Writing a master’s application is very similar to applications for most jobs. Generally you will complete a form with your basic details, and then write a personal statement detailing why you should be accepted.
For that reason, master’s applications should be considered as seriously as an application for a job you really want. It can be hard to know where to start, so have a look at these tips which should help you master your master’s applications.
1. Don’t be vague
If you start any sentence with ‘I feel’ in your personal statement then please delete it immediately. You need to be more concise than ‘feeling’ like this course will help you in your future career. You’re applying to spend at a least a year studying in-depth. If this master’s is for your career progression, then you need to know that this course will help you in your future career.
That’s not all: if you know that this course will get you closer to your goals, then what are they? And why does this course in particular do that? Why not any random course at any university? Make sure that you’re specific as to why you want that particular course, and what goals it will help you fulfil.
2. Check the guidelines for application
Each university and each course is going to be different, and it’s likely that they’ll want different things from applicants. For that reason, you should read the application guidelines carefully. These will most likely be on the website for the course itself, but some universities also have application packs which you should read closely before doing your application.
If the course doesn’t appear to have set guidelines, then you should just cover the information detailed below. Generally the length for a personal statement should be around 1000 words, 1500 at the most.
3. Secure funding
If you don’t already have the money to cover your fees and living costs, then securing funding is very important. There is a range of information about where to find postgraduate funding in the UK on our website. We also have a subscription to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding which details a large number of organisations and similar that can help you.
Our blog is also regularly updated with scholarships and bursaries both for the UK and international schemes, so check to see if any of these interest you.
4. Tell them your motivations
So why do you want to do a master’s degree? To specialise in your chosen field? Like everyone else? If you don’t outline your motivation properly, then your application risks implicitly saying that you’re applying for further study because you don’t want to get a job yet.
You don’t necessarily need a concrete reason to go into further study. If you do, then amazing: detail exactly what you think the course will do for you. If not, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with learning for learning’s sake. If you want to do further study because a particular topic fascinates you, then tell them that. Tell them why it fascinates you, and tell them why your ideas around the topic are the best ones. Check out our page on why do postgraduate study? for more ideas.
5. Check your spelling and grammar
There is nothing more embarrassing than sending off your application and realising that there’s a typo in the first line. When you’ve finished your personal statement, go through it as carefully as you can to make sure that there are no mistakes or typos. Reading it out loud will also help you do this more effectively, and let you feel the rhythm of your writing to see if there is any awkward phrasing.
6. State why your experience is relevant
Unless you make the link between your previous experience and the course you’re applying for, why should the admissions team care about your application? Your undergraduate degree could have been amazing, but why does that make you a great choice to do a master’s? What modules particularly interested you or did you excel in? Why are these relevant to your chosen master’s degree?
If you have work or volunteering experience that could feed into your study then make sure you mention it as it shows both interest and action on your behalf already. For instance, if you want to study an MSc in Economics and have completed an analyst internship, then make sure that you discuss what you learnt from it that will also contribute to your course.
7. Don’t undersell your achievements
If you did really well on a project that you loved, then make sure that’s clear in the application. If you’ve gained great experience or had an amazing dissertation, don’t think that these will necessarily speak for themselves.
Your personal statement is there for the purpose of showing off these achievements. Make sure that you make the most of it, and let the admissions team know exactly how much you’ve done so far.
8. Outline other skills
Applying for a master’s may be your first step into a particular topic, so it’s possible that you haven’t spent the past ten years intellectually grooming yourself for that course. Don’t worry. Other experience is important too, as you need to demonstrate that you’re innovative, hard-working, and interested in the topic above all.
Tutors want rounded students in their department, so if you have previously been part of campus life, or have engaged in other extra-curricular activities then these will help your application too.
9. Target your goals
What’s the point of you doing a master’s degree? Are you just trying to avoid joining the real world? Of course not, but you need to make this obvious in your application.
Will this course help you take the next step towards your career goals? Or perhaps you have a great idea for a PhD thesis, and this will help you investigate that further? If so, tell them! Be specific, and let the admissions teams know exactly how this course will benefit your goals and personal advancement.
10. Let Careers help
Writing an application for anything can be a very personal endeavour, but you’re not alone. Get a first draft of your personal statement together and then book an appointment with one of our careers consultants. We can help you go through your statement, and make sure that you’re making the most of your skills and experience. Have a look at our postgraduate study pages too for more tips.