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Personal statement advice: media studies and journalism

If you want to study media at university or you think you're a budding journalist, you will need to show just how persuasive you can be by writing an effective personal statement.

The best personal statements are those that really go for it. Not in an off-the-wall kind of way, but by revealing something unique about you or your academic ideas or practical experiences. This is no place to hide behind waffle.

For more personal statement advice, see our articles on 10 things to put in and some top ways to sell yourself in your statement.

Be clear and focused

There’s a wide span of media courses ranging from the theoretical to the practical and your statement should focus on the specific type of course you’ve chosen to apply for.

When it comes to media studies courses, start by being clear about the kind of degree you want to study. Do you want to analyse media, or produce content or a combination of both? Whichever it is, demonstrate that you’re quite focused about this. Outline why you want to study the course and the knowledge, ideas or practical experiences you will bring to it.  Similarly, journalism personal statements need to set out why you want to study it and how your knowledge and experience supports this, particularly in the case of professionally accredited journalism degrees. A vague, unsubstantiated ambition to be a journalist will not suffice. 
  • Our guide to studying journalism reveals more information about what journalism at uni entails.

Theory-based media courses

For a theory-based course, try addressing the following kind of questions (thanks to Lancaster University for these pointers):
  • What have you learned from your current studies and wider reading, and how do you want to develop this during your degree?
  • How can you connect the subject to yourself and your interests?
  • What are you currently reading or watching that’s having an impact on you?
  • What do your extra-curricular activities say about you and why are they relevant?
  • Even if they're uncertain, what are your future plans?
The degree courses in journalism, media and cultural studies at Cardiff University also take an analytical and academic approach. They want you to show some understanding of 'the role, nature and influence of the media' and your interest in engaging with the subject from a variety of perspectives.

Similarly, York St John University would like you to demonstrate your 'awareness of a variety of media or the social and cultural impacts of different types of media'. 

Meanwhile at University of Portsmouth they would love to see a paragraph where you write about a facet of the media that fascinates you. What they would especially like is for you to pick out a specific film, TV series, game, website, outlet or some other content that has resonated with you; and for you to tell them, not so much what you understand about it already, but what you would like to learn about it at uni. 

For all courses, the composition of your statement needs to demonstrate strong communication, analytical and writing skills too.

Practical journalism courses

If you’re applying for practical journalism courses, competition for places could be fierce. So here’s a selection of tips, courtesy of Bournemouth University, the University of Sheffield and De Montfort University:  
  • State clearly why you want to study journalism and explain that you know something about the work of the central figure in journalism… the reporter.
  • Demonstrate creative writing ability, a good presentational style, accurate spelling, correct grammar and a sound grasp of English.
  • Read quality broadsheet newspapers and follow major developing news stories. Show you're aware of current affairs.
  • Maybe explain what you noticed about how the reporting of a topical event differed depending on which publication you were reading and the impact this may have had on shaping public perception.
  • Show you understand the power the media has and the importance of reporting facts clearly and concisely.
  • Show that you can express your own opinions and thoughts and know how to tell stories to different audiences.
  • Demonstrate your interpersonal skills, persistence ('a journalistic virtue!') and an ability to dig deep into a wide range of topics.

Work experience in your personal statement

For practical journalism courses, some (though not all) unis will insist on work experience.
  • If you can, try to gain some work experience within a media environment, ideally in a newsroom of a local newspaper office. Free newspapers, local or hospital radio or a TV newsroom could also give you insights into the reporter's job.
  • What did you learn? What skills did you observe as being particularly important? How has the experience impacted on your motivation to further your studies in journalism? See our guide for how to make work experience count in your personal statement.
  • Alternatively, are there any other settings where you've written for an audience such as your own blog or your school newspaper? If so, what have you learned from this about working towards strict deadlines or how writing pieces for an intended audience can alter the language and style you use? 
If you’ve already had journalistic work published or broadcast; produced a blog, vlog or podcast yourself; had a great reference from some relevant work experience; or anything else that may be relevant, consider sending them a link or clip separately.
 

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