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A brief guide to applying for a postgraduate course

If you are thinking about studying a postgraduate degree, but are unsure of where to start or what to do, then read on - as our guide to applying will explain all.


What is the Difference Between a Bachelors and Masters Application?


There are many differences in the application process for postgraduate courses compared to applying for an undergraduate course.

Unlike applications for bachelor degrees, you will not need to check your UCAS account for offers. For most postgraduate courses, you can apply directly to the university via their own website (unless you are applying for a PGCE, then you'll need to apply through UCAS).

You can also apply to as many courses as you want – there is no limit on this (except for the above example of PGCEs and some medical courses).

Another difference between postgraduate and undergraduate applications is that deadlines vary greatly for postgraduate courses. Many postgraduate courses offer several starting dates, or intakes, throughout the year - normally in September, January and May.         

There is also considerably more flexibility on entry requirements, as often courses may not be oversubscribed and therefore universities are able to take the majority if not all applicants. This is of course dependent on the university and if applicants can demonstrate basic requirements and a passion for the subject.

That said, routes into Law and pre-registration NHS courses may be really competitive to get on to and it’s important to make your application stand out from the rest. This is where your personal statement comes into play. 


Postgraduate Personal Statement; What to Include


A postgraduate personal statement is not so different to the one you submit for your undergraduate application. Your personal statement is your chance to make your application unique and explain why you should be offered a place on the course.

Your postgraduate personal statement should include your reason for applying for the course you are interested in, how your undergraduate studies have prepared you and your skills and knowledge that will be transferable and relate to the course you're applying for. 

The length of your personal statement will vary depending on the university and course, but it’s important to stick to the word limit. Admissions tutors are unlikely to consider applications that run over significantly as it not only takes more time to read, it may suggest that if applicants can’t follow the basic requirements asked of them now, they won't be able to do so during the course.


Postgraduate Personal Statement Do's

- Check thoroughly for grammar and spelling mistakes

- Make it personal. A personal statement is about you and why you want to do the course, what you will contribute to the university and what you hope to gain from the course. Your application form is where you can put your previous education and list any relevant experience, so try not to speak about all of these in the statement, unless it fits in with the points you are making.


Postgraduate Personal Statement Don'ts

-  You wouldn’t use the same cover letter for every job you were applying for (well, we hope not anyway!). So why would you use the same statement for all your applications? It’s likely that each university will have different requirements or skills and interests that it values more than others, so it is important to tailor your application to these.

How to Provide a Postgraduate Reference

You will normally need a minimum of two referees - often one academic and one professional - but again, this varies from course to course. For the academic reference, it’s likely you’ll need to get in touch with a tutor or dissertation supervisor from your undergraduate degree who can offer a relevant and sound reference to the university.

Universities may be flexible for those returning to higher education after some time, as it’s often unlikely their old tutors or lecturers from university are able to provide references. In this instance, applicants may be able to provide a referee from their professional life or even someone in their community, if relevant. 

Listing Work Experience on Your Postgraduate Application

For many courses, especially those that aim to send graduates into a specific branch of employment after the programme, work experience or a demonstration of your practical application and interests in a subject are important in your application.

For example, those applying for journalism courses, often have to show evidence of their involvement in the industry, whether it be through student media or work experience at local or national publications.  

The same can be said for medical courses, such as Speech and Language Therapy and Physiotherapy, which are always oversubscribed - it is often those who can demonstrate significant experience who get those coveted places.

Additional Checks 

Some courses may require applicants to have CRB checks, medical examinations or other procedures, you need to find out from the university at which stage you need to supply evidence of or undergo such procedures and then make sure you leave enough time for these to process. 


- Search for postgraduate courses

- Read more helpful application advice



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