You have a bright future ahead of you in academia and you’ve already found the program of your dreams.
The only problem?
You have to write an impressive academic personal statement that sets you apart from a sea of applicants.
We know that writing about yourself might not come naturally. And when the academic program you have your sights set on is on the line, it doesn’t make it any easier.
But there’s no need to worry!
We’ve prepared this guide to help you write your academic personal statement and secure your spot in your program of choice.
In this article, we’re going to cover:
- What Is An Academic Personal Statement?
- 7 Steps to Writing the Best Academic Personal Statement
- An Example of a Stellar Academic Personal Statement
Let’s dive in.
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What Is an Academic Personal Statement?
A personal statement is an essential part of the academic application process.
Much like a motivation letter, your academic personal statement serves to demonstrate why you’re the right candidate for the course and sell yourself as a capable student.
Your goal is to show the admissions committee that they’ll benefit from having you in their university as much as you’ll benefit from joining the program.
Academic Vs CV Personal Statement
The term ‘personal statement’ can mean different things depending on your field.
In the world of job hunting, a personal statement usually refers to a few sentences that go at the top of your CV. This paragraph is meant to convey your top skills, relevant experiences, and professional goals to a hiring manager from the get-go and increase your chances of getting an interview.
However, in the world of academia, a personal statement refers to a more in-depth description of you as a candidate.
In a nutshell, an academic personal statement shows the admissions committee your academic achievements so far, as well as what motivated you to apply and pursue this position.
Personal statements are also often required when applying for certain jobs, much like writing a cover letter. If you’re looking at a position as a faculty member in a university or other academic institution, for example, you might be asked to provide an academic personal statement.
7 Steps to Write an Academic Personal Statement
Preparation is the key to success and this is exactly where our guide comes in handy.
So just follow these steps and you’re sure to secure your spot:
#1. Read the Brief (Carefully!)
Academic personal statements aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all piece of writing.
Typically, every institution has its specific requirements on what candidates should include in their academic personal statement.
To make sure you’re on the right track with your academic personal statement, read the brief carefully. Consider taking notes and highlighting important points from your program’s brief as you go through it.
Pay attention to any specific question the university wants you to answer. If you don’t address everything the admissions board expects, your personal statement will look sloppy and you’ll be considered an inattentive candidate.
Be sure to re-read the brief after you’ve finished writing your academic personal statement, too. This way you can make sure you’ve answered everything adequately and you’ll have the opportunity to correct any slips.
#2. Research the Program
Make sure you do your homework on the academic program you’re applying to.
You can’t write a good academic personal statement without research, let alone a great one. Much like researching your employer, taking the time to learn more about your desired school and personalizing your application can make a huge difference.
For example, you can dive into how your values align with that of the school you’re applying to, and how your experience and interests relate to specific things about the program. The more you focus on how you’re the right fit for this specific position, in this specific program – the better.
Carefully read through the school and program’s official pages since everything you would need to know is probably on the school’s official website. You can also ask current and former students for help but remember that whatever they say should never replace official information when crafting your academic personal statement.
#3. Plan Your Statement
An academic personal statement is meant to explain your academic interests and shouldn’t contain irrelevant details about your personal life.
Focus on why you want to study the course you’ve chosen and provide any information about your achievements so far.
Ask yourself the following questions to get the ball rolling on what to write:
- Why do you want to study (or work) in this program? How will it benefit you?
- How do your skills match the position?
- What makes you stand out from other applicants?
- What are your exact career aspirations?
- How can you and your work benefit the institution you’re applying to?
- If you changed fields, how did you decide to apply in this direction?
- What insight can you bring thanks to your different experiences?
- How will this change of field help your future career?
Write down your answer to these questions in the first draft of your academic personal statement.
#4. Look at Example Statements
Don’t hesitate to read other people’s academic personal statements online. They’re a great source of inspiration and can help get rid of any remaining writer’s block.
If you’re struggling to understand how to meet the language and formatting requirements for your academic personal statement, seeing actual examples is the best way to learn.
But be careful – don’t copy any lines you read, no matter how impressive you think they are.
Most universities run every academic personal statement through intensive plagiarism checking, and even a paraphrased sentence could lead to your application being rejected for plagiarism.
So pay more attention to the overall structure of the academic personal statements you read, rather than copying the exact wording.
#5. Structure the Contents
There should be a cohesive argument that your entire essay follows. Each sentence and paragraph should complement and build on the one that comes before it.
The structure of your personal statement should include:
An intriguing introduction to you as a candidate
The introductory paragraph should grab the admission committee’s attention and keep them engaged.
Here you should be sure to avoid cliches like saying how you’ve “always dreamt” of graduating from this university or of studying this exact program. Instead, give an example of what really influenced you to pursue this dream.
Here’s an example:
- I’ve always loved reading and since I was a child, it’s been my dream to graduate from Oxford University and contribute to the world of literary analysis. That’s why I spent the past year volunteering at my local writers’ society and giving constructive feedback during workshops and book discussions.
- It wasn’t until I failed my first essay assignment in secondary school that I realized the depth that lies beneath each sentence in a given text. I began to delve into the rich layers of literary texts and the intricacies of literary analysis became my passion. Although initially challenging, the depth of understanding that this field offers about human emotions, cultural contexts, and narrative structures enthralled me. I found myself questioning the narrative structures and character motivations that I had previously taken for granted, and I was eager to understand how the subtle and often overlooked elements within a text could have a profound impact on its overall interpretation. This need to fundamentally understand a given author’s work has stayed with me since and led me to pursue literary analysis as a postgraduate student.
An engaging body
The main part of your academic personal statement should detail your interests, experience, and knowledge, and how they make you suitable for the position.
This is where you should expand on your motivation and use the following tips:
- Why this university? Provide strong reasons for your choice, related to your future career or the institution’s reputation.
- Mention your relevant studies and experience. This includes projects, dissertations, essays, or work experience.
- Give evidence of key skills you have, such as research, critical thinking, communication, and time management, and explain how you can contribute to the department with them.
- Say what makes you unique as a candidate and provide an example.
- Explain who have been the main influences who put you on this path and why they’ve influenced you.
- Mention other relevant experiences, such as memberships in clubs related to the subject, awards you might have won, or impressive papers you’ve written.
- Talk about your career aspirations and how the program ties into your goal of achieving them.
Depending on the guidelines of the specific university, you could also divide your academic personal statement’s body with subheadings, such as:
- Academic background
- Research interests
- Methodological approaches
- Research experience
- Personal experience
- Extracurricular activities
- Relevant skills
- Career aspirations
A logical conclusion
Your academic personal statement needs a conclusion that ends on an enthusiastic note.
Make sure the conclusion reiterates the main points from the body of your text.
Your relevant accomplishments and desire to attend this specific program should be clear to any reader.
#6. Pay Attention to the Language
When writing the first draft of your academic personal statement, pay attention to the language and tone you’re using.
An academic personal statement is also a formal text, so your writing should reflect that. Colloquialisms aren’t appropriate, as they would take away from the well-mannered impression you want to give the admissions committee.
However, you also want your personal statement to be straightforward and avoid any complex jargon from your field of study.
For example, your opening sentence shouldn’t be overly complicated. You should communicate everything as clearly as possible, and be inclusive to those outside of your field of study since they might be on the admissions board that’s reading your academic personal statement.
Make sure that the tone throughout your text is positive and conveys your enthusiasm for the program. Your academic personal statement should show the admissions committee that you really want to be there, and why that’s beneficial to everyone involved.
#7. Proofread Your Statement
This step probably isn’t surprising to you but it’s worth paying attention to.
Your academic personal statement is a very formal document and it should be spotless.
So, make sure it adheres to academic writing conventions. For example, contractions like “I’m” instead of “I am” are informal, and should be avoided.
Mistakes like these are very common when writing about yourself, particularly when you’re used to describing yourself in informal environments.
Carefully proofread your academic personal statement, then run it through a grammar checker like Grammarly or Quillbot, then proofread it again.
The tiniest grammar mistake or typo could make the admissions board reject your application.
Academic Personal Statement Example
Ever since my first encounter with the enchanting worlds spun by Flaubert, Balzac, and Proust, my intellectual pursuits have gravitated toward French literature. With an undergraduate degree focused on French Language and Literature, I have been fortunate to explore my passions both theoretically and empirically, embedding them within broader themes of cultural theory and comparative literature. It is with great excitement that I apply for the postgraduate research position in the French Literature program at Kent University, with the aim of contributing novel scholarly perspectives to this captivating field.
Academic Background and Research Interests
During my undergraduate studies, I delved deeply into the realms of 19th-century Realism and Naturalism. My senior thesis, which examined the dialectics of morality and social structures in Balzac's "La Comédie Humaine," was not merely an academic exercise; it served as a crucible where my theoretical understandings were rigorously tested. This research experience intensified my interest in the complex interplay between literature and societal norms, a theme I am eager to further explore in my postgraduate work.
My academic approach is fundamentally interdisciplinary. I strongly believe that literature should not be studied in a vacuum; rather, it should be contextualized within historical, sociological, and psychological paradigms. During a semester abroad in Paris, I took courses in cultural anthropology and French history, an enriching experience that complemented my literature-focused studies. This holistic approach will enable me to contribute a multifaceted perspective to the research endeavors at Kent University.
Previous Research and Scholarly Engagements
My scholarly activities have also extended beyond the classroom. Last summer, I participated in an international conference on French Literature and Post-Colonial Theory, presenting a paper on the depictions of colonial landscapes in Dumas' adventure novels. The opportunity to engage with academics from various disciplines provided me with fresh insights and underscored the importance of collaborative research. Further, I've had the honor of having a review article published in the Sheffield Journal of Contemporary Literary Explorations, where I critiqued a groundbreaking new translation of Verne's works.
Extracurricular Contributions and Skills
In addition to my academic achievements, I have sought to enrich my department’s intellectual community. I served as the editor of our departmental journal and organized a series of seminars featuring guest speakers from the worlds of academia and publishing. My strong organizational skills, combined with proficiency in both written and spoken French and English, make me a versatile candidate capable of adding value to the French Literature program’s broader objectives.
To summarize, my deep-rooted passion for French literature, fortified by rigorous academic training and interdisciplinary methodologies, makes me an ideal candidate for the postgraduate research position in your esteemed program. The prospect of contributing to academic discourse at Kent University is an opportunity I find deeply compelling. I am especially excited about the potential for collaborative research and interdisciplinary inquiries, which aligns perfectly with my academic philosophy. I am fully committed to leveraging my skills, experiences, and enthusiasm to make a substantive scholarly contribution to the study of French Literature. Thank you for considering my application; I am keenly looking forward to the possibility of furthering my academic journey in this vibrant intellectual community.
FAQs on Academic Personal Statements
If you’re wondering anything else about academic personal statements, check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions related to them here:
#1. How do you start a personal statement for an academic job?
Applying for an academic job is different from applying for a position as a student. First, you need to establish your qualifications and enthusiasm for the role immediately.
Start by explaining your current status, for example, as a postdoctoral researcher or an experienced member of the faculty, and specify the position you are applying for. Then follow up with your research interests or personal philosophy towards teaching.
You can add a personal anecdote or compelling fact that summarizes your academic journey so far, or your passion for the field. After that, your academic personal statement can go deeper into the qualifications from your academic CV and how you’re a great fit for the position.
#2. How do I introduce myself in an academic personal statement?
The introduction of your academic personal statement is the key to grabbing the attention of the admissions committee.
Start by stating the field or subject that interests you, and why. You can share a specific personal anecdote or observation that led you to this academic pursuit and set the stage for the detailed explanation in your main body.
The goal of your introduction is to give the reader a sense of who you are, what drives you, and why you would be a valuable addition to their department.
#3. Is an academic personal statement like an essay?
Yes, an academic personal statement can be considered a type of essay.
Both essays and academic personal statements are structured forms of writing that are meant to deliver a coherent argument and are divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion. They provide supporting evidence to prove the point and maintain a logical flow to guide the reader to the final conclusion.
However, essays tend to be objective and explore a specific topic or question in depth. Academic personal statements use similar techniques but they present the candidate’s qualifications, experiences, and aspirations in a way that’s meant to persuade the admissions committee.
#4. How long is an academic personal statement?
Typically, an academic personal statement is between 500 and 1000 words long.
The exact length of the text varies depending on the university and program you’re applying to. You should always check the specific requirements for your desired program, and stick to the guidelines you find.
However, if the university you’re applying to doesn’t specify a word count, you should aim for one to two pages.
#5. What do I avoid in an academic personal statement?
Since your personal statement is a crucial part of your academic application, it’s important to avoid any common mistakes.
Make sure the content of your academic personal statement isn’t too generic. Its goal is to give insight into you as an individual, beyond what can be read in your CV.
You should also avoid cramming too many points in your text. Your academic personal statement should follow a logical flow, and focus on the relevance of what you’re sharing about yourself and how it relates to the academic program you’re pursuing.
And that concludes our guide to writing an academic personal statement!
We hope you feel more confident when crafting your application for that academic program or faculty position you have your sights set on.
Now let’s recap what we talked about so far:
- Academic personal statements are very different from CV personal statements. While CV personal statements are brief paragraphs at the top of the page, an academic personal statement is an in-depth text that details why you’re interested in a given position, and what makes you a good candidate.
- The guidelines on academic personal statements vary according to the institution you’re applying to. Read the brief very carefully, and pay attention to what it says about word count and questions your personal statement should answer. Any mistakes here could result in rejection.
- There are differences between applying for a postgraduate program and applying for a faculty position. But in both cases, you should research the exact place you want to apply to and adjust your application accordingly to match the institution’s values.
- Always proofread your academic personal statement before sending it, even if you’re sure there are no errors.