Applying for postgraduate courses is a different process to undergraduate. Individuals have to apply directly to each university they are interested in instead of applying through the UCAS website. This mostly holds advantages of not having to pay a fee for applying, but it does mean that you have to spend more time on each application and your postgraduate personal statement. If at any point a word or phrase jumps out at you in this article that you’re unfamiliar with, check out our university terms glossary and learn the definition right there!
Even though it will take up more time to apply individually for each course, it does offer several advantages. Firstly, you will be able to adjust your personal statement and application to cater for that institution. It will increase your chances of receiving an offer over having to write one sole statement and application for several universities. It also will ensure that you only apply to universities and degree courses that you have given serious thought, as you wouldn’t want to waste hours to apply for something you was not completely sure about.
The undergraduate personal statement will feature heavily on their studies up to further education level – mostly secondary school and sixth form or college. Students may also discuss their passions and why they find the subject interesting. Individuals at this level are limited as they haven’t truly expanded their knowledge within a subject or studied key themes.
Most postgraduate applications will be directly looked over by course leaders or lecturers from that course. The difference in the number of student admissions between undergraduate and postgraduate is tenfold. Postgraduate courses will have smaller classes, with some only featuring a handful of students and this is normal. But that can also translate to harder competition. There is a smaller number of available spaces, and even though fewer people apply, you still need to ensure your application stands out to receive an offer.
When it comes to writing the personal statement for your university application or your UCAS application, it is vital that you mostly draw from your undergraduate degree experience – and not anything previous unless it is completely relevant to do so. Universities won’t be interested in a project you completed during GCSE or A Level because that will indicate that it occurred several years ago, and imply you haven’t completed anything worth mentioning since. If it was an extraordinary event or project, or relates to something from your undergraduate degree that you do want to discuss then you can make it relevant. However, do try to avoid talking about irrelevant parts of previous education when applying for a postgraduate degree course.
There are several different areas regarding your undergraduate degree that you can discuss throughout your personal statement. You can talk about different projects and individual assignments that you either found easy, hard, interesting or eye-opening or any that are related to modules listed in the postgraduate course. Candidates can also draw from their dissertation, research project or practical project that they completed towards the end of their undergraduate degree. This project would have been a narrow and specialised project that required a lot of research and discipline, which is very much the core skills of surviving a postgraduate course.
During the three years at an undergraduate level, individuals would have become involved with societies, movements, marches, projects and extracurricular activities. Maybe you created a new society? Or maybe you attended regular talks set up by your university? If this is the case then do discuss this within your postgraduate personal statement, this will show course leaders that you have expanded your mind and activities through a number of ways. It displays a passion for the subject and for learning that you can’t gain from a textbook or a journal article.
Career aspirations are ever more prudent for postgraduate personal statements. Studying a Postgraduate Diploma, Certificate or Master’s degree course are not necessary for every job and career out there, but they tend to be studied to improve job prospects even further. Discuss the next steps you plan to take after this degree, and that can include studying a PhD or Doctorate or to enter research too. Discussing future plans will show that you take this degree seriously – and not just avoiding the fact that you have to be an adult and get a job.
Universities respect postgraduate students and their decisions, and this means that if you want to study that course due to a keen interest, career aspiration or as a stepping stone to another qualification, then you should state the reason.
Candidates should also spend time reading through the course specifications, how it is assessed, how long it is and what modules are included. At postgraduate level, it is extremely important that you are studying the right course. At this level they also tend to be more specialised and spending one or two intense years studying the wrong course will turn you insane!
Discussing the modules and specialist areas that the postgraduate degree course offers shows that admission tutors that you have researched this degree and feel sure of your decision. Although the UK government now offer UK students a postgraduate loan for tuition fees and maintenance costs, it is an extremely expensive price and you need to to know everything about student finance before you start university. Look at this decision as an investment in your career and academic excellence, instead of enjoying being a student a little too much.
The majority of postgraduate degree applicants do take their studies seriously and find that they enhance their employment prospects as well as specialise in an area that they are incredibly passionate about. The skills of writing and structuring a piece of text that you learned throughout your undergraduate degree course will only help you write an amazing personal statement for your application.
When writing your personal statement, there are plenty of personal statement examples to help you to gain inspiration, or you can even use a personal statement editor, which will keep you more in tune with what you’re doing and will track what you’re doing well.
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