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!
Postgraduate Personal Statement Example: Counselling 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 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 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.”
Commentary and Analysis
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 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 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.”
Commentary and Analysis
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.
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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.
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