Personal and supporting statements
A personal statement is a document written in support of your application to study at an educational institution. A supporting statement is a document written to apply for jobs using the person specification, to show an employer how you meet the essential and desirable criteria for that job.
What is the difference?
You will often hear requests when applying for jobs or further study for you to write a personal statement or a supporting statement. Although it sounds like they could be the same thing, there are specific differences between the two, and understanding these differences will increase your chances of preparing a strong application.
What are they?
A personal statement is a piece of writing that you will prepare to support a postgraduate application to study. It is very similar to the undergraduate personal statement that you will most likely have prepared to apply for your undergraduate degree programme.
The personal statement is your chance to impress the institution where you are applying and put forward your reasons for wanting to study, the skills and experience you have that will make you a good student and your ambitions following the course.
Since most postgraduate applications are made directly to each institution you apply to, you can tailor your personal statement to their specific course and institution.
What to include
There are many resources to help you prepare your personal statement. Firstly, always visit the institution’s website where you are applying. Many will provide their own guidance on what they expect you to include.
Points to cover are:
- Your motivations for choosing the course and career goals – What has attracted you to the course? Why is this subject area interesting to you? Why does the course suit your academic interests and career goals? How will the course benefit your future ambitions?
- Your reasons for applying to that institution – What do you know about the institution that encourages you to apply? Are there specific modules within the course that excite you the most? Are there work experience opportunities offered?
- Your academic skills – How has your undergraduate degree prepared you to progress to postgraduate study? What academic skills have you developed that are most relevant to this course? Are you proud of grades within your undergraduate study that demonstrate your academic success?
- Other skills, experience and interests – Do you have interests outside of your academic study that are interesting or relevant? Did you take part in extra curricular activities during university? Did you find relevant work experience during your undergraduate study that you can use to help you on the postgraduate course?
How to structure them
The personal statement should be an organised and well thought out piece of writing, with a sensible and flowing structure:
- Beginning: Capture the reader’s attention from the top of the page with a creative introduction, demonstrating your reasons and motivations for choosing the course.
- Middle: Separate paragraphs that provide evidence of your skills, experience, and knowledge of the institution.
- End: Summarise why the institution should grant you a place on their course.
Write your personal statement in a positive and captivating way, but as succinctly as possible. One side of A4 is usually sufficient. You may be given a word or character limit to stick to so do check any guidance before submitting your application.
You can use the structure presented above in the 'what to include' section of these pages or follow an example on one of the resources listed below.
What are they?
A supporting statement is a piece of writing that can form a section of many job application forms. Any employer could ask you to write a supporting statement however they are most common within education, public sector and not for profit organisation applications.
The supporting statement is the chance for you demonstrate how you meet ALL the essential and, if you can, desirable criteria within their person specification.
What is a person specification?
A person specification is a document that presents the criteria that the employer will expect you to be able to demonstrate to do the job successfully. It outlines the skills, experience, and knowledge that are required for the job.
The criteria could be presented in a grid form, or simply a list but each criterion will be labelled as ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’. Be careful – some person specifications will be a separate document that you have to download.
Your supporting statement will be marked against the person specification criteria and will determine if the employer wants to invite you to the next stage of the recruitment process. In most cases this will be the interview stage.
How to write them
Unlike the personal statement, the supporting statement offers a structure (use the order of the criteria) which can make it easier to prepare. Like the personal statement, writing in a positive, engaging manner is required, and writing as succinctly as possible is preferred. You should provide specific examples when you write about your skills and experience, indicating HOW you meet each criterion.
- Follow the same order of the criteria in the person specification, this helps the employer locate your relevant evidence and provides a logical structure for your writing.
- Consider using the criteria as subheadings within your statement or, where the criteria are numbered, number your paragraphs to identify which criteria you are referring to.
- Where possible, and if logical, group together similar criteria to save time and space and repetition of your evidence throughout the statement.
- Don't only state what you have done, explain why and how this meets the criteria (See STAR technique under Job Interviews).
- If you can quantify things, do – this will strengthen your examples.
- Try to use relevant examples for the role you are applying for but if you can’t, think of where in your experience so far you can evidence the criteria and write about this.
- Write with a positive impact – think about your wording and phrases. You can even use similar language and phrases that the employer uses throughout the job description and person specification.
How long should a supporting statement be?
Some applications will provide a word count for you to meet. It is important you follow this instruction and do not go over it. If a wordcount is not provided, 1-2 pages of writing is recommended.
Check before you submit!
- Gain feedback before sending – your friends, family or careers advisers are on hand to assist.
- Prepare your statement in a word document before pasting it into the actual application – this will allow you to make changes, carry out spelling and grammar checks and save your work as you move through writing it.
- Keep a copy of your supporting statement so you can read through it and familiarise yourself with it before attending the interview, should you gain an invite.
Speak to a careers adviser
Our Careers Advisers are on hand to help. Book an appointment on Advantage or by calling 0161 295 0023 (option 5).
Appointments are available for current students and graduates of the University of Salford only.