Applying for a postgraduate degree
Applying for an postgraduate degree can feel like going through the whole UCAS process again. Deadlines for the programmes vary but, as a rule of thumb, applications open about 10-12 months before a course starts.
PhD applications (at least for those competing for funding through a 'doctoral training programme') usually close in January. Masters-level courses may close applications anytime between January and June before a programme begins so it is vital to check deadlines well in advance on the host university website.
Unlike applications for undergraduate courses, there is no central body that processes them and all applications go through an online application system of the host university. All of these differ slightly, but typically ask for the following:
An up to date CV
Full academic transcripts
- You will need transcripts of your undergraduate qualifications. If you haven’t yet completed your undergraduate degree, you can submit transcripts of what you have obtained 'so far'.
- At the application stage, only scanned copies of your transcripts are usually required and these are uploaded onto the application system. These must have a university seal/stamp present on them – hence most systems ask that both the front and back of transcripts be scanned.
- If you are successful, then some institutions require your previous university to send official transcripts. You need to request this from your undergraduate institution but you are not allowed to deliver the transcripts yourself.
- If you are applying within the same institution with which you undertook/are undertaking your undergraduate degree, then sending official transcripts is not required.
Personal statementYou always need to submit a personal statement explaining why you want to undertake the particular postgraduate course (usually limited to about a page in length). This is shorter than the equivalent undergraduate (UCAS) personal statement but must be much more specific to the course you are applying for. Important things to consider in a postgraduate application personal statement are as follows:
- What interests you about the course? All courses should list their individual modules and course structure and you should highlight the parts you think you will enjoy the most or those that will be the most useful.
- What classes/parts of your undergraduate degree did you particularly enjoy?
- Do you have some relevant (work) experience? Will a postgraduate degree help you take your career to the next level?
- Perhaps you don’t have relevant work experience but you think the postgraduate course would lead to it?
- What achievements did you attain during you undergraduate degree? For example, awards (both academic and non-academic) and published work including discoveries you may have made if you undertook some research.
- Why are you applying to the particular university/institution? Are there particular members of staff that you would like to work with? Does the institution undertake research you find engaging and/or important? If applying for a PhD, this is extremely important as you must show familiarity with a potential supervisor’s research interests.
- It is also crucial to state that you hope to further the research of the institution and/or research group you will be working in.
Other possible requirements
- Some application systems require evidence of previous work experience, such as scans of work contracts, to be uploaded.
- If you are selected for interview, it is advisable to bring along a copy of your most recent thesis or you most recent major piece of work to show potential supervisors/course leaders.