this course, why you want this institution and why you are a suitable candidate. The next step you hope will be an interview or the offer of a place. Checklist: Why do you want to do the course/research? Why this subject? Why this university? Are there specific academic staff you want to do research or study with? What academic skills have you got to offer? What personal skills can you offer? e.g. ability to work in a team, with little supervision.. What are your strengths? What is the relevance of your first degree to this study? What are your career aims? Do remember that this is only a guide – each institution may have different requirements so do read the documentation carefully before completing and sending off your application.