Writing a Great Postgraduate Application Letter
Competition for postgraduate study is fierce. There are more prospective students than there are places on postgraduate courses, and this situation is likely to be exacerbated by cuts to education funding.
In these circumstances it is important that you stand out from the crowd. Your application letter, or personal statement, is one of the key means by which you can catch the attention of the admissions tutors. By spending some time crafting an excellent application you can help to maximise your chances of securing a place on your course of choice. So what should you consider when writing your application letter or personal statement?
Consider StructureIt is all too common for applicants to overlook the importance of structure in their application. You should approach your application in the same way you would a sales pitch. It needs a strong introduction that catches the attention of the reader. This is then fleshed out in the middle section, which explains your background and your interest in the field. The final section should be strong, and leave the reader with a positive sense of your abilities.
Play to your Strengths...Emphasise the things that make you well suited for postgraduate study. For example, you might talk about extra work that you have carried out in the field, or particularly good academic results that you have achieved. Don’t dwell on the negatives; the admissions board will have plenty of time to find those themselves.
...but Don’t be CockyOn the other hand, though, don’t become so over-enamoured with your own application that you come over as cocky. Remember that your application is not just about explaining why you are right for the course; it is also about selling you as a person, and persuading the admissions tutors that you would be a diligent student and someone with whom they could work.
Explain your MotivationYou should explain what it is that has driven you to apply for this course. Why are you particularly interested in this area of study? What has your undergraduate degree (or any other course that you have undertaken) given you that has led you to apply for this particular postgraduate course?
Why This Institution?Explain why you are particularly drawn to the institution to which you are applying. Is the department particularly well-known? Is its location particularly good? Are there members of staff there whose work you have read?
What Can you Offer the Institution?Your application shouldn’t just be about what you will get out of your time at the university. Instead, it should also stress what you can contribute to the institution. How will you get involved in the life of the university outside your own study? What particular skills do you have that could improve other students’ experiences?
How is your Degree Relevant?
Outline how your undergraduate degree has prepared you for the postgraduate course for which you are applying. If they are in the same or similar subjects, this should be easy – but, as is relatively common, if they are in divergent fields you may have to give this some careful thought. Consider the transferrable skills that you learned during your degree; for example, have you become more adept at analysis? Have you developed new approaches to your own learning?