Whether you’re looking to specialise, diversify or monetise your skill-set, a post-grad qualification could be the perfect investment in your future. In 2016-7, there was a 22 percent rise in post-grad admissions across the country.

The competition for post-grad places is fierce, and it’s only set to rise. To convince the admissions tutor you’re worthy of selection, you’ll need to prepare a strong application. Follow these tips to ensure your application stands out from the crowd.

Know your dates

Many universities accept post-grad applications on a ‘rolling’ basis, but don’t leave it until the last minute to apply. A lot of admissions tutors will close the gates in early April for high-profile master’s programmes. A few universities close applications as early as January, with scholarship applications closing even earlier.

Currently, 10 UK universities accept applications through the centralised ‘UCAS Postgraduate’ system. UCAS recommends applying at least 6 months before your post-grad course is due to start.

Make a list of all the post-grad courses you’re interested in and find out their application deadlines. Preparing 4 or 5 high-quality applications is a time-consuming process, so plan your time wisely!

Harness the power of networking

Networking is a skill that will enhance your academic career. Universities host admissions events throughout the year so there are plenty of opportunities to get your voice heard. If you are an overseas student, look out for online, interactive events.

To show up in person is to demonstrate integrity. It also helps admissions tutors put a name to a face. Later, when they appraise your formal application, they’ll have more to ‘go on’ if they’ve met you personally. Nevertheless, networking is a two-way process; it’s a chance for universities to demonstrate what they can offer you.

Visit each of your chosen institutions and talk openly with the staff and alumni. This will help you narrow down your choices and ensure there are no regrets.

Show motivation in your personal statement (but be authentic)

Many applicants worry about what to write in their personal statement. A good place to start is to show motivation and passion for your subject. Although you should adopt a formal tone, avoid coming across ‘mechanical’ or cliché in your writing.

Let’s say you want to study politics at post-grad. “I first became interested in politics after talking to my grandmother about her involvement in the 1968 workers’ strikes” is more compelling than a well-rehearsed quotation from Aristotle.

Demonstrate you’ve done your homework

In your personal statement, you need to specify why you’re applying for this particular course at this particular university. If you are applying for 5 different post-grad programmes, you’ll need 5 different personal statements!

Find out how your chosen course differentiates itself from similar courses at other institutions (this is where ‘networking’ comes in handy). Perhaps your course offers a unique style of teaching, perhaps it offers professional certification or perhaps the lecturers’ research interests gel with your own.

Whatever you like about your chosen course, be sure to mention this in your personal statement. Avoid stating that you’re drawn to the ‘prestige’ of the university as this doesn’t demonstrate many research or evaluation skills.

Ace the entry tests

Check if your chosen institutions require specific scores on the GMAT, GRE or IELTS. If so, there are some great free online resources to help prepare for these tests. It’s a good idea to attempt entry tests early, in case you need some time to re-sit them.

Brush-up your CV

Many universities require you to submit a CV. Don’t worry if you haven’t had much work experience; a CV rich in qualifications, voluntary work, summer placements, and extracurricular activities can be just as impressive. Mentioning your research interests (even if they’re still quite vague) will help your CV to stand out.

Submit your undergrad transcript

Don’t forget to provide a transcript with your application – admissions tutors are unlikely to consider your application without one. The transcript is separate from the degree certificate; it should list the names of all your modules and the grades you achieved. If you are still studying, ask your faculty to provide you with an ‘interim transcript.’

Get your references in order

The quality of your references can make or break your application – especially if some of your grades are on the weaker side. To present yourself as a well-rounded applicant, choose two referees that know you in different capacities. For example, your dissertation supervisor and work placement manager would, between them, be able to comment on a range of skills and capabilities.

Secure funding

If you’re eligible for a government-backed ‘Postgraduate Master’s Loan’ you could borrow up to £10,609 (correct as of June 2018). You should submit your application via Student Finance. It’s worth having a look at alternative sources of funding, too. Funding from alternative sources usually has much tighter deadlines, so you’ll need to apply early.

Submitting a post-grad application can be stressful, but difficult tasks often reap positive rewards. Selecting the post-grad course that is right for you is half of the battle. Then, if you give yourself enough time to prepare high-quality supporting documents, you won’t go far wrong.

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