In a highly competitive global marketplace, a master’s degree sets you apart from other job candidates. But irrespective of the programme, the application process to graduate schools has several components and can seem lengthy and daunting. But if you begin working on it in advance in a systematic way, there’s no need to worry.
Keep this checklist handy as you address each aspect of your master’s application:
1) University shortlists:
While deciding which colleges to send your application to, consider the ones that offer the best course in your area of interest. You must base your decision on where you wish to study and how you plan to balance your study time with other commitments. Should you study full-time or part-time? Do you want to be assessed through assignments, presentations, lab work or exams? Before selecting universities, these are some of the many questions you must ask yourself. However, there are two critical tasks to shortlisting colleges:
It is essential to research the university or programme thoroughly. You must also check whether the module offerings of a programme will help you meet your goals. For example, if you see yourself working in a broking firm, the core and elective modules of the programme should allow you to build the skills you need to be successful. Choosing a regular master’s programme in finance that does not offer investment-related modules may not work for you. Similarly, if you are keen on building brand strategy expertise, look closely at the marketing curriculum. You may discover that a master’s in strategic marketing or integrated communication may be better for you than a postgraduate marketing degree or a master’s in marketing science. Try not to base your decisions on a ranking chart and apply to only top universities. Remember that the curriculum of each programme can vary greatly, making it imperative that you conduct in-depth research.
Your eligibility depends on whether you meet the specific entry requirements for admission to a programme or university. Mostl universities across the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia and Singapore have entry requirements, which depend on the programmes they offer. For example, for a Master’s in Public Policy at National University of Singapore, the minimum eligibility is asecond-class honors. But at the London School of Economics and Political Science, a finance programme requires a first-class or an upper second-class.
2) Standardised tests:
To apply for a master’s programme, you must submit scores from one or more postgraduate standardised tests, such as the GRE or GMAT and the TOEFL or IELTS. Planning exam dates and prep time well in advance is an excellent idea. We recommend eight to15 weeks to prepare for the GRE or GMAT and six to eight for the TOEFL or IELTS.
Typically, most applicants plan to attempt the same test twice. If you wish to follow suit, remember that while the first attempt requires an average of 12 weeks to prep, the second will need three to four weeks of consistently taking mock tests and making sincere efforts to work on areas of improvement.
Your application for a postgraduate programme must include transcripts, which comprise a list of all your undergraduate courses, the results you obtained, and the credit value of each course. If you have completed your course of study, your transcript must also show the convocation certificate of your degree.
These transcripts are usually available with your undergraduate college; you must apply for them well in advance and get them attested by the university. As an international student applying for a postgraduate programme in the US, you must get your transcripts evaluated by a third party to check for the equivalency of your four-year undergraduate degree. Doing so may take four to 12 weeks.
4) Letters of Recommendation:
Typically, universities can ask for up to three recommendation letters to get insights into whether you’re a suitable candidate for a particular master’s programme. Therefore, strategically choosing recommenders (employers, mentors, professors) who will write these letters is crucial. After identifying them, approach them well in advance so they have enough time to write letters that will complement your achievements. Universities you’ve applied to will reach out to them, so ensure that their contact details are accurately entered.
At times, colleges may ask for hard copies as well. If this is the case, your recommender should write the letter on official letterhead and put it into a sealed envelope with their signature across the seal. In case your recommender fails to upload the soft copy of the recommendation on time, these hard copies can be couriered to ensure you do not miss the deadline.
All international universities ask graduate applicants to submit resumes. This document must effectively summarise your talents, credentials, relevant employment experience and noteworthy achievements. On a single page, your resume must include details from the first year of college and onwards. Refrain from mentioning high school achievements, and avoid templates used by professionals with more experience.
6) Statement of Purpose:
Your postgraduate statement of purpose allows you to showcase your expertise and experience. It’s integral to the application process because it lets you shed light on the value you can bring to your chosen university. Depending on the country and the programmes, you will submit a technical or personal statement highlighting your background, reasons for selecting a programme and why you wish to attend a particular university. The statement of purpose is an essay with a word limit. On occasion, prompts are broken down and require shorter answers or sub-essays.
Take stock of the unique things that you can include well in advance. Ensure that your statement addresses the prompts and complements the rest of your application, but manage your content to avoid repetition.
7) Financial Documents:
Several universities will ask you to upload an affidavit of financial support from the primary sponsor as well as a letter of availability of funds from the bank of the main sponsor.
8) Passport Validity:
When applying to international universities, you must ensure that your passport is valid until the exact month of your graduation from the master’s programme.
9) Other components:
Depending on your programme, some of the other components of your application include a video essay, a pre-recorded interview, a portfolio, a writing sample and a thesis proposal.
10) Application packet:
When putting together your application packet, use A3/A2 sized green envelopes (with netting inside). Print an address label of the admissions department and stick it on the front of the envelope. At the back, you need to have your name, number and any applicant/student ID generated when you completed the online form. Do remember that not all colleges ask for hard copies of these documents, so sending this package may not be compulsory. Just ensure that all the required documents reach the college either through postal mail or electronically.
To know more about where to apply for your master’s degree read this blog or read about what our head of postgraduate admissions learned from past admission cycles. For further guidance on your applications, get in touch with us.