Writing your PhD personal statement

Are you planning to apply for a PhD programme? That’s exciting! We know that the application process can sometimes be stressful, so to help you with your mission we have prepared a few tips for writing your PhD personal statement.

What is a PhD personal statement?

A PhD personal statement is different from a PhD research proposal, and the two should not be mixed up. A research proposal is a statement outlining the research problem that a student is looking to solve through their research. A PhD personal statement is usually required when a university is recruiting candidates onto pre-defined PhD projects.

A PhD personal statement will serve as your way to promote yourself as a student and explain why you are eligible to become a PhD student. Your personal statement will be your chance to make a good first impression. This will be your opportunity to talk about, and market yourself as a student. 

In addition, some students are asked to supply a motivation letter. A motivation letter is focused on outlining your future study plans and how the PhD programme can help you achieve your goals as a professional.

A PhD personal statement, on the other hand, will need to cover your motivations, academic background, achievements, experiences, and personal strengths. They are widely used at undergraduate and masters level alongside qualifications and/or work experience.

It’s important to understand the difference between these two requirements to make sure that you don’t end up sending the wrong type of letter which can lead to rejection. 

Who reads a PhD personal statement? 

Your PhD personal statement will be read and considered by various people. Admissions tutors, potential supervisors, and interview panelists will read your personal statement. All of them will be checking different parts of your personal statements such as your relevant experience, qualifications, academic background, motivations and more.

These people will be interested in different parts of your personal statement. But as long as you craft a well-thought, well-structured, and genuine statement, you’ll convince everyone why you are a good fit.

What you should include in your PhD personal statement

Different universities and departments will have differing requirements. Therefore we strongly encourage you to check – with the relevant contacts – to ensure that you cover the details they expect you to include. 

The whole point of writing your PhD personal statement is for you to tell them who you are. We know it’s easy to talk about yourself. But do make sure that information you provide is still relevant to why you are applying for a PhD programme.

Be clear and concise when sharing facts about yourself to make your readers fully understand who you are and why you deserve to become a PhD student. 

Your previous studies or courses 

All universities will have different entry requirements when it comes to PhD programmes but most of them will only accept students who have already completed their Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree. You need to highlight your learnings, experiences, and achievements from your previous studies to demonstrate your eligibility and become accepted in a PhD programme. 

Why you want to become a PhD student?

When writing your PhD personal statement, you must ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to become a PhD student?
  • What is your motivation for studying this degree subject?
  • Explain is the attraction of the particular department?
  • What made you choose a certain university and not another?
  • Describe the details you looking forward to in your PhD programme.

Display your curiosity 

This is your chance to display your curiosity and showcase why you enjoy doing research. Although your interests might change throughout the programme, giving your readers an idea of your interests will still be great and beneficial to include in your PhD personal statement. 

Experiences and Volunteer Jobs 

You should include your work experiences, research experience and volunteer jobs to showcase your competencies. Highlight any relevant experiences you have and be sure to briefly describe the responsibilities you have previously undertaken. This will make your PhD personal statement look more professional and convincing. 


Critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, time management skills are some of the many skills you need to have if you want to complete your PhD degree programme. You must share your skills in your PhD personal statement to convince readers that you are prepared and skilled enough to finish your PhD programme. 

Your goals 

You can also share a glimpse of your future goals and explain how studying for a PhD can help you achieve your goals. Although your goals are expected to be seen in your motivation letter, it won’t harm you to share a bit about your career aspirations in your PhD personal statement. 

Weaknesses and how you plan to address them

Universities don’t often require students to include their weaknesses in their PhD personal statement. However, in case they ask you to it’s crucial to indicate how you are planning to address any areas where you might struggle. Better to be honest now and mention how you are overcoming them to ensure you can get the support you need. 

Tips for writing your PhD personal statement

  • Before you start, make sure you know the requirements and selection criteria so you can convince all the readers of your PhD personal statement.
  • Be honest. All supervisors can tell if you’re lying just to make yourself look good.
  • Your chances of getting onto a PhD programme can depend on the quality of your personal statement. Don’t rush it and give yourself plenty of time to do it.
  • Proofread your PhD personal statement. You can be a great candidate because of your experiences but if your grammar or spelling is mostly incorrect on your personal statement, you might end up being rejected.
  • Don’t copy or use personal statement templates, using those will make your statement look generic. Structure your personal statement properly and make it unique enough to stand out.
  • Show off your enthusiasm for the PhD programme and be as relevant and specific as possible. You will impress your readers and you'll have a higher chance of being accepted.

Next Steps

Search through the latest PhD study opportunities on Postgraduate Studentships, and join our mailing list for up-to-date advice and opportunities.