Guest Post • Guide to Postgraduate Applications

7 Things I Learned From Past Postgraduate Admission Cycles

POSTED ON 03/10/2024 BY tripti singh

7 Things I Learned From Past Postgraduate Admission Cycles - By Tripti Singh | The Red Pen

According to an Application Trends Survey published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 67% of business schools saw an increase in applications in 2020. 2023 was no different. As students worldwide resumed in-person classes, top universities experienced a 19-25 percent surge in applications during the most recent fall intake.

After closely working with and carefully assessing applicants from diverse backgrounds, including economics, psychology, computer science, marketing and management, here are my top seven takeaways from past postgraduate application cycles.

1) A 4-Year Undergraduate Degree Is Required to Apply to the US

Everyday, I speak with several prospective applicants who have no indication of whether their 3-year undergraduate degree is considered eligible to apply to North American universities. While some universities accept a 3-year undergraduate degree, the number is too small to consider. Most US universities still prefer that international applicants possess a 4-year equivalent undergraduate degree. Unfortunately, finding a list of viable universities to apply to directly after a 3-year undergraduate/bachelor’s degree may be difficult. Consider a postgraduate diploma from an accredited institution, a master’s degree from a reputed college, or learn more about how you can apply to US and Canadian universities with a 3-year undergraduate degree here.

Australian universities, too, need a fourth year of study (honours) from an APAC accredited institution for their clinical psychology-related programmes. Students in Australia often complete their fourth year by undertaking a bachelor’s degree (honours) and then applying for a master’s degree.

2) GMAT/GRE Waivers Are Less Likely During and After 2024/25

Pre-COVID, I rarely answered questions about GMAT/GRE waivers. Then, at the height of the pandemic, applicants witnessed the introduction of several exemptions, with international students leveraging this opportunity to apply to their dream colleges without a standardised test score. Pandemic or no pandemic, GMAT/GRE waivers do not apply to final year students and fresh graduates. Only qualified candidates who have completed a terminal degree, such as MD, DO, or PhD, can request a waiver.

3) The GMAT/GRE Weightage Is Apparent

Even if UK universities do not ask for standardised test scores, I recommend that applicants on the fence about minimum entry requirements take the GMAT/GRE. An above-average score can support any application greatly. While US universities often accept both, 26% of European business schools prefer the GMAT over the GRE for programmes such as business analytics, finance and marketing.

4) Mid/Senior-Level Professionals Are Upskilling With a Master’s Degree

In my experience, more mid and senior-level professionals are committing to a master’s degree to advance or diversify their skill sets. For example, a professional with a Bachelor of Technology in computer science and 3-7 years of work experience is now understanding the value of upskilling with a master’s degree in machine learning. So, if you’re well into your professional journey and think you’ve missed the boat on an advanced degree, you haven’t.

Undergraduate Degree

B.Tech. Information and Communication Technology

Years of Experience

11 years


GRE: 316

Undergraduate GPA

7.8 out of 10 (3.34 out of 4)

Postgraduate Specialisation

Artificial Intelligence

Admitted to

Northwestern University

After being a cloud architect for a decade, I realised my passion for AI and decided it was time to upskill. Following a session with The Red Pen, we concluded that a MS in Artificial Intelligence was the right choice for me. It eventually became clear that a degree would give me complete freedom to pursue my goals and shape my future. Despite having 11+ years of experience, the team introduced me to several courses, pushed me to gain relevant expertise and ensured that the transition into my upskilled career was as seamless as ever.

5) Specialised Master’s Programmes Are Paving the Way

Trust me when I say, “European business schools are at par with their North American counterparts”. While fairly unknown to us, the Frankfurt School of Economics – a competitive business school in Europe, offers focused faculty engagement and exceptional job opportunities on the continent. Consider this:

  • The average starting salary for three master’s degree programmes, finance, management and applied data science, lies within the €53,400 to €64,000 range post-graduation.
  • An impressive 43% to 49% of applicants secure these employment opportunities before or within three months of their graduation.

Another emerging programme, a master’s in social entrepreneurship, is gaining popularity among policy and development students who wish to gain management-related skill sets. This is evidenced by a decline in the number of applications considered for one seat at the London School of Economics and Political Science, 11.9 as opposed to 12.5 last year. Similarly, the cohort size at the University of Southern California decreased from 61 in 2020 to 51 in 2021.

6) Computer and Data Science Majors Require a Strong Research Profile

For many, Europe is considered a cost-effective study destination, making it a popular choice among applicants. However, most applicants I interact with do not make an effort to understand why the European curriculum is so unique. While studying computer science and data science at the graduate level in the United States is often application-based – to apply to leading universities in the Netherlands like TU Delft, having a strong focus on research and academia is necessary.

7) International Applicants Are Realising the Importance of a Plan B

International applicants are now choosing colleges that, in the past, not many people had heard of in India. Yes, applying to your dream college is a must, but curating a list of stellar ‘Plan B’ universities can increase your probability of multiple acceptances and merit scholarships. Tech-related programmes offered by universities such as Northeastern University, Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California are also capturing the interest of international students, making them more competitive than ever before. For example, despite being a private research institution, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s acceptance rate at the master’s level is just 23.6 per cent.

At The Red Pen, 99% of our clients receive offers to one of their top choice-colleges. If you have questions on how to go about the postgraduate application process, do get in touch with us for further assistance.