Is a postgraduate degree for you?
For those who have clear career goals in life, postgrads prove to be a popular option. Not only will it give you immense pleasure in pursuing your area of expertise, but it will also enhance your employability in the long-term. Although this road may appear extremely obvious for many, it is important to consider how you will approach this new stage with confidence. Therefore, from existing experience, here is my advice.
1) Do your research, and do it well. Make sure that you consider all potential institutions and their departmental reputation, according to your specific area of study. Just like when you applied for an undergraduate degree, make sure that your chosen option meets your expectations and vice versa. Nothing could be worse than signing up for a degree and realising two months later that it’s not for you. To avoid overall let-down, apply early and research, research, research!
2) Visit your careers and advice service. For those who need additional support, most career services offer one-on-one advice if you arrange an appointment. Although I did not seek advice at my careers service, I know of those who have and found it extremely helpful to get questions answered. Equally, you can email the postgraduate admissions office of your desired university (or the course co-ordinator) to gain more information about the application process and their requirements.
3) Join the Student Room. This site is great for talking to students in the same position as you. You can join university forums, postgraduate forums and many more! It’s great for discussing student-related issues and it’s also reassuring to know that you aren’t the only one needing answers!
4) Consider funding. Some universities offer studentships/scholarships as well as bursaries (and exclusive bursaries for continuing students). University funding pages usually outline their partnerships with specific programmes, so it’s best to check initial options there. External funding is a must for those with little savings. Career development and professional loans exist for this very reason, allowing you to borrow up to £10,000 (i.e. Barclays, Co-op) to fund course fees, travel and living expenses. Other options include various research councils, charities and miscellaneous funding bodies (these bodies usually open applications relatively early in the year, some of which you need an offer from the university). To be financially secure, a part-time job may be on the cards during your studies.
5) Do you have good referees? Most institutions ask for academic references, the first of which is your personal tutor. Yet, for those who rarely come into contact with their personal tutor, I would advise to choose someone based on your academic relationship with them, and most importantly the modules you are succeeding in. There’s a big difference between an average, if not a generalized reference, and one which has been individually tailored to you. This means highlighting your academic as well as personal strengths. Therefore, strong references can really make or break your application so take this into consideration when applying to your desired institution.
I hope these guidelines are helpful to those considering a Masters/postgraduate degree. Recently, I have completed these stages which have allowed to me to achieve a conditional offer for an MA course. Endorsing in a postgraduate course is a great way to build upon your undergraduate skills and strengthen your employability in the future. Good luck, and stay calm!