Getting admitted to follow a Master’s Programme is a lifetime opportunity, but one that requires much preparation and dedication. Here is what made me sweat the most.
The Master’s degree application process is a challenge – in both tangible and intangible terms. In most cases, you will face an array of tests, essays and documents that you have to overcome and deliver. That is in addition to managing a tight deadline and maintaining constant communication with the university.
The application essay challenge
Personally, the biggest challenge that I faced during the application process was the series of questions I had to answer in essay form. These questions are considered standard procedure for most universities and can range from queries about your relevant experience in the field of your desired Master’s studies to enquiries aimed at evaluating your level of motivation. The number of questions and the volume of the required text can vary widely, but you can expect to answer anywhere from one to five questions per section. In total, I had to compose more than a dozen 200-word essays simply to get through the online application form. It was a daunting task, one which required a lot of concentration and time. After the university judged my answers to be good, I was required to write another 300-word essay on a very specific question related to the professional field of Communications. This is because universities expect you to be sufficiently versed in the corresponding field of study prior to getting admitted. Educational institutions often do this in order to make sure that you will be able to deal with the course’s subject matter.
Examples of what to expect are:
In Economics and Business:
In about 300 words analyse the risk of investing in a start-up that you know of, and how you would recommend alleviating it
In about 500 words describe how you would develop and launch a new service aimed at establishing customer brand loyalty at a company that you know of
The time challenge
The quicker you learn that time is your biggest enemy, the lower the chances that your application to study a Master’s degree will turn from a challenge to a nightmare.
The whole process will cost you a minimum of one to two months, and could possibly last much, much longer. This depends on both your own speed and that of the admissions office, as well as the particular admissions officer handling your file. In my case, everything was over quite fast – in under two months. Admittedly, I was in a rush and the school was very quick to follow up on my emails and submissions.
If I had to do it again, I would probably dedicate at least three full months to make the process smoother and less stressful.
Remember that, in addition to the essays you will be asked to write, there will be all sorts of documents to submit: certificates (acquired through training or past higher education), test scores (such as TOEFL and IELTS), and others. Compiling, sometimes legalising, and submitting these documents to the university will take time and you cannot afford to underestimate that.
Imagine how frustrated you would be if your Master’s application failed because of some bureaucratic mishap in your file.
The language test challenge
If you want to study abroad, and you are not a native speaker of the language in which the Master’s Programme is taught, you will be required to take a Language Test. The most commonly required and widely accepted tests for English-based courses are the TOEFL and the IELTS.
Now, allow me to stress this:
Do not make the assumption that your past experience with working or studying in English is sufficient proof of your level of command. The more demanding universities will insist on receiving valid IELTS or TOEFL score reports regardless of how good you claim, demonstrate, or indeed, actually are in speaking and writing in English.
As I learned the hard way, rules are rules, and my London-based university refused to acknowledge the four years of undergraduate education in English, and an expired TOEFL score, as proof of my ability to study a Master’s programme at their institution.
This was an unexpected turn of events for me, and I literally had to book a TOEFL test by the end of the day and rush to the examination centre the week after in order to make the deadline.
How big a challenge the test itself would turn out to be, for you, is strictly personal. What is not, however, is the time and effort that you have to dedicate to it.
The certainty challenge
If I have to summarise the most challenging part of my, and dare I say, any Master’s application in one word, it would be time. Manage it well, and you will be successful.
In the end, it has to be said that once I settled for a University that I really wanted to study at, getting admitted was not too difficult. The reason for this is because I was convinced that this was indeed the best Master’s Programme for me.
And thus my ultimate message to you:
The more confidence you gain in your choice of programme and university, the easier it will be for you to overcome all these challenges, even the one that just won’t stop ticking away.