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Personal Statement

All applicants must include a personal statement that addresses the following question:

Please describe how your background and academic experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and led you to apply to Penn. Your essay should detail your specific research interests and intellectual goals within  your chosen field. Please provide information about your educational trajectory, intellectual curiosity and academic ambitions. If you have overcome adversity and/or experienced limited access to resources or opportunities in your field of study, please feel free to share how that has affected the course of your education. We are interested in your lived experiences and how your particular perspective might contribute to the inclusive and dynamic learning community that Penn values and strives to create.

The personal statement helps us evaluate the fit between your interests and skills and the Penn Psychology program. It should describe why you want to pursue a PhD in Psychology, why Penn is the right place for you to do it, what sorts of skills and experiences make you qualified to pursue a PhD in a research-intensive Psychology program like Penn’s, what kinds of questions you are interested in studying, and who on the faculty you would like to work with. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact potential advisors in advance of writing the personal statement, to ensure that the research questions the applicant hopes to pursue are a good fit with research topics Penn faculty are working on. If you hope to study a question that members of our Psychology Graduate Group are not interested in pursuing, then Penn would not be a good fit for you. Please also look at the websites of faculty members whose labs you would like to join; they might have additional instructions for information they would like you to include in the personal statement. The personal statement is typically around two pages, single-spaced.

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Personal statements for postgraduate applications

A well-crafted Masters personal statement is the key to convincing admissions tutors that you deserve a place on a postgraduate course. Discover the dos and don'ts of writing a personal statement and take a look at some examples for inspiration

What is a personal statement?

'We certainly find the personal statement an essential part of the application process,' says Helen Hayes, assistant registrar (postgraduate and non-standard admissions) at Aberystwyth University.

A Masters personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your postgraduate application . It's your first real chance to sell yourself to the university and to demonstrate to admissions tutors that you're right for the course.

It's likely that you've already written a personal statement for your Bachelors degree , so this should give you some idea of what to expect. However, don't be tempted to use your undergraduate personal statement as a template. You will have progressed academically since then and admissions tutors will want to see evidence of this.

Your postgraduate personal statement should be unique and tailored to the course that you're applying to. Use the opportunity to show off your academic interests and abilities, and to demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.

'From an admissions officer perspective, given that we have to read a large number of personal statements, we are always keen to see enthusiasm, interest and passion for the subject emanating off the page,' adds Helen.

How long should a postgraduate personal statement be?

A Masters personal statement should be around 500 words. This equates to one side of A4. However, some universities require more, often two sides. Some institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so it's important that you check the application guidelines before starting to write your statement.

As they're relatively short in nature, don't waste words on autobiographical information. This isn't necessary in postgraduate personal statements. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular programme and your potential to successfully complete the course.

What should I include in a Masters personal statement?

You should tailor your personal statement to fit the course you're applying for, so what to include will largely depend on the course requirements. However, in general you should write about:

  • Your reasons for applying for a particular programme and why you deserve a place above other candidates  - discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department's reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, such as modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and experience.
  • Your preparation  - address how undergraduate study has prepared you for a postgraduate course, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topics that most interested you.
  • Evidence of your skillset  - highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact on the department, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, work placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended and how these have contributed to your readiness for Masters study.
  • Your goals  - explain your career aspirations and how the course will help you achieve them. 'Describe how studying your chosen course fits in with your long-term ambitions and career path,' advises Helen.

Address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance in your undergraduate degree or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these, so explain them with a positive spin. 'We look for positive reflection in situations like this,' explains Helen. 'Cover how things have been addressed and what will be different in your proposed postgraduate studies.'

How should I structure my personal statement?

Your personal statement should follow a logical, methodical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Make sure paragraphs are short, succinct, clear and to the point. Remember, you only have 500 words to use.

Capture the reader's attention with an enthusiastic introduction covering why you want to study a particular Masters. Then, engage the reader in your middle paragraphs by summing up your academic and employment background, evidencing your knowledge and skills and demonstrating why the course is right for you.

Your conclusion should be concise, summarising why you're the ideal candidate. Overall, aim for five or six paragraphs. You can use headings to break up the text if you prefer.

The majority of postgraduate applications are submitted online directly to the university. If this is the case, present your personal statement in a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, text size 11 or 12. If your course application is submitted through UKPASS (UCAS's postgraduate application service) font style won't matter, as personal statements are automatically formatted.

How can I write a good postgraduate personal statement?

  • Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush . Your personal statement can make or break your application so it needs to be perfect. Tutors can tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.
  • The best personal statements adopt a positive, enthusiastic and professional tone and are presented in clear, short sentences . Avoid elaborate or overly complicated phrases. Unless otherwise stated, all postgraduate personal statements should be written in English and your spelling, grammar and punctuation must be spot on, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability.
  • Don't use the same supporting statement for every course . Admissions tutors can spot copy-and-paste jobs. Generic applications demonstrate that you have little understanding of the course. In order to stand out from the crowd, Masters personal statements must be unique and specific to the course and institution.
  • Draft and redraft your statement until you're happy . Then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Proofreading is incredibly important to avoid mistakes. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.

What do I need to avoid?

  • follow online examples too closely
  • use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
  • be negative
  • lie or exaggerate
  • use clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used words such as 'passion' or Americanisms
  • include inspirational quotes
  • make pleading/begging statements
  • needlessly flatter the organisation
  • include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extra-curricular activities
  • namedrop key authors without explanation
  • use overly long sentences
  • repeat information found elsewhere in your application
  • leave writing your personal statement to the last minute.

How should I start my Masters personal statement?

Try not to waste too much time coming up with a catchy opening. The more you try, the more contrived you'll sound and the more likely you are to fall into the trap of using clichés.

Avoid using overused phrases, such as:

  • For as long as I can remember…
  • From a young age…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…
  • I have always been interested in…
  • I have always been passionate about…
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences…

Admissions tutors read hundreds of applications per course so the opening paragraph of your personal statement needs to get straight to the point and make a real impact. Avoid overkill statements, gimmicks and popular quotes.

If you're really struggling, come back and tackle the opening once you have written the rest.

How should I end my personal statement?

Conclusions should be short, sharp and memorable, and leave no doubt in an admissions tutor's mind that you deserve a place on a course.

The perfect ending should pull all of your key points together without waffling or repeating yourself.

Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.

What are admissions tutors are looking for?

  • an explanation of how the course links your past and future
  • an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course
  • evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm
  • knowledge of the institution's area of expertise
  • reasons why you want to study at the institution
  • demonstrable interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.

Personal statement examples

The style and content of your postgraduate personal statement depends on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a  Masters degree , a conversion course or  teacher training . Here are some postgraduate personal statement templates to help you get started:

Law personal statement

You'll apply for an LLM the same way you would for any other Masters, directly to the university. Whether you're undertaking a general LLM or a more specific programme, such as an LLM in human rights or international business law, you'll need to convey why you want to study the law in more depth and how this could potentially aid your career. Discover more about LLM degrees .

Psychology personal statement

Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future. Learn more about  psychology conversion courses .

Social work personal statement

If your Bachelors degree was in an unrelated subject but you now have ambitions to work as a social worker you'll need a Masters in social work (MSW) to qualify. Social work Masters have a substantial work placement element so you'll need to cover what you hope to achieve during this time as well as demonstrate other relevant experience. Find out more about social work courses .

PGCE primary personal statement

As well as detailing why you want to work with this particular age group, a PGCE primary personal statement should highlight the ways in which your educational background has inspired you to teach. You'll need to cover relevant skills you have gained and any related work experience, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the primary national curriculum. Read up on PGCEs .

PGCE secondary personal statement

You'll need to cover why you want to teach at secondary level while also acknowledging the pressures and challenges of working with older pupils. As you'll be teaching a specific subject, you'll need to evidence your knowledge in this area and demonstrate how your first degree was relevant. It's also essential to highlight any related work or voluntary experience. Learn more about teaching personal statements .

Find out more

  • Search postgraduate courses .
  • Find out what else you must consider when  applying for a Masters degree .
  • Completed your application? Discover what  postgraduate interview questions  you may be asked.

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  • Graduate School

Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Reading Harvard graduate school personal statement examples can help organize your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge to craft your own above-average personal statement. Different from statement of purpose examples for graduate school , the personal statement should tell your story and describe what brought you to this moment when you’re applying to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Your personal statement can contain anything about your past (stories, experiences, trials, obstacles, etc.), but you must find a way to connect them to your present goals.

This article will provide different personal statement examples, explain more about the nuances of applying to Harvard Graduate School and show you how to write a compelling introduction and opening sentence for your Harvard graduate school personal statement.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 12 min read

Applying to harvard graduate school.

The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers master’s and PhD degrees in various areas of study, ranging from the arts and humanities to business administration and physics. As such, each program has different entrance requirements, although some general requirements include applicants taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Non-native-English-speaking students also need to take an English proficiency test to show they have the necessary language skills. Specialized programs in a specific field like Greek Studies or art history may require language proficiency in other languages like Latin, Greek or Italian, so you should carefully review all the requirements of your chosen program.

The personal statement requirement is also not universal. Some programs may ask for a statement of purpose (similar to a letter of intent), which is more focused on your academic background and ambitions, and not the same as a personal statement. Other programs ask for a portfolio or other work.

You should research all about the program you want to enter before you apply, and if you have any doubts or questions, reach out to them directly. All university graduate programs are eager to accept exceptional and qualified candidates and will be more than happy to clarify anything that is confusing.

I have always had a hard time defining myself. Other than my gender identity, I’ve always felt parts of me are too fluid to define. I never felt any particular affinity or pride toward the country of my birth, but neither do I identify with my parent’s countries of origin, although elements of their culture (language, music) do resonate with me.

I went to a very diverse, multicultural high school and it was my first brush with not belonging. I don’t remember thinking about my identity before. I grew up in a community based around my neighborhood and we didn’t differentiate people according to race, language, religion, or things like that. They were just my neighbors and friends.

In high school, though, everyone had their cliques and groups. Sometimes, they were centered on shared cultural, national, and racial ties, which meant that I, a biracial, native-born kid with parents from South America and Europe found it hard to fit in. I became aware of what life was like outside the paradise of my neighborhood when I was bullied in high school for being biracial. And it came from all the students; for some, I was too light-skinned; for others, I was too dark.

It was a hard thing for me to understand. Being judged for my skin color was something that had never happened to me before, and I took it to heart. As the bullying continued, I became depressed and angry. I lashed out at my parents for no reason. My grades began to suffer. My worried parents sent me to the family doctor to explain my problems, but he only suggested anti-depressants, which I did not want to take.

It was my high school guidance counselor, Ms. Olivia Nuzzi, who gave me what I most needed at the time: someone to talk to, someone to listen. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that brought us together – I think my mother reached out to her – but by the time of our first meeting, I was not doing well. My depression had intensified. I was experiencing suicidal ideation. I felt like I would never belong or be accepted by anyone.

The first time I met Ms. Nuzzi, she placed her hand on mine, and that simple act of tenderness made me burst out sobbing. It was the first time anyone, other than bullies, had tried to get close to me in months. In our first session, I talked openly about what was going on with the bullying and how it made me question my identity. I began to see Ms. Nuzzi regularly after that. Going to see her was often the only highlight of my week, and we became very close.

I went to her on one of the worst days of my life. I was in class, and someone made an insulting comment about me. I didn’t react at all, but inside I was furious. Soon, that fury turned to panic, and I started to feel short of breath, dizzy. I asked to be excused and made my way to Ms. Nuzzi’s office. She calmed me down and asked what had happened.

What she said next has always stayed with me. She said, “Not knowing who you are now doesn’t mean you’ll never know, and it doesn’t mean you’re empty. It only means you have a lot of work to do.” Her saying that made me realize that identity is something we are always constructing.

Ms. Nuzzi lost touch after I graduated, but her words never left me. I thought of her when I decided what my career should look like, in childhood psychology, and applied to the Psychology program at Cornell. Despite all the care and tenderness Ms. Nuzzi had shown me, I wanted to offer more to children grappling with identity and identity formation within the context of education.

During my undergrad, I focused on classes related to preadolescent development and the important role of socialization in how young people define themselves. I also took courses in sociology and social work to better understand how to create actionable plans to treat childhood depression, anxiety, and mental illness.

During my master’s, I focused on approaches to child psychology that helped me gain a better understanding of how to assess and interpret a child’s distress. It became clear to me that I needed to study more about the social basis for the way a child forms their identity and how they respond to external factors.

Among the many reasons I am applying to the Harvard Graduate School Psychology program is the opportunity to study under the supervision of Dr. Henry Blackthorn, a pioneer in the field of childhood anxiety disorders. I have admired Dr. Blackthorn’s work for many years, and I think his outline for developmental risk factors is the most precise diagnostic retuning in ages.

It’s ironic that my search for an identity led me to finding my career, even though I am wary of defining myself by my profession. I am a dedicated student and researcher, and I feel like I can contribute effectively to this graduate program, but one thing I have learned in trying to shape my own identity is that the work of creating yourself is never over.

One of the things I remember most about my father is his bookcase. My father never finished grade school, and he had worked most of his life. He had as many jobs as anyone I ever knew, and he took pride in listing off the jobs he had held in his time, ranging from janitor, factory worker, and line supervisor to line cook, hospital attendant, and general contractor.

Wearing as many hats as he did, he knew a lot about different subjects. He knew how to take apart a carburetor and cook a French omelet. He knew the best wood to build a house (spruce or Douglas fir) and the best way to get out chocolate stains. But he was always insecure about not having a formal education.

He made up for it by learning as much practical knowledge as he could from the jobs that he had, but inside I think it wasn’t enough. He could never fill that void that wanted to be filled with a college- or university-level education. I would tell him that he could take a night course or something else that interested him, but he always said “no” and made up some excuse.

He had his own plan. He built a ramshackle bookcase out of old, repurposed wood and stuck it in the basement. He slowly filled the shelves with whatever he could find – books he bought at garage sales, books the library gave away, books our neighbors gave him – but mainly a lot of repair and how-to books and manuals. After a year, the bookcase was almost full.

His other plan involved me. If he couldn’t go to university, then I would be the one to go. He made clear to me at a young age that I was headed to university and that education was one of the most important things in life. It was one of the few things that we agreed on: education. We didn’t have much else in common other than an appreciation for learning.

As his book collection grew, so did I. Since my dad was so hands-on, one day, when I was in high school, I was surprised to find a book on the bookcase that actually interested me: a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I didn’t know where he got the book or who gave it to him – it was such a rare thing to see on my father’s bookcase – but finding that book would shape the rest of my life and bring me here to apply to the PhD in Ancient History program at Harvard.

I have an innate love for stories, but Ovid’s poetry was such a departure from the storytelling structure I had grown up with. An epic poem was a genre I never knew existed, let alone one that was thousands of years old. While I was reading the second book, I was drawn in by the story of Phaeton, the demi-god who believes Helios is his true father and is desperate to prove it.

The lines Helios speaks to Phaeton to dissuade him from riding the sun chariot, “Your lot is mortal, it is not mortal what you ask,” made me think of my father, wanting to know more than what life had taught him. Helios spoke those words to Phaeton to keep him from danger, but my father told me the opposite. My father taught me that knowledge was a way to achieve greatness. He did not want me to be content with what I had or who I was. He wanted me to strive to be more than he could ever be.

Reading those lines from Ovid put everything into perspective and made me realize my future would be among the Classics. I wanted to reach back to the beginning of recorded knowledge, where the first poets, philosophers, historians, mathematicians, and engineers tried to interpret the living world in a way that had never been done before. I started taking Latin classes with my local priest who had learned the language while studying at the Vatican.

When I graduated from high school, I decided on Northwestern because its Classics program is one of the best in the country and because it was not far from home. I wanted my father to visit me on campus to give him a taste of the college life.

While at Northwestern, I participated in an exchange program during my third year and took two semesters in Hellenic Studies at the University of Athens. I started learning Greek in my first year, and by the time I arrived in Athens, I was semi-fluent. Unfortunately, my academic dreams came close to crashing in my last years, as that was when my father passed away from prostate cancer. His loss is something I still struggle with, but his love for learning and knowledge is something that has stayed with me and continues to motivate me. His plan for retirement was to read a book a day from his bookcase, but he never got there. I dedicated my personal statement for my master’s degree in Anthropology to my father.

During that degree, I participated in a field expedition to the hills of Thessaloniki to explore a cache of pottery and other artifacts uncovered by recent construction. It was during this time when I also co-published my first academic paper, “The Enchantment of Ovid: Love, Desire and Consent in Mythological Context,” with Dimitrios Alexopoulos, now co-chair of the Hellenic Studies program at Dartmouth.

My plans for the rest of my career include opening new methods of analysis in understanding classical literature. I have a strong interest in dissecting the ways that classical arts continue to influence modern artists and thinking, especially as seen through a gendered and racialized prism.

I would also like to follow in my father’s example and pass on his love of learning to a new generation of students. I want my students to be imbued with the desire to learn as much as Phaeton desired to ride the sun chariot, which to my father, would not have been as exciting as getting an education.

I always wanted to open my own business. To me, having your own business, being your own boss was the best thing in the world. I came to this country from Nigeria wanting to be a success, even though I wasn’t sure of what I would do. I started washing cars and picking up shifts as an Uber driver to earn money, but my end goals were not clear yet.

I thought the answer would come to me and then I would know what to do, but regardless, I started saving money, knowing that whatever it was that interested me, it would take money and resources to follow through. Luckily, the answer I was waiting for arrived in the back of my Uber one night.

I picked up my fare, an older gentleman who had come from a restaurant where he had been celebrating closing a business deal, he told me later. Normally, I didn’t speak with my customers, unless they wanted to, but this gentleman, I’ll call him Jerry, was in a talking mood. He told me about how he had started his business a long time ago and now he had enough money to retire.

I told him I was interested in opening a business, but I wasn’t sure in what. Jerry told me that didn’t matter. The idea wasn’t as important as the work that you put into making it real. Everyone has ideas, he said, but only a few ever become more than ideas in someone’s head.

Jerry told me that enrolling in a business program would give me the fundamentals to create any business I wanted. He said that businesses fail not because they’re bad ideas, but because the people behind them don’t know how to keep them alive. But Jerry also said that I should never underestimate the power of luck. Sometimes the underdog makes it, sometimes they do not.

I drove Jerry home, and he gave me his card, in case I wanted any more advice. I did take his advice and started looking into Business Administration programs near me that would suit my schedule and let me continue working. I enrolled in the one at the SUNY Buffalo School of Management and took courses in accounting, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

The more I studied business theories and how to analyze data to extract a favorable business strategy, the more I became convinced that Jerry was right. It was knowledge and know-how that mattered more than just an idea. Learning more about business administration also refocused my goals. I started to see that running my own business was not as interesting to me as expanding or growing an established business.

I also realized that running a successful business is about a lot more than big ideas. If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that people with grand ideas are more interested in making people believe their idea works, even if it doesn’t. They ignore the social responsibility aspect of any business only to justify their greatness.

I realize that I don’t have the lofty goals of some modern business titans. My goals are humbler and more realistic. I feel like my emphasis on collecting and analyzing data is more important to any business than my leadership abilities, which is why I’m applying to the Harvard Graduate School PhD in Business Administration. If I am admitted to your program, I hope to effectively merge my analytical and business skills to further research on human resource management and information technology.

If Harvard graduate school is your dream school, then you should know how to get accepted and what it takes to write an outstanding personal statement. Along with college essay examples , the Harvard graduate school personal statement examples found here should only be used as a template to create your own statement.

The format of a personal statement is usually open-ended, but each graduate program has its own requirements, so make sure you check what they are before you start formulating an answer. You can write about any personal story that is significantly related to your educational and academic path, but make sure you connect it to why you are an ideal candidate for the program.

A personal statement is a guided essay that aims to explain a little more about your personal motivations to enter a specific school, graduate program, or profession. 

Not all schools or graduate programs will ask for a personal statement, but it depends on what school or program you apply to. You should check the admissions requirements for any program you want to enter before you apply. 

A personal statement can be a supplemental essay, but the latter is often based on specific prompts or questions asked by the admissions committee. Read these Harvard supplemental essay examples or these Harvard MBA personal statement examples to get a better idea of how they differ.

You can start your personal statement by thinking about why you wanted to enter the profession you are entering and explain in detail the steps you took to achieve that goal. 

A letter of intent is a document outlining your specific academic and professional goals, along with past achievements in your field. It is strictly an academic resume. But a personal statement is something that reveals what attracted you to your field and what motivates you to pursue this advanced degree. 

You can talk about a time when you identified your career goals and ambitions, whether it was during childhood or adolescence, as long as you relate how your story helped you choose the program you are applying to. 

You should NOT talk about personal issues or difficulties that are unrelated to your degree or education. You should NOT talk about vague characteristics (hard-working, organized) without providing concrete examples from your past. 

The length, word count, and other format details are decided by the program you want to enter, but if there are no stated requirements, you want to keep your statement to two pages, double-spaced.

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personal statement for postgraduate psychology

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Postgraduate Personal Statement Example: Counselling Psychology

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Reading through several examples of personal statements before you write and submit your own version can be exceptionally valuable. 

After all, personal statement examples can teach you how to write and structure your application, and you can quickly learn how to write a personal statement by examining others.

But with so many university personal statement examples available, how do you know if you’re reading a good one?

Postgraduate personal statements should highlight relevant academic and practical experience, research skills and ambitions and their suitability for the course. This postgraduate personal statement example for Counselling Psychology clearly illustrates these three critical elements.

I’ve broken down this personal statement example section by section, with a commentary on each element. 

That way, you’ll see its strengths and weaknesses and get some inspiration for your own personal statement .

Once you’ve read the personal statement example and analysis, you’ll be able to download a pdf of the whole document, to use as inspiration for your own!

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Personal Statement Example: Introduction

“As a member of “Generation Z”, I am keenly aware of the potential impact of the so-called ‘age of disruption’. Many people say that the job market is going to look significantly different by the time I graduate from university, so I consider it critical to have the ability to respond positively to any form of disruption or challenge I encounter. I intend to position myself in a way that will not only result in a prosperous career but also a career that allows me to give back to society. Consequently, I aim to devote myself to social work and philanthropy. As George Bernard Shaw said: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.” The human mind can be enigmatic, unpredictable and vulnerable, but it can also be understood by other human minds intuitively, and one mind can connect with another very naturally. Therefore, I believe that people can connect as a result of spending time working together closely. I want to pursue this goal by using my communications and management abilities from the business sector in my study and practice of Counselling Psychology.”

Commentary and Analysis 

This introduction is complex, confusing and engaging all at once, which is quite an achievement!

On a positive note, the writer has certainly made this introduction personal, and you get the feeling that it genuinely reflects their voice, approach and sense of purpose. That’s an excellent strategy, and an effective way to communicate a message. Readers don’t want to see highly descriptive passages in personal statements, they want to see individuality, engagement and authenticity.

However, the issue I have with this introduction is that it doesn’t get to the point quickly enough. It is very hard to unpick the subject the candidate is applying for, the relevance of the content and the logical progression of thought in this example. It ‘sort of’ all ties up in the last sentence, but by that time, the reader is a bit lost. 

It would be much better to begin with a commitment to the postgraduate topic the writer plans to study and then explain how their worldview has positioned them to take on that study successfully.

If you’re struggling with your personal statement introduction, check out my article on how to write perfect opening paragraphs here .

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Personal Statement Example: Academic Background

“After finishing high school, I entered a university which allowed me to engage with a wide variety of people from diverse cultural origins, socioeconomic statuses and ethnic backgrounds. In my first year, I frequently conversed with people seated next to me at breakfast, which was the first time I truly understood the gravity of mental health issues. Other students, despite their age, spoke openly and comfortably about their problems as if they were discussing what they had for dinner the night before. This made me think that in high school, people kept their problems to themselves and substituted phrases like “I’ve been pretty busy lately” for their reluctance to discuss their mental health. My interest in psychology and mental health was sparked by hearing about the mental health crises that individuals experience and by supporting those around me to manage the challenges of undergraduate study. Subsequently, I determined to pursue the subject from an academic perspective. 

Commentary and Analysis

Again, this personal statement is rich with individual connections but limited in details. The writer has expressed a personal engagement with the subject, and this is very common (and often essential in some respect) for a subject such as this. However, when focusing on undergraduate study, an admissions reader will expect to see evidence of specific and relevant skills gained, none of which feature here.

The effect is that the writer seems unqualified, academically lacking and to be working from a place of instinct rather than education. That might not be the case, but it is how the reader, who does not know the applicant, might interpret the personal statement.

If you’d like to learn more about how to structure your personal statement or statement of purpose , check out my awesome Personal Statement Template eBook here . It’s full of detailed examples of what to include!

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Personal Statement Example: Practical Experience 1

“I moved in with my roommate, who was also a high school friend, in my third year. Having known her for five years, I was astonished to learn about her troubles when she revealed that she had been managing depression since she was 14. The first time we spoke to one another honestly and in detail, she told me about her parents’ high expectations for her, how she felt like she never fitted in anywhere, and her distrust of relationships. Presented with this information, my mind went blank, so I suggested that she talk to a counsellor. She then shared her challenging experience of seeing a counsellor. Her parents initially refused to pay the exorbitant fees because they saw it as a sign of fragility rather than a health problem. Then the counsellor took notes of her experiences and reported them to her parents. Hearing about someone’s troubles in such depth is a little like getting to know a brand-new person, but in doing so, I began to recognise that counselling and psychology might be future career options for me. I couldn’t help but think that if I were an expert in this field, I could help her with a practical strategy or, at the very least, say something to make her feel better.”

This section is representative of a trap that many applicants fall into. They are so keen to build a justification for their choice of course and to convince the reader of their suitability that it all comes from the heart and not from a factual, strategic perspective.

There are a number of problems with this section. Firstly, it does not focus on the applicant. Instead, we read a narrative about someone else entirely. As a result, we get almost no additional information about the applicant’s suitability for the course. Secondly, there is no reference to specific aspects of the undergraduate degree, research, knowledge or skills that will add value to the application. Thirdly, none of the content connects specifically to the course being applied for. Lastly, and just as importantly, the writer is verging on disclosure of sensitive information, and showing a degree of naivety about the confidential nature of therapeutic counselling. As a result, they may not be portraying themselves as a particularly suitable candidate for this course or career.

Check out lots more examples of personal statements here , and see how they can inspire your application!

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Personal Statement Example: Practical Experience 2

“During the summer of my third year, I accepted an invitation from a Clinical Psychology professor to participate in his solution-focused brief therapy seminar. He hypothesised that ‘strategy talking’ and ‘future talking’ techniques that centre on an individual’s problem can help refocus their queries and shift their attention away from the problem onto potential solutions. I was playing an observer during the role-playing portion of the seminar when the client and the therapist broke into tears as they discussed how she never felt worthy of her mother’s attention. She was successfully led to open up about her feelings and then encouraged to think about ways to prevent the negative emotions by the graduate student acting as the therapist whose research centred on solution-focused brief therapy. The entire process was highly engrossing, and as I watched, I kept thinking about what I would say or do to help her and with whom I would start this dialogue.”

Commentary and Analysis: 

This is a better paragraph, as it gives tangible evidence of relevant experience and knowledge. Again, it turns into a highly descriptive passage, and the value of one or two sentences is stretched out over a significant proportion of the personal statement.

Whilst the brief academic content is relevant, there is not enough of it. By this point in the application, there should be layers of relevant skills and experience on show, with clear connections to the course the writer is applying for. None of that has been evidenced yet.

Additionally, courses that are related to any form of therapy expect to see examples of wider reading and research, clinical placements and internships, academic skills and industry/sector knowledge. The candidate writing the personal statement has provided almost none of these elements. Consequently, I would imagine that by this stage, an admissions reader would be likely to reject the application due to a lack of academic and experiential depth.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the writer hasn’t got those experiences. It just means they haven’t included them here, and haven’t made clear connections between their skills, ambitions and the course being applied for.

The one thing that all successful personal statements have in common is that they are concise, engaging and accurate in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Consequently, I always recommend Grammarly to my students and clients. 

It’s an outstanding tool for ensuring your personal statement is rich with detail whilst hitting those all-important word limits. Check out the free version of Grammarly here , or hit the banner for more information.

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Personal Statement Example: Conclusion

“My experiences with mental health concerns help me to understand and define my personal and professional goals. I want to be helpful to society by providing genuinely positive value in each role I undertake. Studying Counselling Psychology is a way of surviving the age of disruption, establishing lasting connections between myself and others and helping potential clients to gain the techniques needed to achieve clarity of mental and emotional well-being. After experiencing the transfer from one culture to the other, I gained the skills and positivity to help others embrace and overcome difficulties and the emotional maturity and academic skills to undertake this advanced study course. I will endeavour to bring these qualities to this program and look forward to playing an active and positive role as a member of your respected learning community.”

The conclusion, unsurprisingly, continues in the same style. There’s no tangible connection to the course being applied for, no real sense that the writer understands or is prepared to manage the academic and practical demands of this subject, and little sense of personal suitability for the career.

On a positive note, the writer shows passion, genuine humanity, purpose and moral and ethical fortitude. They are conscious of the greater value of therapeutic practice in relation to the demands of the world around them but have not indicated their suitability in any real sense.

If the writer’s academic qualifications are of a high standard (which may be the case), then they might be asked to provide more details, but if this is not the case, it is unlikely that a vague personal statement like this would lead to an offer.

In summary: show tangible knowledge of the subject, relate specific undergraduate skills to the specific course being applied for, and evidence diverse wider reading and research that supports your application. Very little of that is in evidence here.

For more great advice, check out my article on writing an excellent final personal statement paragraph here .

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Click here or on the banner below to get your free download of this complete personal statement example . 

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Whether you’re looking for personal mission statement examples or an example of personal purpose statement, I hope this personal statement example has been helpful. Above all, I wish you every success in your academic career. 

If you’d like to work with me to develop your personal statement 1:1 and write a powerful mission statement, I’d be delighted to hear from you. 

Find out about my personal statement support services by clicking here or on the image below.

personal statement for postgraduate psychology

Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet .

David Hallen

I've worked in the Further Education and University Admissions sector for nearly 20 years as a teacher, department head, Head of Sixth Form, UCAS Admissions Advisor, UK Centre Lead and freelance personal statement advisor, editor and writer. And now I'm here for you...

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How to Write a Psychology Personal Statement Worthy of Oxbridge!

This blog leads you through some of U2’s Oxford and Cambridge-educated Psychology graduates’ tips for building content for, writing and structuring your Psychology personal statement. Most University level Psychology courses do not require that students have taken Psychology at A-level or IB (in fact, some professors advise that students don’t take it, because the A-Level/ IB syllabus is so different from what you learn at University). So, how do you demonstrate your aptitude for the course at university level? Whether you have studied Psychology at school, or are starting afresh, this blog will teach you how to ensure your Psychology personal statement stands out to interviewers for the top UK universities.

A brain MRI scan with a psychology degree hat on

Tips for your Psychology Personal Statement

Few students will have written anything like a UCAS personal statement before - an approximate side of A4 on what exactly you have to offer. For some general tips on how to write a high-level and original personal statement, check out our blog on 10 Top Tips for Writing a Standout Oxbridge Personal Statement .

Your personal statement should integrate your personal interests, subject knowledge and extracurricular experience. For Psychology, we suggest focusing on three main areas: (1) highlight your personal interest in psychology and link this more explicitly to the range of ways you have explored the subject; (2) emphasise your academic abilities and how these will ensure you suit the course e.g. You may mention your mathematical/ scientific abilities and how this complements/ facilitates your interest in empirically studying human behaviour; (3) discuss extra-curricular activities and how these also relate to your subject interest. E.g. Essay competitions, projects, lectures etc. We have provided guidance on each of the three key points below, how to weave them together and structure your personal statement. Take heed and you should have all the tools you need for writing a standout Psychology personal statement!

(1) Highlight your personal interest in psychology and link this more explicitly to the range of ways you have explored the subject

If you have an initial interest in Psychology, but have not had a chance to explore it in-depth, or beyond the school syllabus, this should be the first step. Do not regurgitate your school syllabus. You’ll need to read and research the subject, refining your interests and building evidence of your wider exploration e.g. through reading books, articles and scientific research papers.

Ideas to direct your wider subject exploration:

One way of developing an early understanding of key aspects of Psychology is to briefly look at the compulsory modules of the courses that interest you and gain an initial overview of key themes/ topics through reading and research. E.g. The undergraduate psychology course at Oxford University covers: Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Neuroscience, so you could try to gain a quick appreciation of each module through research. Cambridge also provide a useful A-Z of key topics in Psychology.

After an initial introduction into broad areas of psychology and what they involve, focus in. Which areas pique your interest most? Keep a file with notes on each topic, read articles to extend your knowledge, and remember to relate concepts to your personal experience (e.g. examples from everyday life, real-world applications of concepts) so you don’t end up turning your personal statement into an essay. Why does [Insert topic] make you want to study Psychology at degree level? What catalysed your interest in [Insert topic]? Can you think of examples in your everyday life that relate? :

E.g. Following some research, you may find you are interested in Social Psychology, in particular group identity. What interests you about it? You may have read about ‘outgroup homogeneity’: the failure to see differences between members of out-group. Can you think of examples in your everyday experience? E.g. Racial prejudice?

Conversely, you may have started with thinking about racial prejudice, if that is something you are particularly passionate about, and that could have led you to research the psychology behind it, which could have brought you to Outgroup homogeneity. Either method is great. When it comes to writing your personal statement, it can be best to start with the personal experience/ interest and mention how this spurred you on to the academic research/ how your interest deepened with wider exploration.

Psychology Personal Statement Reading Recommendations

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Saks: This book provides case histories of patients who have suffered a range of neurological disorders. E.g. Patients who have lost their memories, patients with violent tics, those with disabilities, but who are mathematical geniuses.

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman : Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate, Kahneman, developed ‘Prospect theory’, a theory of the psychology of choice, which has been central to the relatively new field of behavioural economics. The book provides a good overview of a variety of key topics and is particularly useful for those with a penchant for economics (thinking about interdisciplinarity and how your subjects of interest link is always great for your personal statement), or for those simply interested in real-world applications of theories. Try to think of examples from your everyday life e.g. How decision making can be influenced by advertising and product placement.

Bad Science - Ben Goldachre: Dr Ben Goldacre is the author of the Bad Science column in the Guardian. This humorous book should encourage you to critically appraise articles that you read and stimulate a broader discussion on subjectivity/objectivity and empiricism in psychological research. Humans introduce bias into all research - e.g. Look into the spurious findings of fMRI research when researchers do not adequately account for ‘noise’ in the data.

The Memory Illusion – Dr Julia Shaw: Forensic psychologist and memory specialist, Dr Julia Shaw, uses the latest research to show the many ways in which our brains can be led astray by memory. Learn about how errors in reconstructing memory reflect inherent biases. If you would like to learn more about memory, check out our co-curricular division, Minds Underground™’s Mind-Enhancing Articles for Psychology, where our Oxbridge psychologists examine the role of memory and other key psychology topics/ questions.

Psychology Personal Statement Reading Suggestions

Also try to read some scientific papers and start thinking critically about them, and stay updated on developments in psychology and psychology in the news. E.g. Through reading The New Scientist - Psychology News , Neuroscience News , Naked Scientist Psychology articles & podcasts, or the Royal Society of Psychology research articles, podcasts and blog posts.

(2) Emphasise your academic abilities and how these will ensure you suit the Psychology course

Throughout your personal statement, you should demonstrate how you have built skills in preparation for university and for studying Psychology . To begin preparation, brainstorm your academic abilities and skills, and how these ensure you will suit the course/s you are applying for. Extensively research your top university choices, and see if they have a page dedicated to what they want from applicants. Fill a table as in the example below to help you relate your skills to the study of Psychology.

A table to show reasons why you want to study Psychology at university

(3) Discuss extra-curricular activities and how these relate to your subject interests

Many students mistake “extra-curricular activities” for non-subject-related activities such as sport, art, or music. Whilst you can mention these at the end of your personal statement, you are much better off mentioning co-curriculars that directly link to your subject, especially if applying to Oxford or Cambridge (non-academic activities should be 2-3 lines maximum to round-off your personal statement in this case).

If you can’t think of co-curricular activities to mention, now is the time to start finding opportunities to take part in! Here are some ideas:

Psychology Essay Competitions

Minds Underground hosts a Psychology Essay Competition each year. This year, the competition includes a Psychology Research Proposal Challenge, which is perfect for demonstrating independent research & initiative, and will encourage you to learn about experimental design, data collection, handling and analysis.

Also check out Oxford and Cambridge-run essay competitions e.g. Newnham College runs a Psychological & Behavioural Sciences competition each year.

Research Projects

You could task yourself with curating your own independent research project to mention on your personal statement.

3 Example Psychology Projects:

Investigating the effects of colour, word type, or other non-semantic factors on memory/reaction time/false memory recall of word lists

Influence of age/gender/multilingualism or any number of other factors on memory, number & word processing, any easily quantifiable metric.

An investigation into behavioural economics in the style of Kahneman & Tversky, looking at Type 1 & 2 decision making and how this can be influenced, for example, by advertising and product placement.

If you are looking to undertake a project under the tutelage of a Psychology subject expert, we also run specialised guided research projects through Minds Underground, usually a month in duration, with weekly project tutorial sessions (these are paid). E.g. “A Psychology or Medicine Project with a Research Associate for the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the Oxford University Hospital Trust (NHS)” or “Psychiatrists & Pharmaceuticals: Alzheimer’s Research Project” with Psychology & Philosophy Oxford graduate, Georgia, who is studying for an MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at UCL.

The aim is to combine teaching of high-level subject-specific content with exposure to real-world applications of these concepts, giving you the opportunity to undertake a project that is both useful for a university application and potential future career. The projects are great to mention on personal statements, and make impressive talking points at interview, particularly for top UK universities such as Oxbridge (our project hosts are all Oxbridge-educated), who favour applicants with an interest in scientific research. 

Societies, Summer Schools & Lectures/ Talks

 Are you part of your school’s Psychology Society ? If the school doesn’t have one, could you start one up? Or if they have a STEM society, could you introduce a Psychology element or invite speakers for lectures?

We host a fantastic Psychology Summer School for university applicants, hosted by our team of Psychology Oxbridge graduates. The weekly sessions, running from July to September, will provide a taster of University level Psychology, to provide material which students can write about in personal statements, an discuss during their interviews

There are a plethora of online lectures and talks for you to access online - E.g. Gresham College Psychology lectures, or Ted Talks on Psychology

Oxbridge Psychology Personal Statement Topic Ideas

Additional Psychology Personal Statement Advice for those applying to Oxbridge: Oxford, Cambridge

Applying to leading courses like Cambridge's Psychological and Behavioural Sciences or Oxford's Experimental Psychology course requires a tailored approach in your personal statement. Here's how you can make your statement stand out for these Oxbridge courses, compared to non-Oxbridge programmes:

Research-Centric Focus:

Highlight your interest in research from the very beginning. Discuss specific research projects you've been involved in or research findings that have fascinated you.

Look into the cutting-edge research conducted at Cambridge or Oxford and see if anything aligns with your academic interests.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

Emphasise your readiness to explore the interdisciplinary aspects of psychology. These Oxbridge courses often connect psychology with other fields. Mention your interest in related subjects such as neuroscience, biology, or even philosophy, if relevant.

Discuss how these interdisciplinary connections will enrich your understanding of psychology and your research capabilities.

Critical Thinking and Independent Study:

Both Cambridge and Oxford value independent learning and critical thinking. Share your experiences with independent research, coursework, or self-study that demonstrate your ability to think critically and engage deeply with psychology.

Specific Course Features:

Relate some of your content to the unique features of the course at either Cambridge or Oxford. For example, Cambridge's Psychological and Behavioural Sciences course includes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding human behaviour. Oxford's Experimental Psychology course focuses on research design and data analysis.

Explain how these aspects align with your academic goals and career aspirations.

Use of Research Methods:

Try to demonstrate your familiarity with research methods and data analysis tools, as these are central to both courses. Highlight any coursework or projects that have developed your skills in these areas.

Looking Beyond the Classroom:

Mention your involvement in psychology-related co-curricular activities, such as higher level topic areas, clubs, volunteer work, or internships, to demonstrate your dedication to the field beyond academic requirements.

You could seek guidance from your teachers or one of U2’s Oxbridge Psychology tutors, who are familiar with the specific requirements and expectations of Oxbridge courses. They can provide invaluable insights and help you refine your personal statement. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Next Steps: Drafting & Structuring Your Psychology Personal Statement

Try to narrow your interests down to 2 or 3 topic areas which you can use as overarching themes for your personal statement, e.g. (1) Theories of Mind, of Consciousness, (2) Psychology & Gender, (3) Social Psychology - Group Identity.

Ensure you can address these themes in depth. Have a range of resources to draw from e.g. a scientific paper, a book, research you undertook as part of an essay competition.

Ensure a strong narrative , including linking of concepts between key sections.

Demonstrate personal critical analysis to show your engagement and interest in the subject.

Example Psychology Personal Statement Structure

Aim for around four main paragraphs:

1st paragraph (introductory): What is your motivation to study Psychology? Be specific: what do you want to explore at university? What is distinctive about studying Psychology that makes it worthwhile? Ensure you talk about what motivates your study of the subject now, not a catalyst from your childhood as the interviewer will find it clichéd and less relevant.

2nd paragraph: Explore your interest in [Insert topic] through [Insert activity: e.g. Summer School]. Which of your abilities did this highlight? Link the topic to an interest in [Insert research form: An experiment, article etc.]. Link this to [Insert another activity e.g. a Cambridge lecture on X].

3rd paragraph: Link to paragraph two. This paragraph can follow the same format, but deal with a different topic/ theme.

4th paragraph: Mention extra-curricular activities that don’t relate to your subject interests really briefly (e.g., music, volunteering, anything else of relevance) and demonstrate how these have built skills in preparation for university and for studying Psychology.

You could mention your other A-Level/ IB subjects, perhaps describing how they have enhanced your study of Psychology. 

You could mention any prizes or roles of responsibility which you have had at school, including any clubs that you might organise, such as the school newspaper or student council.

It can be useful to conclude your personal statement by returning to your aptitude for studying the subject in a final few lines . Which core skills do you possess which will equip you to excel at degree level? It’s important to strike a balance between enthusiasm for the subject and evidence of skills.

Example Successful Psychology Personal Statement

Below, we have included an example successful Cambridge Psychology personal statement, written by one of our 1st Class Cambridge PBS tutors. N.B. The statement is by no means perfect, but should provide an exemplar for how to weave your academic interests and co-curricular endeavours into your statement.

Over 100 trillion synapses connect to form neural networks in the brain – an engine so close to home yet more enigmatic than some of the cosmos. How can the very matter we use to think and learn unlock mysteries of the universe, yet not know exactly how it stores memories? It is these existential questions that fuel my fascination for studying the delicate mechanisms of our minds. Year one of my A-levels, what started as curiosity became increasingly interesting to me. Psychology lessons were deeply thought-provoking, particularly when biological and cognitive psychology were the topics of study. The biology behind the metaphysics of consciousness and perception has since captured me, especially when considering neurological disorders. Fascinated by these phenomena, last year I attended a lecture by Baland Jalal; he discussed his own research into a cure for sleep paralysis, as well as demonstrating his enthusiasm for the field which was a perfect cross-section of various disciplines that I love. To further explore this new intricate field of interest, I read “The New Science of Consciousness” by Paul Nunez; this book offered me a profound insight into the philosophy and “hard problems” that this science faces; whilst explanations for Alzheimer’s and Free Will are difficult to retrieve, the questions we need to ask are even harder to formulate. Cures for neurodegenerative diseases are currently beyond our grasp, which I believe will be changed with further years of research that I would be honoured to be a part of. The challenges and speculations associated with understanding the brain and our behaviour draws me into the subject as I enjoy combining abstract and logical thinking to decipher problems. Both studying logical programming in Computer Science and my EPQ (an investigation into creating a handmade Wilson Cloud Chamber) showcase the interface of these types of thinking. Self-teaching has been a critical aspect of advancing my knowledge of Neuropsychology as at A-Level there is no depth into more peculiar cases (many of which I discovered after reading “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” by Oliver Sacks) such as Anton-Babinski Syndrome – a rare symptom of brain damage that causes people to be “cortically blind”, yet inexplicably deny their blindness. Using my own learning techniques, in Year 12 I helped tutor students in Year 7 physics classes. The significant change in learning style developed my methods of tutoring, teaching me to work with and teach peers of varying ages and enhance my ability to describe difficult concepts in an appropriate and understandable way. During year 12 I was accepted onto the Sutton Trust US Programme – a competitive Fulbright programme for high-achieving state-school students. I was one of 150 students picked from 1000+ applicants. Learning to deal with additional, international examinations and workload alongside school, being the guitarist in a band, and rock-climbing has been essential for my personal development, allowing me to handle substantial pressure. I was awarded a visit to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s graduate laboratories where I saw leading research into many disciplines of science. This year however I decided that the more specialised curriculum offered in the UK was better suited for me – nevertheless, I am still an alum and volunteer for the programme and was chosen to be an advisor at USA college day this year. I gave individual advice to hundreds of young people, ensuring they had information and advice they needed to pursue undergraduate studies ideal for them. As a member of my school’s Student Wellbeing team, it is evident to anyone that a distinct and recurring interest of mine is to help people. I believe this perfectly ties into my desire to research the brain, as I am driven to be part of the research that will prevent neurodegeneration, aid mental illness and answer the fundamental questions that make us human. As written by Paul Nunez, “The phenomenon of consciousness is the major unsolved challenge of our age”.

Finally, remember not to start thinking about your personal statement too late! The content building part is by far the most important - without well-thought out content and a wide range of evidence for your independent exploration, you will not be able to write an engaging personal statement. The writing part will be easy if you have lots of exciting content to draw from.

Best of luck!

Looking for a Personal Statement Tutor or Support For Your Wider Psychology Application?

Psychology personal statement tutoring.

U2’s Oxbridge-educated mentors have a close insight into what admissions tutors like to see in a Psychology personal statement, and can help students to convey their skills, motivations, and long term goals, in order to stand out from other applicants. The statement should be the candidates own work, but our mentors will provide direction and guide you through the process of content building and writing. We offer offline drafting as well as tuition sessions.

Oxbridge Psychology Tutoring

We have a large team of Oxbridge-educated Psychology mentors including 1st Class, Master’s and PhD level graduates, who support students throughout the process, including personal statement, admissions test and interview preparation.

The Process:

1) We suggest an Oxbridge Psychology graduate as a mentor and send their full CV for review. Our mentors are deeply familiar with the admissions process to study Psychology at the University of Oxford and Cambridge, and are well-placed to guide you through personal statement curation and the interview process. We may suggest a range of application tutors to choose from with slightly differing rates depending on qualifications and level of experience.

2) We typically suggest beginning with a 1.5 hour diagnostic session , where the mentor will informally assess the student’s current performance level for application. Following this, we issue a report with feedback, and structure a plan to best prepare.

3) U2’s approach for regular Psychology application sessions: The main focus of tutorial sessions will be to explore material that can be discussed in the personal statement and at interview - this may sometimes stretch from A-Level standard to First Year Undergraduate. Mentors ensure each student refines their interests within Psychology, and is exposed to a range of key themes and topics. Throughout there will be a focus on the experimental side of psychology, by centring the course on real studies, and discussing the techniques and limitations involved in psychological experiments. Together, we build a case for the student, solidifying the stance and direction they will take during interview.

Frequency of sessions can be decided between student and mentor. Students can take either ad hoc sessions, or we structure a full programme for preparation, which may include further co-curricular opportunities such as our research projects , Psychology summer school and Oxbridge mock interview days . Honing the skills necessary to succeed for Oxbridge ideally requires long-term preparation and mentoring presents a wonderful opportunity to learn from some of the very best Oxbridge has produced.

Sessions from £75/h + VAT.

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How to Prepare for Your Oxbridge Interview

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Postgraduate Clinical Psychology Personal Statement Example

My initial decision to major in psychology was rationalised with the idea that I could use my degree to help people.

Everyone struggles at one point in their lives and being able to help someone is a great opportunity. Furthermore, studying psychology provided something for me that the other subjects didn’t, such as a deeper understanding of my mind and behaviour.

After finishing my high school, I joined Bachelor of Arts program as I wished to explore which subject I would have a special interest in and the course consisted of several subjects including Geography, Political Science, Psychology, English, Economics and French.

By the end of my first year, I had a fondness towards psychology as it was interesting and chose to learn further about it. 

During my second and third year, I studied about Social Psychology, Abnormal Behaviour as well as Statistics.

I was fascinated by how the human mind works and how it affects a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. I enjoyed learning about the psychological disorders and the models of abnormality.

As I didn’t have an honours in psychology at my college, I decided to take a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology.

My master’s program was a 2 year course where I gained extensive knowledge about the different fields in psychology. During my First Semester, I had courses on educational psychology, cognitive psychology, Research Methodology and Statistics.

I enjoyed research methodology as I gained a deeper understanding of how to conduct research, the different methods in research and the importance it plays in psychology as it gives scientific evidence on the new perspectives of psychology, psychological theories and factors affecting mental health.

In addition to the courses, I did an internship at Agnes Special School where I worked as a special educator for children with Learning Disability, Cerebral Palsy, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism and Mental Retardation.

Through this internship, I got to know more about childhood disorders and the obstacles they face in their everyday lives. It was extremely challenging

During, my second semester I had courses such as physiological psychology, personality theories, psychological testing and positive psychology.

I enjoyed reading about personality theories especially, Alfred Adler’s Individual psychology where he describes inferiority and superiority complexes and also about the birth order and how it influences the style of life.

By learning the theories, I gained insight on how personality influences human behaviour. I also had a practical paper on Assessment of Personality where, I was exposed to the various types of personality tests such as Draw a person test, Eysenck personality questionnaire, locus of control, Neo five-factor inventory and many more.  

During the third semester, I learned about counselling psychology, psychological intervention and psychopathology.

I found psychopathology very interesting as it taught me about the different psychological disorders, their aetiology, diagnosis and the signs and symptoms that make up the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

I became interested in relationships between various biological and environmental factors which can induce disorders.

By the end of my third semester, I worked as an intern for two months at two hospitals. My first clinical internship was at XXX for 3 weeks under Dr. XXX. During my time there, I learned how to collect case histories and conduct Mental Status Examinations (MSE).

I conducted various psychometric tests such as Standard and Coloured Progressive Matrices, Seguin Form Board and LD checklist, and also observed various behaviour therapies, parent guidance and counselling, sessions for home training for children with special needs on conditions like mental retardation, learning disability, autism, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy and multiple handicaps.

I also presented a poster on Learning Disability as a part of the academic presentation, defining Learning Disability, the problems children with LD face, the management of LD and the rights these children have.

My second clinical internship was at XXX for four weeks where I worked under the supervision of XXX at the Psychiatric Department. The hospital had in-patient care as well as outpatient care where I could collect case histories and conduct Mental Status Examinations.

I got insights into the numerous disorders. I gained an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a clinical psychologist. I also attended several therapies that the psychologist conducted such as Group Therapy for de-addiction patients, Stress Management and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and various psychometric tests such as Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and Rorschach inkblot test.

I also conducted psychometric tests such as Wechsler’s Intelligence Scale for Children, CAGE questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory, Binet Kamat Test etc.

In the fourth semester, I had courses on behaviour modification and counselling children, adolescents and adults. I was trained in numerous psychotherapy techniques such as Jacobsons Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Autogenic Training, Systematic Desensitisation, and Yoga.

I also had to present several case studies that I collected during my internships. I had a 5 days internship at XXX Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts which was aimed at preventing and management of Substance abuse with the focus soon early intervention , community based holistic approach and people’s participation.

During my time here, I interacted with several patients who has problems with substance abuse where I was able to take a session on assertiveness training for the patients and also conducted several relaxation techniques such as JPMR and Autogenic training.

Further, I got to know how the rehab centre worked and the different treatment methods used for the patients. I had another 5 days internship at XXX Palliative care, where I counselled with patients who were terminally ill by giving psychological snd social support to the patients and their caregivers.

Another internship I had was at Riya Hope Farm which was a residential centre for children with special needs. I was assigned to a child who had autism and conducted behavioural assessment of the child. Once the assessment was over, behaviour modification process was started as the child had difficulty in following the instruction that were given to him.

I also had to submit a dissertation as a part of the master’s programme where I presented a research study on “ Marital Adjustment in relation to Life Satisfaction and Gender among Young Adult Married Couples.”

I was interested in this topic due to the increasing divorce rates in India notably among the Young - Adult population and to find out whether life satisfaction influences the marital adjustment between couples.

In addition to my courses, I have attended several workshops on counselling and psychotherapy, basic and advanced hypnosis, “Dementia - Remember me” and Paranormality.

After finishing my master’s in psychology, I am currently interning at a psychiatric clinic for where I am working as an assistant counselling psychologist under the guidance of Dr XXXp. 

During my time here, I have met patients with a wide range of mental health problems that may occur such as mental health disorders including depression, psychosis, personality disorder, negative life events, bereavement, domestic violence, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, traumas and relationship issues.

I have witnessed counselling of both clients and their families, and I have learned to administer and score several psychological tests used in clinical assessment.

I have enjoyed working in the clinic and found it very rewarding, not only because of the idea of helping but also because the work was interesting and challenging, as every patient is different and different approaches of counselling are needed.

As an assistant counselling psychologist, I was able to learn the different counselling techniques and how to guide patients through empathy and unconditional positive regard.

Upon completion of this masters programme, I intend join a Doctoral programme in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) and to practice as a clinical psychologist, where I can provide a positive influence in the lives of people struggling with psychiatric disorders.

My personal characteristics are perfectly adaptable to this profession and I’m highly interested in this field. Moreover, my academic achievements signify my capability to reach the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.

I’m also interested in research work and understanding the various mental illness, their treatment as well as their effectiveness. My work experience has proven to me how much more I need to learn before I can attain my goal of becoming an accomplished clinical psychologist.

I am interested to join Goldsmith’s University of London for the Masters course in Foundation in Clinical Psychology and Health Services by the strong emphasis on clinical practice and research methodology as it goes particularly well with what I am looking for in a program.

I would be very excited to join the upcoming class for 2018. I feel I am well prepared to enter graduate study, and my strong motivation and career goals are a good match for what the university has to offer.

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How to Write a PhD Personal Statement For Psychology

17/02/2023 Emily Watson

If you’re applying to study Psychology at PhD level, you may be required to submit a personal statement. Crafting an excellent personal statement is more than simply relaying a list of your qualifications and skills – it involves careful planning and putting thought into your motivations, interests, commitment to the subject area, and more.

This guide contains ten tips on how to write a stand-out personal statement for a Psychology PhD programme. You’ll also find top tips from The Profs’ expert postgraduate admissions tutors as well as Profs Co-Founder, Dr Leo Evans , who has personally helped students develop successful applications for top universities.

1. Check what is required of you

Before you begin writing your personal statement, make sure you check what is required of you. Some universities do require you to write a personal statement for PhD Psychology, while others do not (instead, they may ask for other documents along with a research proposal).

It’s important to note that a PhD personal statement may not always be called a personal statement. For example, you might see it referred to as a ‘statement of purpose’ or ‘Reasons for applying’.

Each university that does require a personal statement for PhD Psychology specifies slightly different guidelines. For example, Bristol asks that your personal statement be approximately one side of A4, while Birmingham asks for a statement of approximately 5,000 characters. Specific questions may also be given as prompts around which to structure your personal statement.

Whether you are required to submit a personal statement, and what you include in that statement, may also depend on whether you are applying for a defined PhD opportunity (e.g. a funded studentship) that is on a topic chosen by the university, or an open PhD programme that asks you to submit a research proposal on a topic of your choice. There may also be some taught elements to your PhD, such as compulsory research methods and research integrity modules – if this is the case, think about how you can prove that you are prepared to develop these advanced research skills and succeed at this element of the programme in your personal statement.

2. Consider what appeals to you specifically about the course

It is important to research the specific PhD programme 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. Consider why you have chosen to apply for this PhD Psychology programme over another – perhaps it is the strong links the university has to your desired industry, or maybe the Psychology department specialises in your particular area of interest. Whatever the reasons why your specific course appeals to you, make sure to include them in your personal statement.

Top tip: Make sure you are aware of the different types of postgraduate Psychology courses and which careers they can lead to. A PhD in Psychology tends to focus on research and building new knowledge, providing advanced research skills rather than professional, vocational training. PhD Psychology graduates therefore often go on to pursue careers in research or academia, rather than clinical work. A Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD), on the other hand, is a different qualification to a PhD in Psychology. Whilst they are both postgraduate qualifications, doctorates tend to focus on the application of knowledge and typically provide practical training as well as research/taught elements. Psychology Doctorates are therefore usually tailored towards a particular profession; for example, Doctorates in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) trains students to become Clinical Psychologists, while Doctorates in Educational and Child Psychology (DEdPsy) train students to become Educational Psychologists.

3. Think about your motivations for applying

Your chosen university will want to know your motivations for applying for a PhD in Psychology. 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 an excellent candidate to study the subject at PhD level.

For example, perhaps you have a particular career goal and completing a PhD 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.

Founder of The Profs and Imperial College London graduate, Dr Leo Evans, also recommends making it clear that you are committed to the subject area for the long haul: “Not only will academics be trying to gauge whether you are suitable for a PhD (i.e. that you are intelligent, qualified, a self-starter, driven and committed), they will also be judging whether you are likely to see it out when the going gets hard. Drop off rates are high in PhDs and it is quite expensive for departments to essentially train people who then leave (i.e. they take up departmental resources by having classes and taking up supervisors’ time, etc.).”

4. Go into detail about your past studies

When applying for PhD Psychology, you need to outline exactly why and how you are well-suited to the course based on your previous academic experience. 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 Master’s degree (or undergraduate degree, if you are applying without a Master’s) that have prepared you for studying Psychology at PhD level.

You should focus on discussing any independent work you have completed, both during your studies (such as a dissertation or independent research project), as well as work that has allowed you to develop the necessary skills for studying Psychology at an advanced level (particularly strong technical and problem-solving skills). This will help to demonstrate your academic competence, commitment to the subject, and ability to work independently – a highly important skill at postgraduate level.

As an example, if you are proposing to research the impact of increased automation in the healthcare sector on employee distress and happiness in the UK, you will ideally need to demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of automation and the healthcare sector from the modules you studied at undergraduate level. If you researched a similar topic in your undergraduate or Master’s dissertation and can cite specific findings and academics, even better. You will also need to show an appreciation of the interdisciplinary context of this topic (see tip 8 below).

Top tip: If you have any gaps in your education history, make sure you address these in your PhD 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. Similarly, if you are lacking any subject-specific experience (for example, if you studied your undergraduate degree in a subject other than Psychology), compensate for this by explaining how you have developed your foundation of relevant knowledge in other ways.

5. Include any relevant work experience

Including any relevant work experience you have completed in your personal statement will help to further demonstrate your genuine interest and real-world understanding of advanced level Psychology on an industry-specific level. 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.

Relevant work experience for a Psychology PhD might include: Clinical Psychology placements in the NHS, volunteering for a mental health charity, a placement at a unit for people with substance abuse, taking a post as a research assistant, and more. Many UK universities look for an understanding of how the healthcare system works in the UK, so it can be beneficial to have experience in the NHS or with a clinic that works closely with the NHS.

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 any work experience placements, but also what you learnt from it and how you intend to apply that experience in order to excel in your PhD.

Top tip: Though it’s important to include it if you have it, don’t worry if you are lacking in professional work experience. Many people who apply for a PhD have been in education their whole adult lives, so if you are missing experience then simply fill the space with further educational experience and skills that prove you are well-suited to studying at PhD level.

6. How else have you developed your interest in the topic?

Universities won’t just be looking at your past studies and work experience, but also how you have pursued and developed your interest in your chosen research topic in your own time. For example, maybe you led the Psychology society at your previous university, or perhaps you have simply explored your interest in the topic through reading relevant academic papers in the discipline/industry. Make sure to include examples and name-drop any significant organisations, news, papers, and academics throughout your personal statement to support your claims.

Keeping up to date with news in the psychological and medical communities, especially updates about the NHS and health policy, is also a great way to enhance your personal statement. It will allow you to make relevant references and anecdotes, show your commitment to the subject area, and demonstrate your understanding of the wider context of your research area. Some resources that will help you do that include the New Scientist , the Psychology section of The Guardian , the BPS , and the BMJ .

7. Briefly outline your 5-year plan

Universities will be looking for PhD applicants who are driven and committed to their industry. A strong personal statement should outline your goals for the future and explain how studying a PhD in Psychology will help you to achieve your 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 PhD, whether educationally or professionally. If you have professional objectives, explain how this course will help you move towards your career goal.

Top 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, don’t be tempted to leave this part out – it is invaluable for demonstrating your motivation and commitment to the course.

8. Consider an interdisciplinary approach

Psychology is an interdisciplinary subject, containing elements of Biology and Medicine in particular at all levels. When it comes to studying Psychology at PhD level, the importance of an interdisciplinary understanding and approach becomes even more paramount. For example, many areas of research intersect heavily with Sociology, Education, Marketing, Business, and even Politics and Law. Universities will expect to see an appreciation of the intersection between Psychology and any other disciplines that are relevant to your chosen research topic in your personal statement.

For example, if you are proposing research into the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of various age groups, you will need to look at a broad spectrum of factors (such as social isolation, the role of technology, the political response and role of the media, etc.) in order to gain a holistic view of the psychological effects, many of which draw on other disciplines.

9. Show that you have the technical skills required

University-level Psychology requires students to have more than just excellent subject knowledge and essay-writing skills – it is actually a highly quantitative subject that requires excellent technical skills. Depending on the research you are proposing, you may need to demonstrate that you are able to use certain software and experiment equipment, and have strong data analysis skills.

If you studied Psychology at Master’s level, you will almost certainly be familiar with much of the software and technical skills required and will be able to demonstrate this in your personal statement. However, if you studied a slightly different (but related) subject area, you may need to research what skills you will need in order to conduct your research project effectively. This will help to reassure your university that you are prepared to study Psychology at PhD level.

10. Consider how your work can contribute to the department, university, and wider society

Our final tip for writing an excellent PhD personal statement for Psychology is to consider how your work will contribute – not only to the specific department and university you are applying for, but also to wider society. Universities will want to know that you understand the wider context in which your research will sit and what gap it will fill in the current research.

When applying for a PhD (especially a funded PhD), you’re also essentially asking a university to invest in you, so you need to convince them that you are worth that investment. A major way to do this is to explain how you will add value to their department and be an excellent member of the academic community.

Psychology research can also have real impacts in a range of other disciplines and in wider society. For example, research into the psychological development of young children and their response to different educational approaches has heavily influenced the style of teaching and curriculum of primary schools, which in turn impacts a whole generation of society.

How can we help?

The Profs’ PhD admissions consultants are true experts in helping students prepare for study at PhD level, submit stand-out PhD applications, and get into their first-choice universities. Our network contains current researchers, lecturers, and ex-admissions staff who have reviewed hundreds of postgraduate applications, as well as Psychology experts, so they know just what universities are looking for in PhD applicants.

More than 90% of students who work with our team secure places at their first or second choice university. These universities often include top 10 institutions like Oxbridge, Warwick, Manchester, Bristol, and more.

For professional, one-to-one guidance on your PhD application, get in touch with our team today.

Further resources

  • How to Apply For a PhD
  • How to Apply for PhD Psychology
  • How to Write a PhD Research Proposal
  • How to Prepare For a Postgraduate Interview
  • Common Postgraduate Interview Questions

What can I do with a PhD in Psychology?

A PhD in Psychology is a great way to enhance your knowledge of a topic of interest. Naturally, many PhD Psychology students go on to pursue a career in academia, becoming full-time researchers and lecturers.

Depending on which area of Psychology you specialise in during your PhD, there are also a wide range of career paths open to you. For example, if you complete a PhD in Forensic Psychology, you can go on to work as a Forensic Psychologist in a prison, police force or for the government. By contrast, students who complete a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology typically go on to become professional Clinical Psychologists for the NHS or other health organisations.

PhD Psychology graduates are also recruited for research, advisory and consultancy roles in a range of government organisations, NGOs, and private companies.

Can you get a Psychology PhD without a Master’s?

Most universities will consider applicants without a Master’s degree, so long as they can demonstrate the necessary skills and passion for the subject area. Some top universities, however, require applicants to have a Master’s, and this usually gives you an edge over other applicants for the most competitive courses.

How long does a PhD in Psychology take?

Full-time PhDs usually last for three or four years, with most PhD students finishing their theses in their fourth year. If you study on a part-time basis, a PhD can take up to six or seven years.

Browse more “ University Applications ” related blogs:

Emily Watson

Emily Watson

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Psychology: With [Examples]

In this article, we discuss how to write a personal statement for psychology courses with helpful tips and examples.

What do a volunteer in a program for homeless children, a future college lecturer, and a medical student with a passion for supporting high achievers with ADHD have in common? They all want to study psychology.

By the end of this guide, you will have everything you need to write an outstanding personal statement for psychology.

psychology personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a psychology personal statement, what are the different stages of writing a personal statement for psychology, psychology personal statement example #1, psychology personal statement example #2, psychology personal statement example #3, faq (frequently asked questions), more personal statement tutorials.

It’s a professional essay that outlines your interest and knowledge in the field, along with your relevant qualifications and career goals. You will also explain how you fit with the psychology program to which you are applying.

A well-crafted personal statement can help you stand out from other applicants and demonstrate your commitment to psychology and your enthusiasm for learning. The statement should provide insight into why you are interested in studying psychology.

Furthermore, the statement should highlight any skills and experiences you have, such as research experience or volunteer work.

For example,

“I also volunteered at a local after-school club for vulnerable teens, where I was able to witness first-hand the impact that psychological support can have on an individual’s well-being. I believe that I learned as much from the experienced, committed counsellors there as I did in my early classes in psychology. I am deeply committed to entering psychology and making a positive difference in the lives of others.”

1. Understand the Course and Application Requirements

Before you start writing, make sure you understand the specific requirements of the psychology course you’re applying for.

Ask your chosen university or college for any specific guidance they may have and read it carefully.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with any guidelines including word count, and list any information you should include in your personal statement.

2. Identify your interests

Writing a personal statement for a psychology course can seem daunting, but breaking it down into individual steps can be much easier.

Start by identifying your experience, interests and skills, including, work experience, conferences you have attended, and voluntary work.

“With this in mind, I have volunteered for the past three summers at Rainbow House, where counsellors and psychologists help support people struggling with a range of addictions access counselling, and practical training and prepare to re-enter the workforce. I believe that without counselling as an intrinsic part of the process, they would not see the levels of success that they have.”

Be sure to explain reasons for your interest in the branches of psychology that the course may cover, and provide examples from your own life when possible.

Let your passion for the subject and your natural curiosity shine through in your personal statement, and make sure it is original and specific to your experiences.

3. Write down your initial ideas

When writing a personal statement for psychology, it is important to plan properly by writing down your initial ideas.

This idea list should include your experiences, interests, and skills related to psychology and why you are applying to study psychology.

Use your initial ideas to create an outline for your personal statement that includes a brief introduction about yourself and why you want to study psychology. Choose the experiences that made an impact on you, particularly if they relate to your future career.

“…my ambition is to continue my studies and complete a PhD, in order to lecture in psychology at college level. I believe that every field of medicine should have experts who are passionate about academic excellence and I want to use my talent for coaching and tutoring my peers at a higher level.”

Think about how to make your opening sentences captivating and relevant, as this will be your first impression on the reader. Use short, punchy sentences to grab the reader’s attention.

4. Write your personal statement

Start with an engaging opening paragraph. Make sure to use a professional and formal writing style, avoid jokes, and make sure your personality comes through in your writing.

‘I am excited to apply to study psychology at postgraduate level as I have always been fascinated by how the mind works. My interest in this psychology was there from a very early age, when I tested in the 90th percentile as being very empathetic and supportive of other pupils at elementary school. During High School I was able to volunteer to work on homework with young children who were homeless and seeing them cope with challenging emotional issues filled me with admiration for their resilience while wanting to let them know that I was there to offer academic support also.’

Allocate one paragraph to each point on your list. Make sure your statement is specific and original, and avoid long-winded sentences.

Once you have your first draft, seek feedback from classmates as well as tutors. Incorporate any comments, feedback, and suggestions that improve your statement.

5. Revise your personal statement

  • Wait 24 hours, then read over your final draft and check for grammar or spelling mistakes. Read it out loud or have someone else read it for you to ensure it is clear, informative and personal.
  • Ensure your personal statement is original and specific to your experiences.
  • Stay away from any negative content unless talking about how a difficult experience has made you stronger and more resilient, which will make you a better student.
  • Keep redrafting until you feel it is as polished as possible.

I am excited to apply to study psychology at a postgraduate level as I have always been fascinated by how the mind works. My interest in this psychology was there from a very early age when I tested in the 90th percentile as being very empathetic and supportive of other pupils at elementary school. During High School, I was able to volunteer to work on homework with young children who were homeless and seeing them cope with challenging emotional issues filled me with admiration for their resilience while wanting to let them know that I was there to offer academic support also.

During my undergraduate degree in biology, I was the president of the psychology club, where I worked with graduate students to complete several independent research projects on topics relating to young learners. As a result, I am keen to become a child psychologist, focusing on supporting young people who are homeless and in the foster care system.

I also volunteered at a local after-school club for vulnerable teens, where I was able to witness first-hand the impact that psychological support can have on an individual’s well-being. I believe that I learned as much from the experienced, committed counsellors there as I did in my early classes in psychology. I am deeply committed to entering psychology and making a positive difference in the lives of others.

I am confident that my passion, curiosity, and dedication to psychology make me a strong candidate for this program, and I am excited to have the opportunity to continue my studies at a higher level and become part of a new learning community.

With every academic paper and publication, I read since beginning to study medicine and psychology, my interest in the subject has grown. In light of my fascination with behaviour and the mind, as well as my interest in helping patients, psychology is my chosen subject for further study. It is extremely important to me to continue learning and building upon my knowledge, and I am full of admiration for grassroots charities making sure that all patients can access high-quality, affordable care.

With this in mind, I have volunteered for the past three summers at Rainbow House, where counsellors and psychologists help support people struggling with a range of addictions access counselling, and practical training and prepare to re-enter the workforce. I believe that without counselling as an intrinsic part of the process, they would not see the levels of success that they have.

While I enjoy being involved in this type of community project and foresee my involvement continuing for many years, my ambition is to continue my studies and complete a PhD, in order to lecture in psychology at college level. I believe that every field of medicine should have experts who are passionate about academic excellence and I want to use my talent for coaching and tutoring my peers at a higher level. I maintain a 4.0 GPA and have taken three extra credit courses while acting as a research assistant for Professor Dimbleby one day a week.

I feel prepared for the challenges that lie ahead and am eager to join a world-class team at Cornell to become the best that I can be and support others to be their best.

I have long had an interest in better understanding psychopathologies and wish to pursue a psychiatry residency at Ramsey Hospital after graduating from Cold Springs University Medical School. It has been fascinating to see the societal change in terms of acknowledging and talking about mental and social issues such as depression and anxiety as well as the contribution and importance of the inclusion of neurodivergent people in our communities. As a future psychiatrist, I am committed to treating every patient with respect and dignity, ensuring I am treating the person rather than focusing only on the diagnosis.

My psychiatry rotation during medical school was an enriching experience and I became confident in taking patients’ psychiatric history and conducting mental status exams. My ability to build rapport with patients and question them directly but respectfully, improved over the six weeks and I look forward to focusing more on these skills as I gain a deeper understanding of effective psychiatric care.

Last year I volunteered with a charity supporting mental health and neurodivergence awareness in Hanoi, Viet Nam, as I feel a deep connection with that country, thanks to having Vietnamese-American relatives. I learned that there are very few psychologists and even fewer clinical psychiatrists who can prescribe medication and treatment. As increasing numbers of teenagers and adults as well as younger children are being diagnosed with ADHD, as in the US, there are often long waiting times, and challenges in accessing medication. There is much work to be done on the use of non-stimulants to treat ADHD where stimulants such as amphetamines are ineffective and I completed my final research paper on this topic.

In Vietnam it was interesting to me to encounter some of the same prejudices as my older sister encountered from relatives and her primary care doctor, who insisted that my sister could not have ADHD because she is a well-paid, successful accountant. The struggle to balance and often hide symptoms of her condition has left my sister battling anxiety and depression and I am particularly interested in developments in treating ADHD in combination with depression, severe anxiety and other psychiatric conditions.

Following my residency my goal is to qualify as a psychologist and practice locally in Arizona while offering continuing long-distance support via Zoom to the team in Hanoi. I am determined to become an outstanding psychiatrist, enhancing my patients’ emotional well-being while supporting them as individuals with the best and most professional care.

Some of these questions were already covered in this blog post but I will still list them here (because not everyone carefully reads every paragraph) so here’s the TL;DR version.

What format should I use for my personal statement for psychology?

Your personal statement should include a brief introduction about yourself, your experiences, any past knowledge and why you want to study this specific course. Also include details of your relevant hands-on experiences (research, internship, volunteer, work, etc.) and what you learned from them.

Additionally, if you are applying to a PhD program, make sure to mention the name of the faculty member(s) you are applying to.

How should I structure my personal statement for psychology?

A personal statement for psychology should begin with an introduction about yourself, such as your experiences and any past knowledge that relates to the field, as well as why you want to study psychology.

The body of your statement should go into depth on your relevant hands-on experiences, such as research, internships, volunteering, or work. Be sure to provide details about what you did, the names of any organizations or people you worked with, and what you learned from the experience.

The conclusion should show how you are a good fit for the school/program/faculty member you are applying to, such as how the experience you mentioned has solidified your interest in the field.

Finally, it is important to ensure your statement flows. Take time to edit and proofread your statement to make sure everything connects and is cohesive.

What topics should I focus on in my personal statement for psychology?

Consider the aspects of the psychology course that you enjoy the most and do some additional reading beyond what you’ve been taught.

Additionally, provide specific examples of how you’ve pursued your interest in the subject, such as writing about a topic you’ve studied that you find fascinating or discussing a book or blog post that made you want to learn more.

Finally, consider which field of psychology you would like to specialize in and why.

What level of detail should I go into for my personal statement for psychology?

It’s important to go into specific detail about your interests and skills.

Avoid sweeping generalisations (I always get high grades) and give focused details (I maintain a 3.9 GPA).

Research the course you are applying for so you have a realistic idea of what you will be doing on it, and make sure to articulate why you want to study psychology.

What should I avoid when writing my personal statement for psychology?

When writing your personal statement for psychology, there are a few things you should avoid in order to give yourself the best chance of getting onto your desired course.

  • Firstly, avoid using an informal writing style or telling jokes. Use a professional and formal tone when injecting personality into your statement.
  • Be mindful of not giving too much personal information in terms of speaking about your own life events, mental health challenges, or learning difficulties unless they have made you stronger.
  • Finally, pay attention to your tone and avoid phrases such as “less fortunate people”. Stay away from using sophisticated language or phrases if you don’t understand them. Be honest and original.

How can I get feedback on my personal statement for psychology?

Ask trusted individuals, such as professors, mentors, and friends, to read over your statement and give feedback. This will help you to identify any errors or missing information that you may have overlooked.

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Writing Your Personal Statements

Your personal statement must demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have considered graduate school and their specific program seriously. It’s your opportunity to summarize your academic and research experiences. You must also communicate how your experiences are relevant to preparing you for the graduate degree that you will be pursuing and explain why a given program is the right one for you.

The personal statement is where you highlight your strengths. Make your strengths absolutely clear to the reviewers, because they will often be reading many other statements. Your self-assessments and honest conversations with peers and advisors should have also revealed your strengths. But you must also address (not blame others for) weaknesses or unusual aspects of your application or academic background.

Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment.

1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many statements, it’s important to start off with your strengths and not “bury your lede.” Consider traits of successful graduate students from your informational interviews, and identify which of these traits you have. These traits could involve research skills and experiences, expertise in working with techniques or instruments, familiarity with professional networks and resources in your field, etc.

  • Check your responses from the exercises in the self-assessment section. You may wish to consult notes from your informational interviews and your Seven Stories . Write concise summaries and stories that demonstrate your strengths, e.g. how your strengths helped you to achieve certain goals or overcome obstacles.
  • Summarize your research experience(s). What were the main project goals and the “big picture” questions? What was your role in this project? What did you accomplish? What did you learn, and how did you grow as a result of the experience(s)?

Vannessa Velez's portrait

My research examines the interplay between U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy during the Cold War. As a native New Yorker, I saw firsthand how dramatically my city changed after 9/11, which prompted my early interest in U.S. policy at home and abroad. As an undergraduate at the City College of New York, I planned to study international relations with a focus on U.S. foreign affairs. I also quickly became involved in student activist groups that focused on raising awareness about a wide range of human rights issues, from the Syrian refugee crisis to asylum seekers from Central America.

The more I learned about the crises in the present, the more I realized that I needed a deeper understanding of the past to fully grasp them. I decided to pursue a PhD in history in order to gain a clearer understanding of human rights issues in the present and to empower young student-activists like myself.

— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History

Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects

  • Identify weaknesses or unusual aspects in your application—e.g., a significant drop in your GPA during a term; weak GRE scores; changes in your academic trajectory, etc. Don’t ignore them, because ignoring them might be interpreted as blind spots for you. If you’re unsure if a particular issue is significant enough to address, seek advice from faculty mentors.
  • Explain how you’ll improve and strengthen those areas or work around your weakness. Determine how you will address them in a positive light, e.g., by discussing how you overcame obstacles through persistence, what you learned from challenges, and how you grew from failures. Focusing on a growth mindset  or grit  and this blog on weaknesses might also help.
  • Deal with any significant unusual aspects later in the statement to allow a positive impression to develop first.
  • Explain, rather than provide excuses—i.e., address the issue directly and don’t blame others (even if you believe someone else is responsible). Draft it and get feedback from others to see if the explanation is working as you want it to.
  • Provide supporting empirical evidence if possible. For example, “Adjusting to college was a major step for me, coming from a small high school and as a first-generation college student. My freshman GPA was not up to par with my typical achievements, as demonstrated by my improved  GPA of 3.8 during my second and third years in college."
  • Be concise (don’t dwell on the issues), but also be complete (don’t lead to other potentially unanswered questions). For example, if a drop in grades during a term was due to a health issue, explain whether the health issue is recurring, managed now with medication, resolved, etc.

2. Explain your commitment to research and their graduate program, including your motivation for why you are applying to this graduate program at this university. Be as specific as possible. Identify several faculty members with whom you are interested in working, and explain why their research interests you.

  • Descriptions of your commitment should explain why you’re passionate about this particular academic field and provide demonstrations of your commitment with stories (e.g., working long hours to solve a problem, overcoming challenges in research, resilience in pursuing problems). Don’t merely assert your commitment.
  • Explain why you are applying to graduate school, as opposed to seeking a professional degree or a job. Discuss your interest and motivation for grad school, along with your future career aspirations.

Jaime Fine's portrait

I am definitely not your traditional graduate student. As a biracial (Native American and white), first-generation PhD student from a military family, I had very limited guidance on how best to pursue my education, especially when I decided that graduate school was a good idea. I ended up coming to this PhD in a very circuitous manner, stopping first to get a JD and, later, an MFA in Young Adult Literature. With each degree, I took time to work and apply what I’d learned, as a lawyer and as an educator. Each time, I realized that I was circling around questions that I couldn’t let go of—not just because I found them to be fascinating, but because I did (and still do!) feel that my research could help to bridge a gap that desperately needs bridging. Because my work is quite interdisciplinary, I strongly feel that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this line of research without the degrees and life experience I gained before coming to this program.

— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature

Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects

  • Think in terms of engaging faculty in a conversation rather than pleading with them that you should be admitted. Ask reviewers to read drafts with this concern in mind.
  • With later drafts, try developing an overall narrative theme. See if one emerges as you work.
  • Write at least 10 drafts and expect your thinking and the essay to change quite a bit over time.
  • Read drafts out loud to help you catch errors.
  • Expect the "you' that emerges in your essay to be incomplete. . . that’s OK.
  • You’re sharing a professional/scholarly slice of "you."
  • Avoid humor (do you really know what senior academics find funny?) and flashy openings and closings. Think of pitching the essay to an educated person in the field, but not necessarily in your specialty. Avoid emotionally laden words (such as "love" or "passion"). Remember, your audience is a group of professors! Overly emotional appeals might make them uncomfortable. They are looking for scholarly colleagues.

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Psychology Personal Statement

My desire for wanting to pursue psychology in higher education not only stems from a personal perspective but also from hearing and reading about people not receiving adequate treatment for various psychological illnesses such as depression, eating disorders and substance abuse. In the same way research into attachment has helped to improve childcare practices I would like to use my degree in psychology to improve the treatment of mentally ill patients, especially in third world countries where mental health care is restrained by resource constraints.

Psychology is a subject that really stimulates my mind and my desire to challenge my perception of mental health.   As well as this, my interest has come from a personal point.  Witnessing a family member with mental health issues has made me want to understand why he behaves that way and why his illness cannot be treated in the same way we treat a common cold. There is so much information on the anatomy of the human body however I feel like we have not explored far enough into the human mind to find out the underlying causes that explain our daily behaviour.  Furthermore, coming from an African background whereby there is a stigma surrounding mental health or what is considered abnormal behaviour has only pushed me to further educate myself on a topic that may not be understood my many.

Spending a week of my summer holidays at a summer school at I was able to go into more depth and detail on topics in psychology than I had been able to in college. During this week I learnt about evolutionary psychology which explained the concept of mate selection. Prior to the summer school it had never occurred to me that there were deeper underlying factors that influenced how we select our partners.  A session on social psychology proved to be very intriguing as it applied social identity to the consumer and from this I was able to gain an understanding on why we are drawn to certain brands. I found these taster sessions to be highly interesting as I realised that psychology can be applied to various areas of life. This further reinforced my decision that psychology is something I want to do at degree level.

Furthermore, I took the initiative to find a mental health expert and discuss their job.  They informed me that their occupation involved assessing and talking to patients about their problems and discussing the best way to plan and deliver their care.  I found this to be relevant to my aspiration to be a counselling psychologist as it would involve similar duties. Seeking further information helped me to look beyond more than university and to begin considering a variety of career paths  that I could pursue with my degree.  This as well as attending the summer school and open days at different universities has been very helpful in providing an insight to what studying psychology will be like and what careers a degree in psychology could lead to.

Being a prefect  and a class representative has helped me learn how to deal with different personalities and how to handle difficult situations which I believe to be useful skills for a degree that largely involves  interaction with people.  These leadership positions have taught me how to manage my time and how to deal with conflicting priorities as well as moral dilemmas.  Studying in university will require good time management in order to deal with an increased workload and having roles of responsibility from an early age has prepared me well enough to be able to deal with the jump of going from sixth form to university.

In conclusion, with my personal interest in understanding human psychology as well as my academic background, I am convinced that I will enjoy and excel studying a degree in psychology. I intend to use this degree to pursue a career as a professional in mental health or counselling.

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