Fola Aina, a Nigerian doctoral candidate in Leadership Studies with reference to security & development at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College London has giving an insight to people wanting to study abroad what should and should not be contained in a personal statement.
Fola Aina has a background in Political Science & International Development Policy, Fola has a 2nd master’s at the University of Oxford.
In recognition of his leadership potentials, he was awarded a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2016. In 2018 he was selected as an Advisory Mentor for the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, UK, & recently been awarded a Frederic Bastiat Fellowship on public policy at George Mason Uni.
Aina gave the insight in a series of tweets during a TweetChat, organised by Tunde Omotoye, a Canadian based Nigerian Human Resource Manager.
He said, 1/5 A personal statement is essentially a statement that should contain information about your motivation and interest in applying for the programme you have chosen to apply to.
It is also important to ensure that you do not necessarily repeat information that is already contained in your CV. But rather seek to stress your academic achievements and professional achievements as well.
If you have also volunteered, it would be helpful to emphasis this as well. Particularly if it is related to the course of study. Mentioning volunteering generally helps to demonstrate your ability to learn and work with others.
Furthermore, your personal statement should contain information about how the programme will help to enhance your career development and why you consider the school to be particularly ideal in helping you achieve this.
You should not include information about your hobbies, state of origin, local government area, etc. Remember that you are writing to an international audience that is more interested in whether or not you are a worthy addition to their school and programme.
On how a candidate can stand out and be impressive through their personal statement, Aina said “When writing a personal statement bear in mind that the admissions committee will also be reviewing a lot of applications.”
So the first thing you want to do when writing a personal statement should be to ensure that you make a compelling case by emphasizing why you are an ideal candidate for admission.
You do this by stressing your academic potential and skills such as critical analysis, analytical skills, research skills and diligence.Also stress how you have demonstrated these over the years from your undergraduate programme and your professional experience.
Also go the extra mile by mentioning some of the modules in the course you wish to study and how they are of particular interest to you. This means that to stand out you should show that you have done your own research on the programme.
Also it is very helpful and beneficial to demonstrate to the admissions committee your knowledge of the field in general and the contemporary issues in it and why they matter to you.
On how long should a personal statement be really, he said, It is important to keep your personal statement concise and yet detailed with relevant information that holds the attention of the admissions committee.
See it as an opportunity to introduce yourself to a committee of experts who may not have the chance to meet with you or speak to you in person until a decision is made.
So you therefore want to make sure that you are convincing enough as when you appear before an interview panel for a job.
I usually advise that you try not to exceed two pages maximum. Also remember not to dominate your personal statement with a repetition of information that is already contained in your CV.
Very often, your personal statement plays a significant role in determining whether or not you would be offered an admission. So make sure you get someone to read it before submitting it. Avoid grammatical errors and tautology.
On the uniqueness of the research topic increase my chances of getting approved, Aina said, When writing a research proposal, the first thing to do is to stick to a topic that sustains your interests. There is no point starting a graduate programme and not completing it because you lost interest in it.
Also very often some candidates try to come up with topics that they hope has the potential to ‘change the world’. This is often the case with doctoral studies. Starting out this way could be counterproductive and quite misleading.
While there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, it is more prudent to consider the 3 most important things when deciding a research topic that is both ‘feasible’ and ‘viable’.
These essentially include the following: i. The availability of data for the study. ii. Availability of supervision. ii. Time-frame for the study.
In other words, you don’t want to start your research and get stuck mid way because there is no data for the research. You also don’t want to struggle with your research because your supervisor is not so interested in it.
How a research proposal structure should be, he said Your research proposal should begin with an introduction or background. It should then contain your potential research questions. Ideally, I would suggest one major question and then two other operational questions from the first.
It may be helpful to include hypothesis if you have any that set the course for the research. Then a methodology section should also be included which should clearly spell out how you intend to collect and analyse data.
You can preferably include this in a tabular form. This is not necessary when applying for a masters programme but it is very important for a PhD programme.
Also ensure that your research proposal has a bibliography. Don’t just copy and paste. But make sure to include only those that have been used in writing your proposal.
Pay very close attention to these points. Don’t write them in a hurry. Make sure they are well written in academic language and terminologies that demonstrate your familiarity with the subject matter.
Asides from Title, Background and Rationale, Research Questions, Research Methodology, Plan of Work and Time Schedule and Bibliography, Aina further said You may wish to include a section on definition of terms, a short literature review and a section on your proposed theoretical framework.
A very important component of your research proposal should be its contributions to the body of knowledge by clearly mentioning the gaps you hope to fill in the existing literature.
I suggest you keep your research proposal to a maximum of 5 pages or preferably shorter if you can. Remember these proposals are often sent off to potential supervisors who also have a lot to work on.
I would also advise you include the published works of your potential supervisor in your research proposal, particularly if they have done some research closely related to your proposed research.
Finally make sure your research proposal is clearly written. Try to make sure to use a good font size. Also make sure it is justified before converting it and sending it off as a PDF document.
On a general wait period for after a research proposal has been submitted, he said Generally, decisions on admissions are made within 4 to 6 weeks upin receiving a ‘complete admission package’. Take note that this includes submitted reference letters by your referees as well as transcripts.
Yes, it is advisable to follow up if you have not gotten a feedback after this time. But also bear in mind that the schools may be very busy especially building up to the time for admissions.
So its best to apply very early. Also, for PhD programmes a decision is made only after a potential supervisor has indicated interest. This is mostly the case before an admission decision is made.
It helps to contact a potential supervisor before applying. Also bear in mind that potential supervisors are flooded with proposals from potential candidates during admission periods. They also have other students they are busy supervising.
Add to this their busy lecturing schedules. So when sending off a research proposal to a potential supervisor, make sure to make a compelling case by stating how there are best fit to supervise your research as well as how hard working you are.