How to write a master’s application

Helpful tips and advice for students applying for a master’s degree 

Molly Whyte's avatar

Molly Whyte

June 15 2017
writing a masters application


Whether you are planning to apply for an arts, science, law, research or other master’s course, the process can seem lengthy and daunting. This is especially true when you are in the middle of your final undergraduate year, or have a busy work schedule. Here is some guidance and key questions to consider.

1. Think carefully about your course choice
You may already know exactly what you want to study, but don’t rush the decision. Do you want to build on your undergraduate work and specialise in a particular discipline, such as history? Or would you prefer to develop skills and knowledge in another area, such as management? Do you want to study full-time or part time? Would you rather be assessed through assignments, presentations, lab work or exams?

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2. Find the right university for you
When making this decision, you should take into account which university has the best course in your area of interest, where you want to be based and whether you need to fit studying around other commitments. It is also important to work out your application strategy. Will you apply to several courses in different locations or focus on just one? 

3. Check the application requirements
Before applying, you should check that you have a suitable academic record and appropriate experience for your course. If you narrowly miss the expected grades, email the department to ask whether this will affect your application as they may be prepared to be flexible.

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4. Prepare your personal statement and additional evidence
Your personal statement should emphasise why you want to study the course at the university you are applying to. Make sure that you include what excites you about the course, what relevant knowledge you may have, what you would like to learn, and where you hope the course will take you.

You will probably need to provide an example of previous academic work. In addition, you may have to write an essay related to the course so that the admissions team can judge your current standard of writing. As with a personal statement, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate your interests and abilities.

You will also need at least one academic reference, so give yourself plenty of time to contact current/past tutors who are familiar with you and your work. Let them know which course you are applying for and ask them if they would be happy to provide a reference. As with your personal statement, the more tailored your references, the better.

This process is mostly conducted online but do check whether the university requires hard copies of your application.

5. Evaluate your finances
If you are considering a master’s, figuring out how to cover course and living costs may be stressful.

If you are a UK student who is planning to study in the UK, you can access a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for the whole course. Savings, scholarships and choosing to attend a university close to your family home, or one that is within commuting distance, can all help to keep down costs. For international students, the costs of courses and scholarship opportunities will vary and may be accessed via the university’s website or through the admissions office. 

6. Submit your application
Check that all your details are correct and that you have provided all the evidence that the university requires. It’s best to apply early, especially for popular courses. However, you could secure a place in the summer for a September start. Once you have applied, you can usually expect to receive a decision within eight weeks.

Read more: 12 monthly resolutions for graduate students

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