Guide to Postgraduate Applications • Postgraduate

5 Secrets to Acing Applications for Top Graduate Schools

POSTED ON 06/27/2023 BY The Red Pen

A student celebrating after admission to a top graduate school.

Stanford University only admits around three percent of applicants to its Graduate School of Education, seven percent to its law school, and 12 percent to its business school. The acceptance rates of other leading universities and graduate schools are similar. 

Your best chance of securing offers from these leading schools is to make your application stand out. But 10 percent of the application pool will have experienced and thought of everything you have. So, how do you make your application different? As an experienced postgraduate admissions counsellor and content specialist who has helped several aspiring students get into selective master’s programmes, Nimisha Mirani shares a few tips. 

Here are five effective strategies to craft an outstanding master’s abroad application: 

1) Get killer scores for your master’s abroad application

Your academic performance, as reflected in your scores and grades, will serve as your initial qualification for a master’s programme. These metrics are quantifiable, and the process of elimination based on them is straightforward. Therefore, having a solid academic record with a GPA of 3.8/4.0 or higher and good GRE scores or GMAT percentiles are essential to pass this first round of elimination and remain in the running for admission.

2) Create a compelling resume for your master’s abroad application

Resumes are concise summaries of your academic achievements and professional accomplishments, presenting a factual account rather than an opinion. A clear and comprehensive resume, which provides an overview of your experiences, skills, and qualifications, enables admissions officers to size you up instantly. Here are a few tips for creating an impressive master’s application resume:

  • Fit your resume on a single page: Admissions officers review thousands of resumes daily. A lengthy, multiple-page resume can go against you. So, try to stick to a single-page resume
  • Create sections: Divide your resume into three sections – Professional experience, education, and additional information, such as extracurricular activities/personal interests.
  • Use reverse chronology while listing achievements: Using bullet points, begin with your latest achievements, experiences and educational qualifications, before moving on to the previous one. 
  • Use action words: Begin your bullet points with impactful verbs, such as “generated”, “developed”, “achieved” or “implemented”. 
  • Quantify your achievements: Capture the impact of your professional activities in numbers wherever possible.   
  • Avoid jargon: Not everyone knows industry-specific terminology, so avoid them.
  • Highlight exceptional achievements: Showcase good grades, awards, leadership experiences and examples of proactivity well. 
  • Watch the aesthetics: Avoid colour and cursive fonts. Stick simple fonts like Helvetica or Arial in 10-point size, maintain margins and use the header for personal information like your name and contact details. 

3) Secure standout LORs to strengthen your master’s abroad application

Letters of recommendation (LORs) are a great way to beat the competition. They provide an opportunity to corroborate the accomplishments you’ve called out in your resume. Therefore, selecting recommenders who know you well and can persuasively articulate reasons for their referral is crucial. For example, the reporting manager of a marketing intern who bartered a deal with a social media influencer to boost the company’s sales would be a great recommender. Similarly, a professor or head of department from your undergraduate school who has seen you grow over four years would also be an excellent recommender. However, you must also give them your resume or summary of your achievements to align your letters of recommendation well with the rest of your application components. 

4) Map your path to success in your master’s abroad application

Your master’s application essays, like the statement of purpose, personal statement, etc, are a chance to showcase your passion and impress the admissions committee. Your goal statement, vision, and desire to leave a mark in the world (for profit or not) can convince them to select you for a specific master’s programme. Staying true to your story is the best way to achieve this outcome. 

But a goal statement and essay can seem superficial if it isn’t approached correctly. Universities are more likely to see merit in your master’s application essay if you map a roadway to achieving your professional goals. But doing so can be challenging. Conducting extensive research and deeply understanding the subject matter and market factors is vital to developing an effective roadmap to make your essay stand out. Also, it helps you get study abroad scholarships.  

Your essay must also showcase how you innovatively apply your academic and professional skills to create an impact. Doing so tells the stakeholders on the admissions committee that you would do the same at their university as well. Here are common mistakes to avoid while writing your master’s application essay.

5) Ace your interview for your master’s abroad application

An interview invitation is a significant achievement as it indicates that you are a serious contender for a master’s programme. Nerve-wracking as it may seem, your interview is an opportunity to reiterate why you are perfect for a specific graduate school. Speak about the things you mentioned in your personal statement. You should also know why you chose the school, how the degree fits your career goals, and why you want to study abroad. Thorough interview preparation is essential because it can make or break your chances with your dream university. Here are a few interview preparation tips that may help:

  • Research the university: Explore the university’s history, mission, faculty, academic programmes, research opportunities and interests. Visit the website, talk to current students, and connect with the alumni network for insights and common interview questions
  • Hone your interview skills: Practise answering commonly asked questions and participate in mock interviews. Effective communication is the key to excelling at interviews. Prepare to talk about your goals clearly, concisely and enthusiastically. Also, maintain proper body language throughout the interview.
  • List questions for the interviewers: Show that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the programme by asking questions. Doing so will demonstrate critical thinking. 
  • Dress appropriately: First impressions matter, so make sure you look professional. Also, the right attire helps in confidence building.

Applying to graduate schools abroad is daunting. However, the tips in this post will increase your chances of success and give you a competitive edge over the other applicants. You can achieve your dream of studying abroad with hard work and dedication. 

Here’s how to put together a master’s application. You may also want to read about what our head of postgraduate admissions learned from past admission cycles. For further guidance on postgraduate applications, get in touch with us. We look forward to assisting you.